Durham Regional Council is in the throes of deciding its own future. A special review committee, consisting mainly of sitting councillors, is looking at the council’s size, composition and the way our regional councillors are elected. They are expected to provide their recommendations this month.
Currently, 28 Councillors plus the Chair represent 600,000-plus residents, and they cost us taxpayers well over $2.5 million annually in compensation. Peel Region, with more than twice the population, has four fewer councillors. Some municipalities within Durham are over represented, whilst others are under-represented on council, based on population. (Oshawa, population 150,000, has 8 representatives; Ajax, population 110,000, has just 3.).
Re-balancing is needed, but reduction in overall size is also justified. Three municipalities within Durham Region had a referendum (during the 2014 election) on whether to downsize Regional Council and the result was overwhelmingly in favour of a reduction. The electors in the other five municipalities were denied their say at the ballot box.
Lots of time, study and effort have gone into preparing the practical, legal and philosophical arguments for restructuring council, and whether we should elect councillors directly (rather than the current, double-direct system, where your one vote puts one person on both local and regional councils, for two pay cheques).
The Regional Council Composition Review hasn’t exactly been shouted from the rooftops.
Public information sessions, announced just before Christmas, took place January 18, 19 and 20, and the deadline for public input was extended to January 27. Not many of us made it out to a meeting, and the sitting councillors (many of whom did attend) seemed all to keen to protect their jobs. A cynical person might think very little will come of all this.
The background is available on the Region’s website (durham.ca). You can still speak to your Regional Councillor, write to the review committee at email@example.com, or contact your local council, MPP or the provincial Ministry for Municipal Affairs and Housing. We should have a fair chance to voice our opinion on how we are governed, and we deserve effective representation.
Ray and Sharon Smith, Port Perry