Rhino's Ramblings: The Ward System


Robert Thomas

With the news that former Mayor and current City Councillor Don Mitchell will be stepping down from his position, there is a great opportunity to add a question on the byelection ballot; and the ward system is one right at the top.

So what is the ward system? Well, the ward system is where each councillor represents a certain area within the city. People within the ward vote for who they feel will best represent their area of the city.

In Moose Jaw’s case, with six councillors, it would mean six wards.

Proponents of the ward system say it is much better local representation because you know who your area or ward councillor is and additionally they should hypothetically have better understanding of the ward’s problems and concerns.

Your local councillor would not have to live in the ward, so anyone living in Moose Jaw – if you meet the qualifications of the municipal election act - may run in whatever ward they so desire. But usually absentee candidates can be challenged why should an “outsider” represent constituents he doesn’t live with?

The ward system also can mean less candidates to choose from, making it easier for someone who is active in a ward to win. No longer would you potentially face ballots with 20 plus candidates names on them.

Hypothetically it could mean more spirited local debate and a move away from voting so much on name recognition alone.

Prince Albert has it and it works fine there.

On the opposing side, it could hypothetically mean the best people are not available to vote for, citywide. If potential candidates feel they cannot win in the ward they reside in are they going to run? Or if two very good candidates do run is it a good thing only one will win? Or what happens when there is only resources for one ward over another how do you decide as a member of Council who to vote for?

The other argument is that Moose Jaw is too small for wards and the "at large" or citywide vote for councillors is the most appropriate. It gives us better overall representation.

In my own personal opinion, I favour wards. Personally, I find it more democratic; by levelling the playing field and forcing your councillor to be more active close to home so to speak.

It also might encourage voter turnout if they feel there is greater potential to be heard and matter.

In the 2012 Civic Election, the ward question was on the ballot and was defeated. Due to the rules, they are required to wait at least one election until you can vote on the issue once more. I may be wrong but I believe the ward question is eligible to be asked in the expected Fall byelection. The cost to ask to the question is negligible.

As an aside, the ward question in 2012 was proposed by Councillor Don Mitchell.

Even if the ward system is not on Council’s radar there are other questions they might ask.