Shire Hall, Size of Council

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Posted: July 7, 2017 at 9:56 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Size of council decision goes to the OMB

It’s back. On July 19, an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing will once again adjudicate the size of County council. The history of the debate over the structure and make-up of the County local government has scarcely been out view since the municipality was amalgamated in 1998.

Weary of the debate and skeptical of public opinion on the issue, council has attempted at various junctures over the past few years to shut it down, telling themselves and the electorate they have more important priorities. This may prove costly before an independent reviewer this month.

The appellant, Athol resident Pierre Klein, will argue that the ultimate decision of council last year—to delete two council seats (Bloomfield and one of two in Sophiasburgh) fails to satisfy basic standards of representational government. Worse, council, in its haste, rushed through its own process, failing to comply with the decisionmaking criteria established by its staff for that purpose.

“I attended the public meeting in Athol held to consider the four options, believing they were being presented in good faith,” said Klein. “None met the basic tests of voter parity and fairness.”

Klein went home and prepared his own proposal based upon communities of interests that adhered to the principles of fair and equitable voter representation. Council rejected his proposal without consideration, saying it had come too late in the process.

Klein appealed the decision to the OMB.

“I didn’t push for an early hearing date,” said Klein. “It’s been over a year since they made their decision. I wanted to give them plenty of opportunity to review their decision in light of the OMB challenge and fix the mistakes they made.”

Klein expects the hearing will take the three days allotted.

Klein has created a GoFundme account to help cover the legal and expert witness costs of his appeal. He is seeking $6,000 of the $10,000 he expects to spend on the appeal. In its last OMB appeal, the County spent $120,000 defending its decision. In that decision, the OMB adjudicator was satisfied that the County was committed to a process that would deliver a satisfactory electoral system and denied the appeal as premature.

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