Letters: Democracy is dead

Dear Editor:

Democracy is dead! Long live democracy!

Well now that he’s been elected Premier and given a MAJORITY government by the 40.5% of the 58% of Ontario’s s eligible voters who did cast their vote, our friend Premier Doug Ford is showing us that what he had in mind for us goes beyond a buck a beer and ten cents off the cost of a litre of gas.

 His decision to reduce the number of Toronto’s municipal councillors from 47 to 25, tells me he’s out to put the voice of the people – democracy – where he believes it belongs. At the back of the bus.

 Then again why would Toronto need more than 25 municipal councillors? Trimming them down to one per 108,000 citizens is all that our Premier says is really needed to represent the voices of their constituents.

 Heck Doug is showing us that he and his 75 fellow Queen’s Park Conservative MPPs are all that Ontario’s citizens really need to run the place effectively and efficiently. That consulting Torontonians and/or the 49 other elected Opposition members at Queen’s Park is a waste of time.

(Not needing to consult the people. Now there’s an idea. Wonder if it was his alone or one he borrowed from a certain Upper Tier Municipality when it came to bypassing the voice of a lower-tier municipality and its people on the matter of an unwanted cement plant.)

His call on Toronto makes me question what he has in mind for Prescott-Russell.

Makes me wonder if it isn’t time he be petitioned to do for Prescott-Russell what he’s doing for Toronto.

Heck with a population of 89,333 people, eight lower tier municipalities and one Upper Tier Municipality (UCPR) spread over a land mass that is only 20% greater than Toronto’s, Prescott-Russell has a total of 62 elected lower tier councillors to represent its people’s interests. That’s one per 1441 citizens. A far cry from Toronto’s 1/108,000.

Unlike Toronto, Prescott-Russell is also blessed with a second level of municipal government called an Upper Tier Municipality.  Officially called the United Counties of Prescott-Russell or UCPR,  this municipal level of government is more commonly known as “the Counties” or in French as “les Comtés”.

It exists to manage and deliver municipal programs and services that it would be too costly to see managed and delivered by its 8 smaller member municipalities.
The Counties’ Council consists of the 8 politicians who sit as mayors of the 8 lower-tier municipalities situated within the boundaries of the United Counties of Prescott-Russell. No they aren’t elected to that governing table. They are automatically there by virtue of their positions as mayors.
Unlike other “democratic” levels of government in Canada, the Upper Tier Municipal (UTM) level is the only one where decisions are not made on a  “one person, one vote” basis. In Prescott-Russell, the votes of some of these mayors are weighed more important than others. One example of such is the vote of the mayor from Clarence-Rockland compared to the vote of the mayor of Champlain. The former’s vote counts as seven votes whereas the latter’s counts as but one vote at the Council table. Yes these mayors are also paid to sit at the County Council table.
While it is claimed they act on behalf of their respective municipalities when addressing the Counties’ affairs, they actually seldom, if ever, consult their respective municipal council members let alone their municipality’s constituents when it comes to contentious and divisive County matters of grave importance to the citizens and/or Council in another member mayor’s municipality; i.e. contentious Official Plan zoning changes. Some member mayors have even indicated, in writing, that when at the County table they speak neither on their municipality’s behalf nor that of their municipality’s Council or citizens. That they speak on their own personal behalf and no one else’s.
So the question remains. Should Doug Ford’s decision to cut the number of municipal councillors in Toronto down to 25 also apply to the 62 members of municipal council that are found in Prescott-Russell?  Is his plan to follow Mike Harris’s example and reduce their numbers by way of municipal amalgamations. Is that what should be done yet again?
Exactly how much “democracy” do we need? To what extent do we value the views and input of our neighbours, of a local community, or a local municipality vs. the imposed dictates of the majority of eight people “appointed by virtue of office” when it comes to matters where the views of the local order of government and the local people differ from those of an upper level of government? 
In my opinion, the time for a redesign of our democratic electoral governance institutions is well overdue and definitely here. At all levels of government. Otherwise democracy is little more than a farce that should be dispensed with all together. 
Gary Champagne


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