The Nation Municipality is reviewing the boundaries for its wards, and the options are not impressing some residents.
Currently, the municipality has four wards and each elects one councillor. The mayor is elected at-large. The wards do not match the boundaries of the former municipalities that compose The Nation. However, 41 per cent of the population already lives in Limoges, St-Isidore, and St-Albert. The population of the municipality is projected to grow from 13,900 in 2020 to 15,100 by 2030, with most of the growth taking place in Limoges and St-Albert. Those two villages are in wards three and four.
On August 26, 2019, council selected Watson and Associates and political scientist Dr. Robert J. Williams to perform the study at a cost of $41,900. In February, they presented three options for boundary changes, which were also the subject of two public meetings and an online survey.
Each option proposes decreasing the physical size of Ward Four to better represent the population growth in Limoges.
Phillipe Warren lives in Limoges and said the imbalance in representation was created 22 years ago when the municipality was established. He said it is too big geographically.
Warren thinks that reducing the size of Ward Four will reduce the footprint of the community for rural residents around Limoges. He said the village is already divided because part of it is in Russell Township.
Representation could also be improved by adding an additional councillor to the existing Ward Four, said Warren. However, he said that would increase costs.
“It’s not going to be good for anybody, said resident Yves Duval. He ran for the Ward One seat in the 2018 election.
Duval disagrees with mixing urban and rural populations in the wards.
“They don’t think the same as us,” he said.
Duval, who also served on the former Caledonia Township council, lives in St-Bernardin and is concerned that his village is being forgotten. He said that the municipal finances were better before amalgamation.
“They took everything from us,” said Duval.
Limoges resident Carolyn Bourque said neighbouring municipalities do not have a ward system, but The Nation council removed that option from the current ward boundary review. She said council has restricted the scope of what the consultants can do.
Bourque noted that Limoges has needed a new community centre for 20 years, but the village’s taxpayers have helped pay for facilities in other communities like St-Isidore.
She and Warren both raised the possibility of creating a new municipality to address the geographic and population differences in The Nation, but that option is not being considered. Bourque also raised the possibility of adding an additional council seat to Ward Four.
“I was not necessarily happy with what was proposed,” said Councillor Francis Brière, who currently represents Ward Four.
He is hoping the consultants take the feedback from residents seriously and come up with a more suitable solution.
Brière also disagrees with proposals that would remove Calypso Street residents from the same ward as the rest of Limoges.
As for creating a municipality, he said that option is not under consideration right now and would require the involvement of the provincial government.
“The whole point of this is really about electoral reform,” said Brière.
Information about The Nation municipal ward boundary review can be found at https://nationmun.ca/en/our-council-staff/ward-boundaries/ .