The existing ward boundaries in La Nation could shift, or two new seats could be added to council.
On July 13, Dr. Robert Williams and Erik Karvinen of Watson and Associates presented two options to council as it prepares to finalize the ward boundary review process. The first option is to maintain a four-ward arrangement throughout the municipality and alter the size of the existing wards. Ward Four, which includes Limoges, where most of the population growth is occurring, would remain largely the same size. Ward One would be modified to contain St-Isidore, St-Bernardin, Fournier, and Riceville. Ward Two would compose the centre of the municipality and go from Highway 417 in the south to Pendleton in the north. Ward Three, which includes St-Albert, would remain largely the same, but with some minor boundary changes.
Williams and Karvinen explained that the advantage of Option One is that it keeps Limoges in a single ward but does not meet the principles of representation by population or forecasted population trends.
Option Two recommends adding two new wards to the municipality, which would mean two additional council seats. La Nation presently has four councillors and a mayor, which is the mandatory minimum under the Municipal Act. The new Ward 5 would go north from the VIA Rail tracks and Calypso Street to the boundary with Clarence-Rockland and from Limoges Road in the west to Bertrand Sideroad in the east. A new Ward 6 would cover from slightly north of the Castor River to the VIA tracks, resulting in Limoges being in two different wards.
Williams and Karvinen presented several advantages to the proposal. They include a better parity of representation by population across the municipality, that council is composed of an odd number of members and allows for rural wards that are more compact than those under the four-ward system.
The decision to review the ward boundaries was made in response to continued rapid population growth. The entire population of the La Nation municipality is expected to increase from 13,900 in 2020 to 15,100 by 2030, with most of the increase occurring in Limoges and St-Albert.
Mayor François St-Amour said he would like to remain at four wards for the entire municipality. He noted that during the consultation process, residents did not want Limoges to be divided by a ward boundary.
“It’s very, very loud and clear that they didn’t want that,” he said.
St-Amour said that the six-ward plan creates a possibility where two councillors could be Limoges residents, and that if the mayor was also from Limoges, it could create a situation where three members of council would be trying to get support from councillors from other wards to advance their objectives.
“There’s no power-play there,” he said.
St-Amour also noted that adding two more wards and councillors would increase salary costs to the municipality and require spending on modifications to the council chamber.
“The six-ward option is what best fits,” said current Ward 4 Councillor Francis Brière. He said that remaining with four wards would not ensure the population was represented equally, especially as the population of Limoges is to significantly increase over the next 10 to 12 years.
“We’re essentially perpetuating the problem,” Brière said about maintaining four wards.
As for concerns about dividing Limoges between two wards, he said “nothing’s perfect,” and said that the six-ward option is still the best for fair and equal representation.
On Thursday, July 16 at 7 p.m., Brière is holding a live Facebook presentation of the two ward boundary options and will be inviting comments from residents of Ward 4 and throughout La Nation to share their comments and suggestions. To participate, go to https://www.facebook.com/francisbriereforWard4/
“Option Two has my full support,” said Limoges resident Dave Mushing. He said he is not a fan of a larger municipal government but believes that Option Two is really the only way that Ward 4 will have effective representation.
“I’m hoping the other wards see it as being fair,” Mushing said.
When council meets on August 10 it will choose an option for the new ward boundaries. Once council has made that choice, it will begin the process of adopting a by-law to formally establish the new ward boundaries on August 24.