La Nation council is taking more time to decide on changes to municipal ward boundaries and several Limoges residents are continuing to state their preference for adding an additional seat to council.
Originally, council was to decide on one of the two options for boundary changes on August 10 and then finalize the decision by adopting a by-law on August 24. However, at the July 27 meeting, council decided to defer making a choice until September 28, meaning that the earliest a by-law could be adopted is in October.
Council’s reason for taking the extra time to decide is to give citizens more time to assess the options with their councillor.
Several residents of Ward Four in Limoges continue to advocate for the option which would see a fifth ward added that would represent part of Limoges and as a result, add a sixth seat to council. The residents continue to voice their opposition to Mayor François St-Amour’s previously stated preference for the other option which would see the four-ward system retained, but with modified boundaries designed to better represent the growing population of Limoges.
Carolyn Bourque said that previous options during the consultation process and the existing option to adjust existing ward boundaries were “all just the same old way.”
Resident Steve Reardon agreed. He said that his preferred option, having Limoges join Russell Township, is unfortunately not available.
Bourque wants representation that is proportional to the population of Limoges, which has a population of more than 3,000 and is La Nation’s largest urban area. St-Isidore, in the eastern part of the municipality is the second-largest urban area and has a population of approximately 800.
“It’s not representation by population as it should be,” she said.
“Definitely increase the number of councillors within The Nation,” said Mirielle Sabourin, another Limoges resident.
Philippe Warren, who is one of the most vocal advocates of adding a new ward, said that future development plans for the community will only increase the need for better representation as the population is projected to grow by 971 to 2,240 people during the next 10 years.
“I personally believe that ward 4 will grow at a rate closer to the larger number, which by the way, further aggravates the problem with population and effective representation in the near or even longer term if option one (maintaining four wards) is chosen,” said Warren.
He contended that adding a new ward is the only way to satisfy the principles of the original ward boundary review study and to ensure equal representation.
Bourque, who is also President of the Limoges Recreation Committee, explained that each La Nation councillor gets the same budget for discretionary funds regardless of how many residents they represent. Bourque noted that there are imbalances in recreation services in the municipality because the only municipal arena, which includes a sports bar and bowling alley, is in St-Isidore. No such facility exists in Limoges, although the municipality is constructing a new soccer and community centre complex there.
“There’s a little bit of a fear of change, but change is needed, it’s not working the way it is,” emphasized Bourque.
“The municipality isn’t keeping up with the needs of the community,” Sabourin said.
The proposed boundary between the existing Ward Four and the new ward would bisect Limoges, mostly along the railroad tracks. Bourque and the others said that even if the community had two councillors, it would still be one community and they believe the two councillors would work together on common issues.
“We still have the same needs whether we’re on this side of the railroad tracks or the other side,” said Sabourin.
Reardon also said that he is not concerned about a divided community if Limoges was in two wards. He said that the realignment of the other ward boundaries resulting from adding the new ward would also benefit residents throughout the municipality.
In response to St-Amour’s earlier argument that the extra ward could lead to a Limoges bloc on council, Bourque said there is already a bloc involving wards one and two versus three and four with the mayor breaking the tie.
Bourque noted that both the Limoges Citizens Committee and the recreation committee have endorsed the option of creating a new ward.
Warren explained that increasing council representation will help create a more cohesive municipality.
“Either we are The Nation Municipality as a whole or are we a bunch of individual towns lost in itself. The Nation will never have an identity unless we trust each other and come together on this issue,” he said.
Warren is urging residents to contact their councillors and urge them to vote to add a fifth ward.