The size of La Nation municipal council will remain at four councillors and the mayor.
At the September 28 meeting, council selected a plan to adjust the existing ward boundaries but maintain the same number of seats on council. The other option was to create two new wards that would have expanded council to six members plus the mayor.
The decision followed seven months of studies and consultations led by Dr. Robert Williams and Erik Karvinen of Watson and Associates who were hired by the municipality to develop options to give more equitable representation for communities, especially the current Ward Four which includes Limoges.
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.
Under the option selected, Ward Four will be made smaller to better concentrate on the urban population. The boundaries of the other wards will also be altered.
At four councillors plus a mayor, La Nation has the minimum legal size of a municipal council permitted by law in Ontario.
Ward Four Councillor Francis Brière asked Williams to confirm that maintaining four wards would not achieve greater population parity. Williams agreed but stated that a smaller Ward Four would give Limoges more of single voice on council as a “coherent community of interest.”
Ward One Councillor Marie-Noelle Lanthier introduced the motion to approve the option to maintain four wards and it was seconded by Ward Three Councillor Danik Forgues.
Forgues said that he does his best to represent all residents of La Nation when decisions are made by council.
Lanthier said that the municipality is not ignoring the needs of Ward Four and was critical of the option that would have added two additional wards.
“There’s no monetization of the option,” said Lanthier, noting that the cost of adding two new councillors was not included in the study, nor were any benchmarks for how effectively residents should be represented.
Ward Two Councillor Alain Mainville spoke in favour maintaining four wards and noted it benefits the mostly agricultural base of residents he represents.
Brière’s comments were strongly in favour of adding two wards.
“We’re here to determine if 44 per cent of our population has the same rights that are guaranteed to them when living in a democracy,” he said, calling the four-ward system a method of voter suppression.
Mayor François St-Amour, who also supported maintaining four wards, noted that in his time on council since 2003, the growth that has taken place in Limoges and the attention that the community has received from the municipality involving the new recreation complex and development in the business park. He disputed Brière`s claim that Ward Four is not being given adequate attention.
“I do not think Councillor Brière was ever ignored or sidelined; that’s not true,” St-Amour said.
The by-law to formally approve the ward boundary changes in La Nation will be approved by council at a later date. However, the decision could still be appealed to the Ontario Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT).