Politicians often promise to reduce the size of government. In Alfred and Plantagenet, it is actually going to happen.
At its October 5 meeting, council adopted a by-law to reduce its size, beginning with the 2022 municipal election. Presently, Alfred and Plantagenet has six councillors. Three are elected in each of the two wards and the mayor is elected by all residents. When the changes take effect, two councillors will be elected from each ward.
From July to September, the township conducted an online survey of residents, in order to determine if there was support for reducing the size of council. Out of the 187 residents who completed the survey, 72.7 per cent supported changing to a five-member council (four councillors and the mayor).
Under the Ontario Municipal Act, a municipality must have a minimum of four councillors.
The motion to adopt the recommendation to receive the report on reducing the size of council was moved by Councillor Yves Laviolette and seconded by Councillor Suzanne Lafrance.
“It’s about reducing council from six members to four,” remarked Mayor Stéphane Sarrazin.
The mayor mentioned cost savings and the difficulty of finding enough candidates to run for vacant council seats as reasons for reducing the size of council.
Councillor Ian Walker objected to reducing the number of council seats.
“I’ve said it from the beginning when this was first proposed by Mr. Laviolette and I’m saying it all the way through, that the councillors need to be paid more,” Walker said.
Councillor René Beaulne said he agreed with Walker about council remuneration.
The base salary for councillors in Alfred and Plantagenet is $19,000, plus additional amounts for meeting and convention expenses.
Beaulne said savings from reducing the size of council would be small. He said noted the responsibilities of councillors have increased, due to municipal governments taking on more roles.
“We need good candidates for council; we need to pay them well,” Beaulne said.
Laviolette and Lafrance said an increase in council remuneration could be considered during budget discussions.
“That’s something for discussion at the budget level,” said Laviolette.
Chief Administrative Officer (CEO) Michel Potvin commented that “savings was one consideration among others,” in the consultation process.
He also emphasized the report was only about reducing the size of council and not about council salaries.
“Our mandate was to consult the population on reducing the size of council,” Potvin noted.
The township’s CEO estimated the annual savings with four councillors instead of six would be approximately $60,000.
With the exception of Walker, all councillors voted in favour of receiving the report.
When the by-law to reduce the size of council to four members from six was before council later in the meeting, all councillors except for Walker voted in favour of it on all three readings.