It was intended as just an update, but a report on the weighted vote formula used by United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR) council has sparked a discussion that is certain to recur among its eight mayors.

On UCPR council, each mayor is assigned one vote for every 3,000 voters in the municipality. A review or update on the number of voters and assigned votes per mayor is required by law every four years.  At the March 8 UCPR Committee of the Whole meeting, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Stéphane Parisien presented a report to council explaining the number of votes each mayor will have for the 2022 to 2026 council term.

In total, there are 29 votes among all eight UCPR mayors. The City of Clarence-Rockland has the greatest number of voters at 19,997, and as a result, Mayor Mario Zanth has seven votes on UCPR council. Russell Township follows with 15,274 voters and six UCPR council votes for Mayor Pierre Leroux. The Nation Municipality Mayor Francis Brière represents 10,027 voters and has four votes on UCPR council.

There are 8,434 voters in the Township of Alfred and Plantagenet, resulting in three votes assigned to Mayor Yves Laviolette. Town of Hawkesbury Mayor Robert Lefebvre has three votes on UCPR council, representing 8,406 voters. There are 7,476 voters in Champlain Township and three UCPR votes are also allocated to Mayor Normand Riopel.

In the Municipality of Casselman, Mayor Geneviève Lajoie has two votes on UCPR council, representing 3,224 voters. The Township of East Hawkesbury has 2,868 voters and one UCPR council vote for Mayor Robert Kirby.

Discussion and deferral

Parisien said the current report was intended as only an update on vote allocation.

“We’re not bringing this back every four years to change the mechanism,” he said.

However, council does have the authority to maintain or change the weighted vote formula if it wishes.

The current vote allocation means Clarence-Rockland, Russell, and The Nation could ostensibly control decision making on UCPR council.

“If we have the concept where only three municipalities can govern, can we also have it where at least four of the municipalities are in favour of a decision?” asked Lefebvre.

“That way, it sort of balances things a bit,” he remarked.

Leroux said he analyzed many options but is unsure adding the consent of a fourth mayor is a good solution.  

“The issue with that is you can create a system where a minority four could control the outcome, and not the three,” Leroux said.

Lefebvre countered that ensuring a fourth mayor was in favour of any proposal would aid the democratic process.

“If you’re unable to get that fourth, the majority of the population is losing the vote,” responded Leroux.

“What about the majority of the municipalities in a two-tier system?” Lefebvre asked.

Kirby suggested deferring further discussion of the weighted vote formula and the mayors unanimously agreed to revisit the matter at the next Committee of the Whole meeting.