Are we created equal in Prescott-Russell?
Some would say: no.
As mayors discussed the $50,000 being given to each municipality in 2023 in the form of a ‘Cultural Fund’, a question arose.
Should each municipality receive the same amount, or should funds be allocated according to population?
It is not the first time this question has arisen. The $50,000 for each of eight municipalities adds up to $400,000 from the United Counties of Prescott and Russell budget.
According to a UCPR by-law, each of the eight municipalities gets one vote per 3,000 registered voters, up to a maximum of 10 votes per 30,000 registered voters. Currently, Alfred and Plantagenet, Champlain, and Hawkesbury each have three votes. La Nation and Russell each have four votes, and Casselman and East Hawkesbury each have one vote. Clarence-Rockland has seven votes. In total, 26 votes are allotted among all eight UCPR municipalities.
The weighted vote system is used whenever UCPR council makes a decision using a registered vote. Any mayor may request a registered vote.
Requests for registered votes are infrequent. The weighted voting procedure is reviewed every four years.
Still, the question remains: should the municipalities with the larger populations, which contribute more tax revenue to the United Counties, have more of a say in certain decisions? Should these larger municipalities receive a larger portion of the Cultural Fund allocation?
One could argue that monies from the Cultural Fund might have a larger, more beneficial impact in smaller municipalities, which may need more of a leg up, so to speak, than larger municipalities with more staff and more citizens.
It is inevitable that we compare ourselves to our neighbours. With the population of Champlain Township nearing that of Hawkesbury, should citizens expect the same services, festivals and support?
We are in a transitionary time here in Prescott-Russell. The rapid growth previously seen only in the west end of the counties (in Clarence-Rockland) is happening in other pockets across the counties. New residents with higher expectations are moving here. If you follow the news in this newspaper, you will have noticed the hiring of additional management staff by local municipalities.
We are changing from communities that are more weighted with volunteer-driven initiatives to communities where citizens may have an expectation of the municipality taking on the responsibility for events and managing certain elements of the community. This direction is becoming the new reality as long-time volunteers fade from the scene and new residents do not yet have the emotional connection or the community knowledge to step in and seamlessly take over community initiatives.
New residents are here and perhaps we haven’t quite figured out how to welcome them to our communities. Community organizations need to figure out how to move into the future as volunteer ranks turn over.
Perhaps integration and community sustainability would be a great investment of a portion of the Cultural Funds being given to municipalities.
It could be an investment with an amazing return.