The City of Cornwall has recently sought feedback on whether or not city council elections should return to a ward system after 48 years of electing councillors at-large and on the size of city council.
I believe that elections at-large since 1974 are better for the community for a number of reasons.
Council members elected at-large concern themselves foremost with what is in the best interest of the whole community. They focus on citywide issues and policy and look at the big picture.
The ward system, on the other hand, encourages parochialism where councillors fight among themselves for their pet projects. Their main concern is often their own bailiwick.
With elections at-large, voters as citizens are better served. They have access to all the councillors elected at-large to deal with their issues not just one councillor elected in the ward system.
Council members elected at-large are more diverse. For example, in Cornwall under the ward system until 1974, only one woman was ever elected to council. With elections at-large, ten women have been elected to city council. In addition, many more younger persons from various backgrounds have had the opportunity to serve on city council as a result of elections at-large.
Regarding the issue of the size of council, I favour reducing the number of city councillors from 10 to 8 in the interest of greater efficiency and accountability. Cornwall would also be more in line with other municipalities our size.
If Cornwall City Council decides that it wants to return to the ward system and/or reduce the size of council, it should put this important matter to a referendum at the same time as the next municipal election in October 2022. A referendum was held in the 1985 municipal election when the electorate voted to reduce the number of aldermen from 12 to 10 for the 1988 election. Let the voters decide.