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Council to consider holding referendum on itself

By Nick Seebruch

Published on September 11, 2017

A ballot box

©Deposit photo

CORNWALL, Ontario - At an upcoming strategic planning session the Cornwall City Council will be considering a referendum on reforming itself.

The issue came up at the Council meeting on Monday night, Sept. 11. Council received a report detailing possible options on how to change the number of members on Council.

The report detailed on how Cornwall compared to other similar cities in terms of council numbers. According to the report, Cornwall is roughly average for a Single-Tier municipality and slightly above average when compared to a Lower-Tier municipality.

Currently, Council has 11 members including the Mayor. Councillors receive $22, 930 each in terms of salary, payroll deductions and a laptop and cell phone.

Councillors are also members of 10 committees each and spend an average of 275 hours per year working on City business.

Councillor Mark MacDonald, who brought forth the motion that generated the report, had previously raised the possibility of reducing council down to eight members.

According to the report, if there was one less councillor, each remaining councillor would have an additional 27 hours per year of work.

The report presented three options to council on how reform could be brought about. The first would involve Open Houses and public meetings, the second would be a referendum and the third would be to hire a consultant to evaluate the best path forward.

Several councillors made it clear that they were in favour of holding a referendum. City Clerk Manon Levesque however explained that for any referendum question to be successful, 50 percent of the electorate would have to vote and 50 percent of those voters would have to be in favour of the question for it to pass, and then it would be binding.

Mayor O'Shaughnessy was one of the ones who spoke in favour of a referendum.

"Councillor Dupelle, when you started you hit the nail on the head," he said. "It is not our council, it is the City's council."

Councillor Justin Towndale also raised the possibility of including multiple questions on the ballot, not just the question of council's size, but also a question on whether to implement a ward system.

The main concern regarding a referendum that was raised by Councillor Claude McIntosh was whether it was possible to get a voter turnout of 50 percent.

The Mayor however, pointed out that if 40 percent of the population turnout and are in favour of reform, that Council can go ahead with that mandate without the referendum itself being successful.

Councillor Mark MacDonald felt that rather than being dealt with that night, the question of whether to hold a referendum should be addressed at a Strategic Planning session.

"I think it would be a good idea to receive it and deal with it at strategic planning," he said. "To deal with the question of a referendum tonight, it would be rushed."

The Mayor said that he hoped to organize a Strategic Planning meeting this month.

If a referendum on the composition and character of council is held at the next municipal election, the changes would not be implemented until the next municipal election in 2022.