WARD SYSTEM: Would it work in Cornwall, again?

WARD SYSTEM: Would it work in Cornwall, again?

CORNWALL, Ontario – A new version of an old debate is surfacing early in this election campaign – a ward system for Cornwall.

The system, in place decades ago in the Seaway City, was reintroduced as some food for political thought by city councillor candidate Brock Frost, who suggests it’s time to revisit the idea.

“In a city like Cornwall, where demographics are diverse and culture is ever-changing, a ward system may prove to be a better form of political structure,” he said. “A common complaint I often hear is that our current council does not represent the interests of Cornwall as a whole. I believe this argument is true for the most part.

“Riverdale is not Le Village and Eamers Corners is not the Downtown Core.  These are distinct neighbourhoods with distinct residents and distinct desires. In my opinion, they all deserve to be properly represented at City Hall.”

Cornwall’s council currently represents the city in an ‘at-large’ capacity, but a ward system would see councillors elected to represent specific regions of the city.

Frost wants to see eight councillors elected from different wards in the city, while another two would be elected at-large, as well as the mayor.

But there are opponents to the idea.

“You could lose out on a lot of good candidates,” said incumbent councillor Glen Grant, who said the ward system doesn’t make sense for small communities like Cornwall. “I think it’s been proven in the past they don’t work well for the whole city.”

Grant said the first year he was elected there were no fewer than five councilors living in the same neighbourhood. Under a ward system, there may have only been one or two of those five elected.

Councillor candidate Greg Kielec agrees a ward system is best suited for larger centres like Toronto or Ottawa.

“I know they had this problem in one of the former townships,” he said. “There was no cohesiveness. Everyone was fighting for their own (ward) instead of the township as a whole.

“Look at the Benson Centre. If there had been a ward system when that was built every councillor would have been wanting it built in their ward.”

Frost concedes there are issues with a ward system, but argues the idea should at least be discussed.

“Cornwall is not a simple city in terms of the opinions, beliefs, goals and interests of its’ citizens. It is a vast mix of low income families, working middle class, students, artists, seniors, wealthy investors, immigrants and retirees,” he said. “The sheer number of candidates and platform ideas this year proves that we have now outgrown our political system and are in desperate need for a significant change.”

There are 29 individuals running for 10 council spots.

Incumbent Bob Kilger, former councillor Leslie O’Shaughnessy and longshot Jamie Gilcig are running for mayor.

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