Ward Boundary Review snubs rural democracy

                                                                    April 27, 2005

Rural Council of Ottawa-Carleton comments
on City of Ottawa failure to respect rural democracy... on several fronts

Ottawa’s rural residents have tried to work with the city councillors and staff on many issues. Since we are rarely consulted about bylaws and other issues that directly affect us at the development stage, this has resulted in a continuing game of “catch up” where often comment is construed as criticism.

We were asked for our position on the Options Report for the Ward Boundary Review.  We understood the need to add more wards in order to balance out the more populated wards.  We also took no issue with enlarging the rural wards to include our rural counterparts in neighbouring suburban wards.  We agreed to this principal, despite knowing that it would dilute the rural voice at City Council.  We acted in a fair and upright fashion in the expectation of some reciprocity.  Our one requirement was that rural wards must be kept rural in the future in accordance with the recommendation in the Options Report.

Furthermore, our position was that, realistically, no fewer than five rural wards would, or should be acceptable.

It would appear that our rural councillors have betrayed their constituents by accepting the Recommendations Report.  This report changes the boundaries of Cumberland to include a significant and growing suburban portion.  This will lead to a situation similar to the plight of Richmond and Munster when they were overshadowed by Stittsville, resulting in the councillor representing the interest of the greater percentage of the population in her largely suburban ward.

If Council passes this report, rural representation will be diminished by more than 40%.  This is not acceptable.  Only three out of 23 wards will be left as rural.  The Carter decision of the Supreme Court of Canada states that more than population should be considered when looking at the fundamental 'right to representation' in a democracy.  In a democracy, there is an obligation to provide effective representation.

The City Council justifies this action on the grounds that it cannot afford another rural councillor.  This is ludicrous.  Effective representation should not be reduced because of cost.  The City has no problem handing out free crack pipes, building a concert hall, putting in a bridge over the canal, and funding the losing proposition of the O-Train.  As a member of the Community Budget Advisory Team, I know that if Council had the fortitude, money could be found - especially for something as critical as effective representation.

The citizens of rural Ottawa are exasperated.   Time and time again the City has been dealing with us contemptuously.  In preparing for the Rural Summit, I have encountered people everywhere who feel that the City has no respect for its rural citizens.  As one example, the only committee to be cut in the 2004 budget was the Agricultural and Rural Affairs Advisory Committee.

The formation of the Rural Council of Ottawa-Carleton was to provide an advocacy group for rural Ottawa and to offer Council and staff a resource on rural matters.  Even the Mayor has acknowledged that this is a resource desperately needed by the City.  However, the City cannot see fit to hire one rural expert out of its current complement of 12500 Full Time Equivalents.

The growing frustration in rural Ottawa is very palpable.  We have worked in good faith.  We want and deserve respect.  Our patience is running out.  It is time for action and some demonstration of good faith on the part of the City, Mayor and Councillors.

We will appeal this recommendation to the OMB if it is accepted by Council.  We will not support representatives who cannot support us.  We will actively work for the election of people who will actually represent us - the fundamental basis of the democratic system.

Janne Campbell
Rural Council of Ottawa-Carleton

Mark your calendar, to attend:

Ward Boundary Review - PUBLIC MEETING

Corporate Services and Economic Development Committee




  Ottawa City Hall, 110 Laurier Avenue - (Champlain Room)

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2005

9:30 A.M.