FILE -- At-large Coun. Ken Boshcoff wants the public to decide whether or not the city should scrap the ward system and go with at-large councillors exclusively. Another councillor, however, has called into question the efficiency of the at-large position, countering that the city should instead adopt a ward-only system.
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Coun. Ken Boshcoff wants the people to decide whether the city should do away with the ward system.
The at-large councillor wants the question, asking if Thunder Bay should be an at-large only system, to be put on the ballot during the 2014 municipal election. Boshcoff said the current hybrid system of seven ward councillors and five at-large isn't representing the city as well as it could be.
Members of council decide on matters throughout the city but constituents don't get to vote for all of them.
Boshcoff said an at-large only system is more democratic.
"Why shouldn't we have a chance to vote for everybody," he said. "Really it comes back to a more direct form of democracy."
But Current River Coun. Andrew Foulds said at-large only would actually hurt democracy.
A ward system allows for candidates to knock on doors and campaign without the need for the deep pockets that at-large councillors are expected to have to get their message out city-wide.
"You don't have to rely on massive amounts of income in order to run an effective campaign," he said.
Foulds added that a democratic deficit would be worse if all councillors were elected from a particular area of the city.
"What happens if every single councillor is elected from Current River? I'm sure Westfort would not appreciate that," Foulds said.
Boshcoff said while historically that might have been an issue, an amalgamated city means that candidates are much more spread out than they used to be.
Other councillors weren't so sure. McKellar Coun. Paul Pugh had a one word response when asked via email about the idea to change the system.
"Nonsense," he said.
McIntyre Coun. Trevor Giertuga said he wants to put forward a counter-proposal that would do away with at-large councillors. It would save the city money and make council meetings much more efficient.
Vancouver has 10 councillors and a mayor with a population much greater than Thunder Bay.
"Why do we need so many?" Giertuga asked.
According to a report conducted for the municipality of Aurora in 2010, around 53 per cent of Ontario cities have ward systems. While dozens of cities have moved to ward systems, only two have switched to an at-large system the report states.
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