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Bentz in favour of smaller council

The veteran councillor wouldn't mind seeing more at-large members and a reduced number of individuals elected to office.
Jul 25 Mark Bentz
Coun. Mark Bentz at a city council meeting on July 25, 2022. (Ian Kaufman, TBnewswatch)

THUNDER BAY – The committee looking at the long-term representation of council has received some results.

Thunder Bay went through the first phase in determining the potential composition of council with a three-week public engagement survey.

Nearly 75 per cent of respondents felt that having 13 councillors around the table was not appropriate, providing value or representing the city well.

At-large Coun. Mark Bentz agreed with a potential reduction in the number of elected members around the table.

 “I do see the merits in the hybrid system but one of the things I have shared with the council composition committee is that I believe the at-large councillors should have a majority around the table,” Bentz said.

“I believe we need voices that are accountable to specific areas of the city. So perhaps have less ward councillors with more at-large members and a reduction of two councillors.”

In 1970, Thunder Bay began with a mayor and 12 councillors elected evenly across four wards.

That number expanded to seven wards in 1976 and then in 1985 the city adopted its current hybrid system that elects a mayor, seven ward councillors, and five at-large councillors.

About 53.6 per cent of respondents to the first phase of the survey see the value in having a ward system in Thunder Bay, while 83 per cent of respondents feel that a ward boundary review should be completed.

Bentz has served on council for 17 of the past 21 years, which included 11 years as the Northwood ward councillor.

He said there are no set responsibilities between being an at-large and a ward councillor.

“The understanding is the ward councillor is going to be on the front line for people to bring ward specific issues like pothole repairs. At-large members sometimes get called on those things as well.

“When you’re an at-large member, I think you have more of a global view of the community. People in the ward didn't like my global view of the community - they wanted me to only think about the ward, which I think doesn't do a good service to the community.”

Roughly 61 per cent of respondents felt that the $31,552 base pay plus a car allowance of $2,750 is fair compensation for the work performed by a councillor

The composition committee will next meet on Tuesday, March 5 with a final report slated for completion in advance of the 2026 municipal election.

Correction: An earlier version of this story had the wrong percentage for those who favoured keeping a ward system. We apologize for the error. 


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