Instead of a ward system, why not assign council ‘liaisons’ ?

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
June 7, 2017 - 5:00am Updated: June 7, 2017 - 6:28pm

KAMLOOPS — The Kamloops by-election isn’t even official yet and already it has at least one issue — besides Ajax, that is.

Mayoral candidate Dr. Cynthia Ross Friedman wants everybody to start thinking about two words — “ward system.”

Changing from the city’s at-large system of electing councils isn’t a new idea but it’s been a long time since it was taken seriously. The city tried it once before — in the early 1970s — and quickly dropped it because it was a dud.

That was when several municipalities were forcibly amalgamated and it was thought a ward system would calm parochial jealousies. But all it did was reinforce them, besides which it quickly became obvious that the talent pool was very slim in some of the wards.

Revisiting the ward system of local government isn’t totally without appeal. It would, for example, simplify voting.

Kamloops voters are used to having to choose eight councillors from a field of two to three dozen. In a ward system, they’d only have to vote for one, from a likely field of three or four.

The mayor, of course, would continue to be elected at large. 

As a side benefit, campaign-sign clutter would presumably be reduced.

Supposedly, the suburbs would be better represented in City Hall.

But it would very likely necessitate a bigger and more expensive City council, when a smaller one is what’s needed. And there’s that parochialism thing, which is very real in a ward system.

Ward systems can work if there’s the right combination of geography and population, but Kamloops isn’t there yet.

However, there’s an alternative. Why not continue electing councillors at large but assign each one as a liaison or proxy, a point of contact, to various communities, or wards, within the city? It’s not a new idea, either, but it might be right for Kamloops.

As for being a by-election issue, why not? Taking a serious look at something as fundamental as the way city residents vote for civic politicians can’t be such a bad thing.