District News - October 2017

District Council Composition

On Thursday, October 5th, 2017 Dr. Timothy Cobban and Dr. Zachary Spicer from Andrew Sancton Consulting presented their interim report on the District of Muskoka council composition and size.  The composition of district council has not changed since 1982 and the Provincial government has passed legislation stating the need to review upper tier council's composition by representation by population. 

To change the District council composition, a resolution must be passed requesting the change from the Minister of Municipal Affairs.   The request must then be posted for a period of 45 days. Comments that are received during the waiting period are then reviewed and if the request is approved, a public meeting must then be held.  A request to alter District Council composition must pass with a “triple majority”.  To obtain a triple majority, there must be a majority vote at the District level, followed by a majority vote to support the change at the municipal level and lastly, the municipalities voting for it must have the majority of electors.  In simplified terms, in the District of Muskoka any changes to council composition must be supported by four of the six municipalities.

The report and presentation was an assessment of council with five options, although not exhaustive options. 

  1. Status quo with the council remaining with 22 members and, as of 2018, an elected chair.
  2. Seasonal residents are counted as 50% of a vote.
  3. Use the municipal voters list which would allow any adult Canadian citizen who owns or rents property (or is the spouse of an owner or renter) in the municipality to vote.  This option would exclude children and extended family members.
  4. Giving seasonal residents 100% of a vote.
  5. A weighted system of voting where each municipality would have three votes.  Municipalities with more than 5,000 voters would further be granted another vote for each 2,000 voters over 5,000. 

The presenters then explained that they had been speaking to several of the councillors and would be presenting their final report at the District Council meeting on October 16, 2017.  They then took questions from members of the public who raised comments regarding:

  • a recommendation to redesign the District into three municipalities each with a Town and a Township,
  • it is often the Towns vs. the Townships around the table,
  • that seasonal residents should have 100% of a vote, 
  • that councillors do not leave their municipal hats at the door and represent all the District,
  • was it considered to dispense with municipalities and have representatives at large,
  • it is time to stop referring to individuals as “seasonal residents” they are property owners and are also directly affected by District events,
  • that the boundaries of the District of Muskoka should conform to the Muskoka Watershed as water is our most important asset and unites us,
  • Muskoka is “over governed” with six municipal councils, six Mayors and then a District Council,
  • government is based on representation by population, not representation by population divided by two, and
  • that a smaller council would be more effective.

There was a consensus that the report was well done.  The entire Interim Report can be found here - District Composition - Interim Report. District Composition - Interim Report.and the presentation made to Council at -District Composition - Presentation District Composition - Presentation


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