Planning board votes ‘no’ to weighted vote by requisition motion

GORE BAY—By a recorded vote of 8-2 (with one abstaining) by its members, the Manitoulin Planning Board (MPB) has rejected a motion calling for weighted voting being based on the requisition amounts received from municipalities.

At the previous meeting of the planning board, the Northeast Town had requested that a weighted vote be taken by the board calling for weighted voting being based on the requisition amounts the MPB receives from municipalities. A split vote had taken place of board members at the March meeting, meaning that under procedural bylaw the topic had to be deferred until the next meeting.

“I don’t know where to start on this issue. First off I’m not in favour of the weighted vote system at all,” stated board member Richard Stephens. “When you look at democracy it is not based on how big you are, how rich or how much land or assessment you have. And when you go to the ballot box to vote, you have one vote.”

“This issue has obviously caused more aggravation,” said Mr. Stephens. “I would strongly recommend that we go back to a one person-municipality one vote system. If I did have an extra vote in Central Manitoulin I would give it to the Northeast Town just to keep peace in the family; I would rather do that than have Northeast Town split off from the board. I would rather have a unified operation. But I think we should go back to a one person, one vote system.”

Board member Doug Head had presented a paper outlining the current vote and new vote (the latter under the weighted vote by requisition system). Based on percentages of requisitions paid he explained that Central Manitoulin would have two votes instead of three, Robinson and Dawson townships would go from one vote (each) to one/half vote each; and Gore Bay from one vote to two-fifths of a vote. The Northeast Town would have three votes either way, while Assiginack and Billings would both have one regardless of the system used. Gordon/Barrie Island would reduce from two votes to three-quarters of a vote, Tehkummah would go from one to two-fifths of a vote, Burpee/Mills would go from two to two-fifths of a vote, and Cockburn Island would go from one vote to having one-thirteenth of a vote.

“I don’t know how anyone would consider this fair,” said Mr. Head. “I was worried about two municipalities controlling the board. In reality Northeast Town would have control and would not need Central Manitoulin. With the support of Assiginack and Billings they are in control; with the support of Assiginack or Billings plus Gordon they are in control. One municipality would have more say than half of the entire board, which is not fair.”

“Most municipalities would not vote for that,” said Austin Hunt. “I think a good number of municipalities would say one vote per member (municipality) is where we should be and if the Northeast Town is going after its own Official Plan (OP) why is another vote necessary on this?”

It was pointed out the Northeast Town pays 32 percent of the planning board requisitions currently.

It was explained by MPB secretary Elva Carter, “should the Northeast Town be granted its own OP, it would be an additional OP for this board to oversee until they are granted their own planning authority. You would be administering that plan until they have their own.”

“What is wrong with one vote for every person/municipality? I’m sure Gore Bay is also concerned about this,” said Mr. Hunt, to which Dan Osborne confirmed this is the case with Gore Bay council having concerns it would lose with a weighted vote based on requisition amounts.

“If we go with what the Northeast Town is proposing, the weighted vote could be called for anything that comes up at a meeting. If the Northeast Town doesn’t want Ken Noland as chair of the board or Elva as secretary, they wouldn’t need much more support and that could happen.”

Melissa Peters explained, “I would like to clarify what the Northeast Town council is asking for. Basically it had been discussed with the executive committee a number of times looking at things like assessment. What council is looking for is the Northeast Town and Central Manitoulin having three votes and everyone else with one vote.”

“This is not what your (current) motion is asking for,” said Mr. Osborne.

Lee Hayden agreed saying, “that is the first time we’ve heard this. This isn’t the motion on the table.”

Ms. Peters explained, “as you are aware overall the Northeast Town council would like to have its own planning authority, but the ministry denied this, saying we should try to work this out with the planning board. I took this back to council and they felt that with the Northeast Town contributing one-third of the requisition costs, that the weighted vote should be on requisition. The planning board would lose one-third in its overall budget if we left the board. This is what the Northeast Town feels is viable. If the board turns down our motion, we will be stepping up our efforts to leave the planning board.”

Mr. Hayden said that in his opinion Mr. Stephens had hit on all the points he would like to make. “I’d like to go back to one vote per municipality. And if one municipality does get three votes, then three people should represent them at the table, because they may not all vote the same on an issue.”

“I’m strongly in favour of going back to one vote per municipality,” said Lyle Addison. “It would solve the concerns raised by Doug that no community would control the board. As Richard said at last month’s meeting, he has faith in the 11 members of the board making good decisions for all of Manitoulin.”

“I’m all for one vote for each municipality,” said Mr. Osborne. “Any vote we take is supposed to be for the good of Manitoulin and not for personal gain or influence. I don’t see anyone having three votes if everyone is voting for the good of Manitoulin, it should be one vote for each.”

Eric Russell said he would hate to see the Northeast Town leave the planning board and said “we should be able to come up with a solution on all of this.”

Mr. Moffatt said the board had already made a compromise in going to a weighted vote in the first place. “The reason I had seconded the weighted vote motion was to get it on the table. If it is defeated then we will go back to the current voting system.” He also noted, “I don’t see anyone controlling votes by the board, all I’ve ever seen is cooperation from everyone on the board.”

Chair Noland called for a vote on the motion for a weighted vote system based on the requisition amounts. Board members Doug Head, Richard Stephens, Brent St. Denis, Lee Hayden, Paul Moffatt, Ken Noland, Lyle Addison and Dan Osborne voted against the motion, with Mr. Hunt abstaining (meaning it was a negative vote). Only Melissa Peters and Eric Russell voted in favour of the proposed motion, meaning it was defeated.