The AMS is looking into filing an appeal with the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) after the City voted to redraw its electoral districts last night.
By-Law 2013-83 — which was passed 7-6 in its third and final reading at City Council last night — stipulates that students will no longer be counted in population tallies for the re-divided Kingston electoral districts.
Part of Sydenham district –- the area which the campus currently falls under –- will be dissolved into the Williamsville District for the 2014 municipal election.
As a result, the number of councilors representing Queen’s students at City Council will be reduced from four to three, out of a total of 13.
Students, who are considered short-term residents of Kingston through this bylaw can still vote in municipal elections, but must first register to do so.
Last night, the AMS presented over 2,000 student signatures as part of a petition against the bylaw, with the hopes of the bylaw failing in its final reading. The SGPS also argued against it.
“This realignment process needs to recognize students within it and recognize their existence and their integral role in the community,” AMS President Doug Johnson told Council. “We want what is best for Kingston and this has to include making students feel like part of the community.”
Bill Glover, Sydenham District Councillor and Jim Neill, Williamsville District Councillor, also opposed the bylaw, arguing that it would disenfranchise students.
Others, including Councillors Jeff Scott and Bryan Paterson as well as Mayor Mark Gerretsen openly expressed support for it.
Paterson said counting students would be unfair to other short-term residents.
“What we’re doing here is saying that student population should be treated differently than other temporary populations like our military,” Paterson said. “We have many who are only here for a short
period of time and the census doesn’t count them either. This way it is fair.”
Gerretsen said students have been misinformed regarding the proposal.
“I’m comfortable moving forward with this,” he said. “We’ve heard from staff that it’s a valid process, it’s been followed appropriately but now there seems to be a huge opposition to it.
“At least the OMB appeal will validate it one way or another and then we will know what the best decision was and that might be the cost you have to pay to find one.”
The incoming and outgoing AMS executive teams will be meeting over the next few days to discuss how they will move forward.
Appeals to the OMB have to be made within 45 days of a bylaw being passed. After that, a hearing would be scheduled and the OMB would affirm, amend or repeal the bylaw.
Out of nine Ontario municipalities with similar student populations, only two – Windsor and Guelph –account for students in electoral district populations.
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