Hearing concludes

Members disapprove of City decision

The electoral realignment would dissolve Sydenham District into Williamsville.
The electoral realignment would dissolve Sydenham District into Williamsville.

The Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing concerning the realignment of the City’s electoral districts came to a close last Thursday, with the status of the appeal yet to be determined.

The OMB will announce the decision of whether the appeal will be successful sometime before January.

During the hearing, the City and student representatives debated between two possible district options.

Option four, supported by the AMS and the Sydenham District Association (SDA), would keep Sydenham District together and retain four councilors for the student area.

The majority of City Council voted for Option one, which would create larger boundaries by dividing Sydenham District, and provides students with three councillors. If the appeal is rejected, this option will be passed.

The AMS, Sydenham District Association (SDA) and Kevin Wiener, JD ’15, launched the appeal in June in response to the proposed district reorganization by the City of Kingston.

Reelignment would provide less representation for students, they argued.

Thomas Pritchard, AMS vice-president (university affairs), who attended most of the four-day hearing, said the hearing went well.

He said that the OMB board member, Sylvia Sutherland, seemed to disapprove of the City’s stance.

“I was surprised that the City kept consistently making the argument that students don’t vote,” he said. “[Sutherland] didn’t seem particularly receptive to that argument.” Sutherland, former Mayor of Peterborough, is the sole decision-maker on whether the appeal passes.

Pritchard said AMS President Eril Berkok participated as a witness, where he was cross-examined for a short amount of time.

“[The City] didn’t ask anything too substantive,” he said. “Eril just talked about how [Option one] doesn’t provide effective representation, and it’s not fair to not count students.”

Pritchard said the City argued that AMS representatives could replace council representation.

“The City was kind of taking the idea that our students don’t need representation by councillors because that’s what … the AMS are there for,” he said.

He said students still needs representation from city councillors.

“No matter how many students vote, that doesn’t mean [students] wouldn’t go to [councillors] with issues,” Pritchard said. “[The City] still needs to be able to represent all their people effectively.” He said the AMS remains optimistic about the future results as many individuals advocated for students.

“We felt pretty optimistic about the hearing,” Pritchard said. “The three councillors that spoke added a lot of weight to it as well.”

One of the Councilors that spoke in favour of Option 4 was Williamsville councillor Jim Neill.

Neill said the AMS and SDA had strong representation and arguments, and that the City’s argument was inadequate.

“The only countercase the city seemed to be presenting was well, ‘nobody does it this way,’ and ‘we’d be setting a dangerous precedent’,” he said.

He said most university districts in Ontario don’t officially count students, making the City uneasy about being the first to do so.

Neill said the City’s arguments continue to puzzle him.

“The City argued that the fact that students have a low voter turnout was a reason not to count them,” he said. “It should be about representation, not voter turnout.” He said if the appeal fails he would represent approximately 20,000 individuals as opposed to 10,000.

He said he was pleased the appeal process has caused cooperation between the AMS and the SDA.

“I’ve never seen the SDA and the AMS work so closely together. It’s created a very positive alliance,” Neill said.


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