Mayor shows support for OMB

Mark Gerretsen says results of hearing should be applied province-wide

Mark Gerretsen speaking at AMS Assembly earlier this month.
Mark Gerretsen speaking at AMS Assembly earlier this month.

Kingston Mayor Mark Gerretsen is asking City Council to lobby the provincial government to expand the Ontario Municipal Board’s (OMB) recent ruling province-wide.

Two weeks ago, the OMB ruled to include students in the City’s population tally.

The ruling followed a City Council vote to dissolve Sydenham District and exclude students from the count.

The AMS, the Sydenham District Association and law student Kevin Wiener filed separate appeals in June, which resulted in the reinstatement of a fourth city councillor representing Sydenham District, where Queen’s is situated.

Gerretsen said he thought the decision to include students was appropriate.

“Otherwise I wouldn’t have asked council to lobby,” he said.

Gerretsen, who supported the original realignment structure brought forward at City Council, said it’s important for bylaws to remain consistent throughout the province.

“[I] respect the fact that the OMB feels differently about it and I’m okay with that and now it’s time to move on and prepare for the election in 2014,” he said.

According to Gerretsen, all municipalities should be doing things the same way.

“[We] all need to be playing by the same rule book.

That only makes common sense to me,” he said.

Kingston is the only municipality to count student populations when drawing city districts.

“If this is the new norm, which I accept … then we need to move forward and start to talk about how to integrate this throughout the rest of the province,” he said.

Gerretsen said that it’s problematic that all municipalities do not abide by the same rules.

“None of the other 443 municipalities count students. Neither does the provincial government … or the federal government,” he said.

A press release announced on Tuesday that the City racked up a $50,990 bill in legal fees to defend their position at the OMB hearing.

The costs are comprised of $43,700 in legal fees, $1,424 in disbursements and $5,866 in HST for the four-day hearing.

Gerretsen said he’s yet to see if the OMB decision will affect the upcoming municipal election.

“I have no comment on how it will affect the election. I’ve never really considered that,” he said.

AMS president Eril Berkok said that he hopes Gerretsen is being genuine about his interest in the inclusion of students in population counts.

“We hope that … like us, he believes university students should be counted in electoral boundaries,” he said.

Gerretsen voted three times against “Option 1” at council, which did not count students in the electoral boundaries.

“There was a time when he wasn’t supportive of this notion … [but] if he’s now on board, that’s great,” he said. Berkok said he can’t speak to the effect the change will have on the election but said the hearing has drawn awareness about it.

“This issue has become quite popular,” he said.

While the AMS supports the realignment, they did not intend on it being spread to other municipalities.

“Our intention in pursuing this was to look at Kingston and our community representation, but obviously we would be in support of other municipalities investigating it,” he said.

He also pointed out that all municipalities are different and can’t always run by the same bylaws.

“It is important to keep in mind that not all municipalities of secondary education institutions share the same population dynamics,” Berkok said.

While a large number of Queen’s students are from out of town, other schools in Ontario are more commuter-driven, he said.

Berkok said that the AMS doesn’t have any plans to meet with Gerretsen regarding the hearing.

“I’m looking forward now that this issue is over to working together with the City … on any future opportunities to collaborate,” he said.


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