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Ward system awaiting final vote

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The Municipality of Swan Valley West is looking to establish a ward system for the purpose of electing councillors for the 2018 fall election.
On the evening of Nov. 15, Reeve William Galloway along with councillors Carrie Blosha, Brian Burick, Glen Foster, David Minish, and Irwin Steen, held the first of two public meetings in the municipality’s Swan River chambers.
Council has proposed that the municipality be divided into six wards named Ward 1 through Ward 6, starting from the southern point of the municipality and working north.
“As you are probably all aware, the original Rural Municipality of Swan River was incorporated over 100 years ago and, up until the last election, all council members were elected by ward,” said Galloway. “It was only after the amalgamation with Benito that it was decided to go at large.
“One of the reasons we are reverting back is simply because of the size. With more than 40 miles of length, it is impossible for all ratepayers to know all persons running for council and make a wise, informed decision on that bases.
“A ward system will allow each area to elect an official from your clearly defined area where you are more than likely aware of the individual,” he continued. “It also allows you the opportunity to interact with your elected official and you should find that service will greatly improve over how things have been handled in the municipality over the past couple of years.”
When drawing out the new ward boundaries, council tried to maintain no more than a 10 percent population variance.
“So, if the average ward is 300 people, we tried to have at least 270 and no more than 330 residents in each,” Galloway said, noting that it doesn’t go by area because the north and south regions are more sparsely populated.
“We are not representing land, we are representing people.”
Boundaries have been slightly adjusted from where they were prior to joining together with Benito to account for changes due to both the amalgamation and population shifts.
“Number six and number one are pretty similar while number five is close to what Ward 4 used to be,” said Galloway.
“The old Ward 5 was changed as it (did not span the width of the municipality) and there was discussion at the table that it would be best for wards to run east to west from boundary to boundary.”
Although wards will now have individual councillors assigned to them, those councillors will have equal say on how municipal funds are spent throughout the municipality and will not have their own pool of funds available for their area, as there has been in the past.
“The provincial government and the Act does not encourage ward appropriations,” said Galloway. “It was done that way prior to make sure each area saw some benefit for their taxes paid.
“When you are at large with paid staff making the decisions it can go south on you, and I don’t mean that literally but figuratively. In an effort to have fairness to all ratepayers we are going to have councillors who will advocate for their area while still taking care of the large problems in other needed areas.
“Even though there will not be a book number given to each ward, we are going to very diligently watch how funds are spent to ensure that every area’s greatest needs are taken care of,” Galloway continued.
The by-law has already been given two readings on Oct. 10 and 24 with a final reading expected on Nov. 30.
“No system is perfect but any system that we use will work better when people participate in elections,” said Minish. “Informed participation by ratepayers will enhance any electorial system and gives a clear mandate.”
Another public meeting will be held this Thursday (Nov. 30) at 7 p.m. in the council chambers.