Oxford County Council is undertaking a three-part council composition review that will look at the number of members on council; the election of the warden; and how voting is carried out during meetings.
A seven-question survey is available at speakup.oxfordcounty.ca/countycomposition. The deadline to comment is August 1. Feedback will be used to prepare a report and recommendations for county council. The final report will be submitted to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and any changes would take effect at the beginning of the 2023-2027 council term.
“Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has had Oxford County and many other upper tier municipalities under review since early 2019 and will finalize their decision by the end of 2020,” said Dave Beres, Tillsonburg deputy mayor in a ‘letter to residents of Tillsonburg.’
Beres noted in the Oxford County Act of 1975, it was decided how the County of Oxford Council would be constructed by population. At the time Tillsonburg had just over 5,000 and by 2022 is expected to exceed 17,500.
“From a percentage point over the entire population of Oxford, we are under represented and should have an an additional seat,” said Beres in the letter. “This has been discussed for several years and action has not been taken. Now is the time.”
The survey notes there are currently five urban and five rural councillors and asks ‘is this the right mix?’
“If you answer ‘no’, the next question is ‘do you have suggestions?’” said Tillsonburg Mayor Stephen Molnar. “That would be, potentially, ‘representation by population,’ or some answer similar to that.
“If you look at what is fundamental to democracy – representation by population – the Town of Tillsonburg, especially in the geographical separation at the south end, just by the population numbers, is under represented. That’s a large basis for additional representation.
“When you’re elected locally, and that election takes you to a position on County Council… and I look at myself as an example, I’m not representing Tillsonburg. I am one of 10 individuals representing all of Oxford County, with equal opportunity for concerns and advancing, whether you’re rural or urban. And that’s the philosophy. Is it real? I think collectively everyone attempts to do that, but do you not bring your biases and local concerns? Hopefully, a lot of the times it’s positive information because of the experiences you have in your local area.
County council has received a resolution from Tillsonburg asking for an extra seat.
“Our Mayor Molnar, who represents us, made an attempt to make a case, however County Council has taken a ‘status quo’ position,” said Beres. “They did, however, open a public portal under called Speak Up Oxford for public input.
“It is my hope and the hope of many, this message will be circulated to the members of the community to take part in the ‘online comment’. Please take a minute to complete the survey and circulate to your friends and neighbours from Tillsonburg to participate in the comment section with their opinions and reasons we should be better represented at Oxford County.”