Catherine Kitts' response to CSCA inquiry about proposed ward boundary review for Carlsbad and Vars.
Thank you for seeking my comments on the Ward Boundary Review report presented at the Finance and Economic Development Committee on Tuesday.
First, I fully acknowledge that the motion amending the Ward Boundary Review report to committee was an imperfect solution.
In my closing comments to Committee, I spoke to the fact that the motion was not able to address the historical significance of the former Cumberland Township. Had I had carte blanche to redraw the map of Cumberland Ward, I would have drawn it differently. I did not have that ability.
The purpose of putting the ward boundary review in the hands of independent consultants is to take it out of the hands of elected officials. It is meant to give a voice to those who are underrepresented or overlooked, and thus yield results that may be unpopular but are generally more equitable. To your concern that the motion was not presented to the public for consultation, I would respond that the final report which you oppose is the result of the public consultation process city-wide. The amending motion was an attempt to better represent the interests of the community I was elected to serve.
As the elected representative for Cumberland Ward, I was very disappointed with the consultant’s final report. I met with the consultants in my first week at City Hall and relayed the feedback and concerns I heard during my campaign. I was hopeful that this feedback would be incorporated in the final report presented at FEDCO. The report briefly mentioned the concerns brought forward by the Cumberland and Osgoode communities but quickly dismissed them.
I fought for Carlsbad Springs and Vars to be included with RW-6, but there was no option that kept Cumberland Ward united while respecting the parity of voting power. Cumberland Ward has experienced significant growth in recent years, and residents would be underserved if that growth was not recognized and accommodated. Osgoode Ward’s population is stagnant and needs to absorb part of rural Cumberland to balance out the population growth in the east. To this effect, the rural villages closest to the existing Osgoode Ward were included in the new RW-1 ward.
I supported the motion amending the consultants’ report because it addressed the concerns of the communities most upset by this change. It was a compromise motion and I chose this route because a compromise that is supported by my Council colleagues is better than a hard stance that is promptly rejected.
When I spoke to your community association recently, I had not seen the final report or the amending motion that would follow. I asked how the CSCA felt about the proposed merger and members shared that they cared less about what ward represented them as long as they were represented. This was very different from what I heard from the community associations of Navan, Sarsfield and Cumberland Village. These communities were vehemently against a merger with Osgoode Ward. The residents who came forward to speak to committee on Wednesday came from these areas.
The community of Carlsbad Springs has felt disenfranchised for a long time, and I appreciate that the change in ward boundaries is stoking feelings of disenfranchisement.
I will be seeking more feedback from the community of Vars, but a resident shared the following with me in an email yesterday: “I would like to add that I have made attempts to speak to Vars residents through the Vars Association which has been silent on the issue. They have responded by saying they had no concerns. So Vars, which is expanding in size and population, would be part of Osgoode ward.”
I completely agree with you that the arguments in respect to the linguistic rights of east end residents fully apply to the residents of Carlsbad Springs and Vars. This is why I argued for the inclusion of these communities in RW-6. The challenge in getting the consultants and some of my Council colleagues to recognize the importance of linguistic minority representation is why legal protection for minority language rights is needed.
I know that you have spoken often about your preference for Carlsbad Springs to join the Municipality of Russell. The municipal restructuring process is outlined in the Municipal Act, 2001 (sections 171 to 173) and provides information on how to develop and submit a restructuring proposal to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Municipal restructuring proposals are developed locally and implemented by Minister’s order, at the Minister’s discretion. To move this file forward, I would suggest contacting your MPP.
In the 2 years of my mandate I will continue to represent every corner of my constituency to the best of my ability. In no way will I turn my attention away from Cumberland Village, Vars or Carlsbad. I was elected by residents of those communities and you can expect the same level of assistance and engagement from my office as you would if no changes were being proposed.
I hope you can understand my position and that we can continue to work together as partners.
Catherine Kitts Councillor | Conseillère Ward 19 Cumberland | Quartier 19 Cumberland City of Ottawa | Ville d’Ottawa (613) 580 2489 firstname.lastname@example.org