Update from CKWS website, November 8, 2013
THE ONTARIO MUNICIPAL BOARD HAS JUST HANDED DOWN ITS RULING IN A HIGH-PROFILE CASE THAT PITTED THE CITY OF KINGSTON AGAINST ITS STUDENT POPULATION.
THE FEUD WAS SPARKED WHEN COUNCILLORS VOTED TO EXCLUDE THOUSANDS OF COLLEGE AND UNIVERSITY STUDENTS IN THE REVISED WARD BOUNDARIES.
BUT THE O-M-B HAS COME DOWN IN FAVOUR OF THE STUDENTS.... WHO REPRESENT ONE-FIFTH OF THE CITY'S ENTIRE POPULATION.
IN ITS RULING TODAY, THE BOARD SAYS KINGSTON "ACTED UNREASONABLY" ... AND JUST BECAUSE MANY STUDENTS DON'T VOTE DOESN'T MEAN THEY SHOULDN'T BE COUNTED.
THE CITY IS ORDERED TO REDRAW THE BOUNDARY LINES TO COUNT STUDENTS AS CONSTITUENTS IN TIME FOR NEXT FALL'S MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS.
STUDENTS HAIL THE DECISION AS A VICTORY FOR "EFFECTIVE REPRESENTATION."
Right here in Kingston, Ontario, we are witnessing a voter suppression battle between concerned citizens and city council. Although city staff recommended differently, city council, on April 23 this year redrew electoral boundaries and eliminated one ward and excluded some 15,000 university students from voting in municipal elections.
Now Citizens for Effective Representation is fundraising to challenge council's myopic and foolish move before the Ontario Municipal Board.
The citizen group's brochure cites legal precedent supporting their initiative, specifically the Ontario Municipal Act, yet common sense would welcome an infusion of both energy and ideas into a city leaning backward into history, the fossil kind.
It was a 7-6 vote on council that took this decision, and names of councillors and how they voted are both colourfully displayed on the citizen brochure, in an attempt to solicit phone calls, e-mails and eventually elector defeat of those who voted in favour of the motion.
We heartily endorse the Citizens for Effective Representation efforts, and urge the people of this city to rise up and seek the Ontario Municipal Board's overturning of the council decision.
As the original capital of this country, Kingston has a long and valued tradition of balanced and inclusive approaches to political issues. There is a reasonably strong labour movement and a large government employment, including the largest prison development in the country. The impact of Queen's University, in some fields, among the best in the world, include an economic impact of millions if not billions of dollars in grants, salaries, building construction and maintenance, student fees and living expenses and a general boost in city energy every September while the air from that balloon leaves in late April and early May.
City businesses and city public services are essential to every Queen's student and faculty member, and, one would hope, a reciprocal relationship exists from the "gown" back to the "town"....
This decision by city council will, if it has not already done so, drive a large wedge between school and city, to accomplish what reasonable goal?
Are the politicians afraid that the tail will wag the dog, that through social media, the students will exert too much power and influence on city hall, out of proportion to their numbers and the length of their commitment to living here?
Are the politicians who voted in favour of the motion telling the world that they are too lethargic and patronizing to campaign among students?
Are the councillors who voted for the motion seeking some kind of "insider" power over against what they consider to be "outsiders" who live here for perhaps four years and then leave? Do they also think that excluding someone who works in Kingston for less then four years, and then is transferred, should not be able to exercise the municipal franchise?
Is this city showing its highly upper-class aspirations, in just one more manner, by generating more chapters of the ancient and too-often unnoticed class war in politics?
This is one decision by council that will have lasting and negative impact on the reputation for equality that is still the core of any democracy and we urge all citizens to send a cheque, and an email or phone call to those councillors who voted in favour of the motion, to have it re-opened at city hall and reversed, with or without the Ontario Municipal Board's intervention.
Here is an issue that both city and university can speak with one voice, and those opposed to giving students the right to vote in municipal elections should be concerned about their political fate at the next municipal election.