Lake Country’s ward system is a ‘weird one’.
The district incorporated in 1995, but the four neighbourhood wards: Winfield, Okanagan Centre, Carr’s Landing and Oyama were retained after a referendum in 1998. Council is comprised of a representative of each ward, as well as two councillors at large and a mayor. It’s the only ward system in B.C.
However, there’s a problem with the system that’s already been outlined with the latest election.
Two candidates have been acclaimed simply because they ran uncontested in their wards.
While the district outlines the advantages of wards, as councillors have a greater understanding of specific neighbourhood issues, and it promotes the “character” of a neighbourhood, that character doesn’t do much for voters outside of that ward.
In a regular election, councillors all compete for seats. The seats are determined by all voters in the municipality.
This competition forces candidates to be at the top of their game, put on their best face and forces them to be aware of all of the district’s issues to convince eager voters.
Coun. Blair Ireland, representing Okanagan Centre, didn’t even show up for the all candidates forum held earlier this month at Creekside Theatre.
And why would he? He already has a seat.
Voters can also only vote for part of the council, and each ward has a different population size. More than 50 per cent of the population lives in Winfield. Winfield is also expected to see the most amount of growth, with new services like The NEXUS community centre, and housing developments and businesses in the Town Centre, yet it will be represented by one councillor, Jerremy Kozub who was acclaimed.
With nine candidates vying for six councillor spots, no one should get a seat simply because they tossed their name into the hat. That decision should be left to voters.
Lake Country is one of the fastest growing municipalities in B.C.
What worked in 1998 with 9,000 people probably isn’t going to work as neighbourhoods continue to grow.
While it is interesting to see the neighbourhoods form separate identities and deal with different issues, it’s not fairly balanced for the voters.
Lake Country is no longer comprised of separate communities, it’s one community and should be represented accordingly.