The Referendum Question
by Lynne Boldt
December 12, 2002
I'm sure many of you read the "Thumbs Up - Thumbs Down" Editorial in The Post last Saturday. The Citizen's Committee looking into the referendum question was awarded (?) a thumbs-down apparently on the assumption that anyone supporting the City structure as it stands today would not be welcome to make submissions.
While not a member of that panel, I attended their public planning sessions and followed the process. I feel the thumbs-down rating was due to the 'perceived' role of the committee's responsibilities. I'd like to offer my explanation of why this Committee took the approach they did and hopefully clear up some confusion. The people on this committee agreed to participate in the process following "terms of reference" set out by MPP Hodgson. The scenario before them was first to come up with a question to be asked of the public, then see it go back to the public on a referendum ballot that comes next. This question had to be clear, concise and answerable with ONLY a "yes" or "no" vote.
Now, I'm going to be hypothetical to explain further. If a majority of people had said they wanted to restore the old Victoria County, 2-tier form of Governance, this would lead to a simple question like: "Do you want to deamalgamate and restore Victoria County and it's former municipalities?" 'yes' or 'no'. If the majority of people vote "yes"...then the City of Kawartha Lakes would be dissolved and Victoria County and the former municipalities would be implemented. If the majority of people vote "no"...then the City of Kawartha Lakes would remain as it is today.
On the other hand, if a majority of people were in support of keeping the City structure, this would lead to a simple question like: "Do you want to remain the City of Kawartha Lakes?" "yes" or "no". The difference being, if the majority of people vote "yes", then fine, the City would remain as it is today. However, if the majority of people vote "no" -- then where are we? There was no answer to this result.
Therefore, during the first phase of the referendum process, the City structure was already represented as one result of the question - any question - because it is the current structure. It is the alternative structure, or the other half of the question that the panel needed.
For the supporters of the "city" this was not a slight at your opinion, your opinion is already represented by a "given". There are people askingfor an alternative to the city structure, and that is what the panel was looking for. At the end of the day, the second part of the process will be theballot itself and it will be up to BOTH sides to make their views known then.When the actual vote is taken BOTH sides WILL be represented by the resulting question. The city supporters simply got a "by" on the first round.
This "choice" is something VOCO has been advocating since day one....that the people get asked, AND listened to and it looks like the day is finally coming. Please continue to follow the entire process carefully and when the question comes out on the ballot, be sure to use your democratic right and make your vote count.