If North Bay City Councillor Jamie Lowery has his way, the seats around the table in the council chambers will have some extra elbow room come 2026.
"I am absolutely in favour of a ward system — if we are looking to tighten our respective belts council should evaluate if it is the right size. I’m thinking perhaps six wards and a mayor," Lowery tells BayToday.
Lowery, in a motion seconded by Coun. Sara Inch cites "a desire to investigate the creation of a ward system within the City of North Bay for the 2026 Municipal Election," and seeks support for "Council to direct the City Clerk to prepare a Report to Council regarding the implementation of a Ward System in the City of North Bay for information purposes."
At present, North Bay uses an "at large" system in which councillors are voted for by the entire electorate. Some contend it makes councillors more impartial and concerned with the problems of the whole community. In a ward system, a voter selects a single council member from their own geographical section of the city, called a "ward."
See the results of the BayToday poll from January 2020: How do you feel about a ward system for North Bay?
A switch to the ward system is not a novel idea in these parts as BayToday has published multiple letters to the editor on the topic. Each of the last two successful candidates for mayor advocated for it as part of their respective campaign platforms, as did several elected councillors.
See also BayToday opinion pieces on ward systems: Dave Dale, If wards are the solution, what’s the problem? and A ward system needed in North Bay?
In announcing his 2022 candidacy now-Mayor Peter Chirico referred to his election platform saying, "I believe it’s time to move municipal representation in North Bay into the 21st century. I will advocate for a Ward system or Hybrid (Ward/At Large). I know consultations will be needed but I will lead the charge for direct representation via a ward system because you should know who represents your neighbourhood on council."
In 2018, former mayor Al McDonald did not seek a reduction in the size of the council but was firmly behind a ward system.
“I envision five wards with two councillors per ward.” said McDonald in the lead-up to the 2018 election. “Citizens should know the councillors they elect, they should be able to call specific councillors with their concerns, and they should be able to vote for candidates based on the candidate's knowledge of, relationship to, and commitment for constituents in a set geographic area.”
However, it was during that term of council that city councillors voted 6-4 against a motion similar to Lowery's.
"I’m disappointed in the lack of open-mindedness and the unwillingness to learn,” said then-Coun. Marcus Tignanelli in 2020. Tignanelli had tabled the motion. "In the last election, a lot of people ran saying, ‘I’m going to be open. I’m going to be transparent and we’re going to make educated decisions.' Well here is a perfect opportunity. You had your steak on your plate and you chose to go vegan.”