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Representation dispute forces special meeting

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Concern over representation has prompted the Rainy River District Municipal Association to call a special meeting Oct. 21 at the Civic Centre here to finalize its proposal for an area services board.

Rainy River Mayor Gord Armstrong, chairman of the working group putting together the proposal, is hoping the group can come to an agreement so the proposal can be mailed to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing next Wednesday.

But he admitted the demand by Fort Frances council for representation by population on the board (one vote for every 1,500 people) rather than a weighted representation as was originally proposed (three votes for Fort Frances, two for Atikokan, and one for every other district municipality, as well as the three unincorporated areas) is causing some communities to balk.

“There was the consensus of the majority of council that we had 17 percent [of the votes] and they wanted no less than 25 percent because we represented 30 percent of the population,” Fort Frances Mayor Glenn Witherspoon said as to why council here wanted the proposal changed to reflect representation by population.

Representation by population would give Fort Frances 27 percent of the votes on the board.

But Mayor Witherspoon also denied council would want something different if Rainy River District was included in the Kenora District’s proposal for an area services board.

While representation was discussed among the working group at an earlier stage, Mayor Witherspoon said there never seemed to be a “harmonious” conclusion as to what that would be.

Now, it’s up to a double majority—the majority of councils representing the majority of the population—to decide if the proposal with representation by population will be forwarded to Queen’s Park (once passed, the double majority rule no longer is in effect).

“I think it is very unreasonable for Fort Frances to insist on that,” explained Atikokan Reeve and RRDMA president Robert Davidson, noting the working group initially decided weighted representation on the proposed ASB would be sufficient.

“The rest of the district, including Atikokan, feel that is fair," he added. "In the final analysis, we’re all going to be working together for a common cause.”

“That should be the objective of that board,” agreed Emo Reeve Brian Reid, who, for that reason, couldn’t understand what the purpose of having extra votes would be.

But he felt it was crucial the RRDMA stand united on this issue right from the start, and not look like they were unable to come to an agreement.

“I think that’s part of what doesn’t need to happen in the eyes of the government,” he said, warning that the province might want to impose something on the district.

Mayor Witherspoon added he’s hoping the proposal will be sent to Queen’s Park soon so Rainy River District can be one of the 10 ASBs earmarked for Northern Ontario.

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