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New wards proposed for Three Rivers would balance rural, urban voters

THREE RIVERS — Candidates running for Three Rivers council will have to appeal to both rural and urban voters if a proposal before council for a new ward system passes.

The members of Three Rivers’ electoral boundaries commission — chairwoman Heather MacLean, Pat Uptegrove and Anne VanDonkersgoed — say they are now much more familiar with the municipality that covers a large area with a varied population.

The commission members presented their plan to Three Rivers’ council during a committee meeting in Georgetown on Sept. 28. They were appointed in February to recommend new ward boundary lines for the municipality, which amalgamated in 2018. If approved by council, the changes wouldn’t take effect until the next municipal election in 2022.

Each proposed ward encompasses both a rural portion of Three Rivers and a more populated community so that they would best mirror how people live in those areas. For example, Montague would be split across six wards because many nearby rural residents travel there for its services.

It would also help wards to remain similar in voter size as the more populated communities grow, such as Montague and Georgetown. One implication of the structure is how it would impact those vying for a seat on council, said MacLean.

“They will have to appeal to a broad cross-section of residents,” she said.

“Both the town-type of population and the rural population,” Uptegrove added.

Council gave the commission two criteria to work with: There will be eight wards and only one councillor for each. Currently, there are 10 wards and 12 acting councillors, three of which look after Montague.

“It all came down to numbers,” Uptegrove said. “It was very statistical.”

Following hundreds of hours of work, as well as conforming their data a few times to meet the requirements of Elections P.E.I. and P.E.I. 911, the commission opted to map the eight wards with a focus on population density and projected population growth, MacLean said.

“I can assure you every line and boundary was considered very carefully,” MacLean said. “To develop a ward structure that could stand the test of time.”

Council expressed gratitude for the commission’s work and had little discussion. Council will review the proposal and determine whether to move it forward or suggest possible changes at a future committee meeting.

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Contributed, The Guardian

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