Should Alberni city council downsize?

First-term councillor Rob Cole says Alberni could cope with four city councillors instead of the current six.

More savings, better workflow and more engagement are what downsizing to four councillors and a mayor in Port Alberni would do.

Coun. Rob Cole advanced a notice of motion at the Feb. 24 meeting, asking council to consider a referendum that would ask citizens to downsize city council from six councillors and a mayor to four councillors and a mayor.

Council will consider the motion on March 10 at its regular meeting.

Cole pointed to the District of Lanztville which is considering reducing its council size from six councillors to four plus a mayor.

Lantzville Coun. Jennifer Millbank said councillors brought forward a motion in February to reduce the size of council from seven to five. Millbank says the rural council’s make up is an “anomaly” thanks to its incorporation as a district. While Lantzville is the size of a town which only requires a total of five people at the council table, its geographic area and designation as a district requires it to elect seven.

Cole has worked on council with six other people for the last two years, and he’s convinced a change can work. “I think that a smaller council will be more focussed and be more engaged,” he said. “Sometimes more minds can cloud the vision.”

Lantzville has a population of 3,807 and covers an area 27.87 square kilometres. Port Alberni has a population of approximately 17,000 and covers an area of 19 square kilometres.

The move breaks from the norm and thinks outside the box, Cole said. “Just because it’s been a mayor and six councillors for all this time doesn’t mean that it has to stay this way,” Cole said.

The proposal needs more detailed information, Mayor John Douglas said.

“The more councillors there are, the more contribution to the discussion of ideas there is,” he added. “More councillors also ensure that the diversity of interests in the Valley are represented. We would lose some of that diversity with fewer councillors.”

As well, a referendum is one thing. What buttresses it is another. “If there is going to be a referendum then there has to be a full accounting of the background that would have to be considered,” Douglas said.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

— With files from Nanaimo

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