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Want a small council? Let's just let Peter Kelly run things.

Lots of council districts brings in at least some responsible councillors.


I've long been opposed to reducing the size of Halifax council. I won't reiterate all the reasons now, but you can read my take on the issue here.

Still, let's run a thought experiment. We already have, in effect, a prime example of what could go wrong with a fewer-councillors scheme: Peter Kelly.

The mayoral seat in Halifax is the furthest extreme of reducing the number of councillors. For the mayoral position, there are not 23 districts, not 20 districts, not 15 districts, but just one district. Question: does this small number of seats for mayoral (one) give us the best possible mayor? I think not.

And if reducing the number of council seats from 23 to 15 or whatever reduces "parochialism," then reducing the number of seats all the way down to one should reduce it even further, right? So, is Peter Kelly the best possible representative of the municipality as a whole, or do his policies (such as they are) reflect a sensibility of a narrow niche of the population that exclude broad concerns for many people who are essentially unrepresented? I think you know the answer to that.

There's also the absurd argument that our prime concern should be to reduce "bickering" on council--- as if council isn't supposed to be about airing political differences and fighting for constituents. Imagine a situation where we only had one councillor--- Peter Kelly. No doubt the "bickering" would be non-existent; Kelly would simply do whatever he wanted, without any other councilor raising a stink, or asking for a motion of reconsideration, or going to the press to air dirty laundry. Bickering solved! But would it be the best possible government?

Of course, no one is arguing that council size should be reduced to just one seat. But the thought experiment raises the same concerns I have about reducing council size, even to 20 or 15: larger districts exclude marginal, less-connected populations; a reduced number of councillors means a less-broad political spectrum sitting at council, and certainly less room for dissent, and the "bickering" that is so needed to check abuses of power.

Peter Kelly's continued re-election should give us pause: collectively, the electorate as a whole of HRM has proven itself to be pretty stupid. When we break that electorate down into smaller chunks, however, we find that we get here and there better representatives elected, and some responsible voices come to council.

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