Trustee warns changes to electoral system could silence rural views

A proposed change to the school district’s electoral arrangements could stifle various disparate voices.

A proposed change to the school district’s electoral arrangements could stifle various disparate voices in the far-flung region it serves, says one school trustee.

Jen Carter said there will be issues in terms of representation if the School District 20 (Kootenay Columbia) board approves a move to a smaller number of trustees, and does away with the ward system now in effect.

Each area of the district has different values from the other, she said, so all people won’t be heard unless they have representation from someone from that area on the board.

Carter pointed to the cultural situation in Castlegar where the Doukhobor society chooses not to get involved in a lot of political stuff, but their children attend district schools.

A ward system might exempt the area from representation, with more trustees coming from the heavier populated areas such as in Trail.

“So it’s important that every community be represented,” she said. “If you collapse it down and take away one or two people, and then change the voting situation, then some of us may not be represented in the way we should be.”

She acknowledged the district was losing students and revenue, but it was still in a situation where it has a large area to represent.

“Even though there are common issues across the area, there are uncommon issues as well,” she said.

“If we change the number of our trustees and change the way people vote, people may not be represented in the way they have become accustomed to.”

The board appointed an electoral review committee last week to re-examine electoral arrangements for School District 20 including: the total number of trustees; the number, boundaries and names of district wards; the number of trustees in each ward; and the number of electors represented by each elected member (trustee to elector ratio).

As well the committee will gather other relevant information from other local boards, other school districts and additional sources as required.

The recommendations for electoral structure will be brought back to the board by Oct. 15.

“This would be done in time for the next election,” said Trail trustee Mark Wilson.