Monday, 12 March 2012

Why Peterborough Gets Shafted by KPR

The true magnitude of the hypocrisy that is the order of the day at KPR can only be fully appreciated by comparing the dismissive attitude of management and most out-of-town Trustees toward PCVS and the citizens of Peterborough with the words of the Chair and the Director on the opening pages of KPR’s vacuous Strategic Plan 2011-14. Have a look for yourself – you can skim the entire document in less than two minutes, because there’s nothing of substance in it - not even a single budgetary reference.

“We will continue to foster safe, inclusive schools, focus on physical and mental well-being, and work with community partners to make school environments centres of our communities,” writes our Director.

Maybe he forgot to add “except in Peterborough” at the end.

“We believe it is vital that we take time to ask our staff, students, parents and the public we serve what areas continue to deserve our focus,” writes our Chair. “We will continue to ask all our partners in education to help us understand what they feel we are doing well, and where we need to improve.”

Well, she said they’d ask. She didn’t say they’d listen to the answers. They don't seem to be listening to Peterborough's health care experts, who have written en masse to the Premier about the importance of PCVS to community well-being, as reported in these articles in the Examiner and today's Toronto Star.

Why do our Trustees seem so out of touch? Maybe it has something to do with the astounding democratic deficit around our school boards. Back in 1969, when the Peterborough City-County Board of Education tried to turn PCVS into a monster-sized intermediate school, there were fourteen Trustees elected to a two-year term to govern a board one-third the size of our current board. When public outcry over the ill-conceived decision met with stonewalling by Trustees, a mobilized public elected a whole new slate of representatives the next year, including Peter Adams, the Northcrest resident who went on to serve as MPP and MP for Peterborough.

The campaign to "Save PCVS" forty years ago
launched the political career of the "enlightened" Peter Adams

In his recent book Peterborough Successes, Adams warned how much more difficult it would be today for the public to take charge of their school board. And sure enough, here we are, stuck with the current crop and their sub-par performance for another two-and-a-half years – with only two seats for Peterborough out of eleven despite the fact that a quarter of KPR’s taxpayers live in the city and the commerce of the city itself generates a disproportionate share of the sales and income tax which funds the other two-thirds of the budget.

Thanks to the following formula, devised by the Harris government and left unchanged by McGuinty’s Liberals, democratic control of school boards in Ontario has been reduced to its barest minimum. Note the wide discrepancy in representation ratios.

1000s of population
taxpayers per trustee



In a small, rural board, there might be one Trustee for every five to ten thousand taxpayers – a reasonable ratio. In a board like KPR with an urban-rural mix, it’s one Trustee for every fifteen to twenty thousand taxpayers - not so good. The situation is even worse in boards serving larger urban areas, where there might be one Trustee for every thirty to sixty thousand taxpayers.

For comparison’s sake, note that federal legislation calls for no more than a 25% discrepancy in representation ratios between ridings electing members to the House of Commons. The democratic discrepancies between Ontario school boards are in the range of 600%.

One result of the minimal number of Trustees is a widespread lack of understanding of who they are and what they do, which in turn results in a lack of competition for the positions and poor voter turnout at election time. In fact, the city of Peterborough is the only area of KPR in which there has been any reasonable degree of democratic interest in the Board’s governance.

In the fall of 2010, Trustees Rose Kitney and Roy Wilfong were elected with about 7000 and 5000 votes respectively. They were challenged Jay Amer, Allan Wood, Jean Grant, Martin Stabler, and Brian Cowie. You can read the results here. There were a total of 30,000 votes cast out of a total of about than 55,000 eligible voters. Given that each eligible voter can put a mark beside two names, this isn’t really a very good turnout. But it’s far better than what we see elsewhere in the Board’s jurisdiction.

Clarington Trustees Steven Cooke and Cathy Abraham were elected with just over 7000 votes each – but only one other person sought the position, and less than 20,000 votes were cast out of a total of 59,000 eligible voters. Yikes! See for yourself here.

Gordon Gilchrist and Jaine Klassen-Jeninga were elected in the Cobourg-Port Hope area with around 6000 votes each, with two challengers splitting another 9000, making a total of 21,000 votes cast by more than 40,000 eligible voters. Results for the whole Northumberland area are here.

Cyndi Dickson was elected Trustee for Brighton with 3155 votes, just 57 more than her lone challenger. Dickson likely picked up about half as many votes again in the Quinte West area (a suburb of Trenton not in Northumberland County), for an estimated total of about 4700, with probably about 9000 votes cast out of a total of about 21,000 eligible voters.

Shirley Patterson was elected in Trent Hills, Asphodel-Norwood and Havelock-Belmont-Methuen over two challengers with about 5000 of 7500 votes cast, of a total of about 18,000 eligible voters.

Vice-chair Angela Lloyd was elected to represent Otonabee-South Monaghan with less than 1500 votes against two challengers, with about 2000 votes cast. She picked up another 1100 in Douro-Dummer against 400 for the other candidates. If the pattern continued for Cavan-Monaghan, she probably received another 1500 votes against another 400 for the other candidates, meaning an estimated total of just over 4000 votes of 5500 cast by some 17,000 eligible voters.

Chairperson Diane Lloyd was “acclaimed” in Lakefield-Smith-Ennismore and points north as no one ran against her. There are about 20,000 eligible voters in the areas she represents. 

Let’s sum up the results: ten trustees elected with about 52,000 votes of a total electorate of 230,000 with only twelve challengers and 93,000 votes cast in total.

Five of those twelve challengers were in Peterborough. In the other areas, there were only seven other candidates vying for the eight positions outside the city.

30,000 of the total votes cast were in Peterborough – about 32%. Yet Peterborough only has 20% of the seats on the board and 25% of the population in KPR's jurisdiction.

Bizarrely, the Chair and Vice-chair of the Board were elected with a total of only about 4000 votes between them, representing constituencies totalling only 37,000 taxpayers – 17,000 fewer than reside in the city of Peterborough.

Is it any wonder that Peterborough citizens are getting shafted by the current system?

The question is, what is our elected MPP Jeff Leal going to do about this ridiculous state of affairs, which now threatens the well-being of all of central Peterborough?

1 comment:

  1. I personally asked Andrea Howath if she though almagamated school boards would be disentangled under an NDP govt and she waffled a bit, saying only that they voted against it at the time. Still, she's shown more support than Jeff