Weekly Poll: A Student Representative at City Hall

Student Representative, Queen's University, City Hall, City Council, Kingston, OntarioThe first week of classes have ended for most post secondary students returning to the city. With classes underway, Kingston’s downtown core has been busier than the recent tourist-filled summer months.

Students play an important role within the city. As volunteers, students help contribute to a host of positive programs and initiatives. As consumers, the local economy sees a boom in business which allows them to offer exciting new services and products to the population. This puts Kingston in a unique position to harvest the potential of eager, intelligent, and passionate youth. Take for example the student led start-up company, Charge Centre. Their initiative seeks to enhance customer service at venues within Kingston by providing mobile charging device stations at businesses such as the Grizzly Grill and Milestones.

Apart from economic contributions, students also make a significant contribution to social welfare projects in Kingston. Recently, the Queen’s Arts and Science Undergraduate Society’s Orientation Week raised a record-breaking $71,294.70 for Shinerama, an organization that funds research pertaining to cystic fibrosis.

However, as a whole, students have had a strained relationship with the city. City council voted to omit students from census data collection. In April, City Council voted to eliminate the Sydenham district, which is heavily populated by Queen’s University Students. This act disenfranchises students by removing their representative. Student leaders responded by noting that the elimination of the districts disenfranchises student voters and weakens their representation on city council.

Should post-secondary students have their own Councillor?

  • No. (76%, 109 Votes)
  • Yes. (24%, 34 Votes)
  • Don’t know/Not sure (0%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 144

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Propositions of a student councillor to represent students at Queen’s, St. Lawrence College, and the Royal Military College were discussed in April. However, concerns have been raised regarding how a student councillor may be able to broadly represent all students within the city.

Thomas Pritchard, Vice-President University Affairs of the Alma Mater Society recently stated, “Students are citizens of Kingston: we pay taxes via our rent, we buy goods and we frequent the many services and establishments in the downtown core”. This emphasizes the significant contributions students make to the city.

Recently, the issue had been referred to the Ontario Municipal Board which will determine whether or not the district should be eliminated. The Alma Mater Society, The Society of Graduate and Professional Students, and the Sydenham District association have united to argue against the changes to the district.

In Iowa, student leaders were able to effectively gain representation on Iowa City’s city council. A student councillor allowed for Iowa City’s students to effectively advocate for student concerns regarding housing, and community ordinances.  Would such representation work in Kingston?

Thanks and credit to Queen’s University for supplying the photo associated with this poll.

Comments

  1. Amanda says

    Not sure why the poll question is "Should post-secondary students have their own Councillor?" considering that's not what students are proposing at all. That was proposed by anti-student councillors to save face after the elimination of the Sydenham district didn't happen as quietly as they had hoped. Students are proposing to be counted within the current representation system, rather than not counted at all or sidelined into only one vote on council.

  2. Rick says

    I don't think there is a problem with the poll question itself. Although students are proposing to be counted within the current representation system, a student councillor may strengthen the concerns of students on city council. The issues students face are unique to them and having a councillor to broadly represent post-secondary students within the city would be more effective than going through a councillor who also has to represent the broad population within their district.

    Perhaps Queen's students should rethink their strategy to create a strong coalition to represent student interests on city council, thus a stepping stone to improving town-gown relations.

  3. GreatFoodWanted says

    Since the current system is geography based (by district) then the appropriate solution would be to maintain district representation throughout the city, including Sydeham district. All city councillors should be responsible for taking into account the common and diverse interests of *all* of their constiuents when voting on issues, regardless of whether the constituents fall into one narrow category such as post-secondary student.

    • A... says

      From what I understand the issue is that districts were redrawn without counting students (many of whom live in the downtown area). This has led to the removal of a district downtown and the creation of another in the west end. By counting students the downtown area would continue to have two districts, but such is not the case.

  4. Jim says

    How biased is this article!!! The students have not been dis-enfranchised! The can vote and have always had the ability to vote in Kingston. They are just not counted in population statistics. This is the norm across Canada.

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