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Still no salvation for Ward 1 voters

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I’m feeling appallingly disenfranchised, denied my rightful democratic representation.

Ever since Joyce Bateman resigned her seat on Winnipeg school board after becoming Tory MP for Winnipeg South Centre, I’ve had to make do with only two trustees representing my south end ward on the board.

It’s a miracle that the 43,000 registered voters of Ward 1 haven’t taken to the streets.

As the Manitoba School Boards Association keeps reminding everyone, school trustees are an essential part of the political process in Manitoba, without whom life in Manitoba is not worth living. With only eight trustees sharing the workload lo these two months or so, how has the province’s largest school division managed to escape a complete collapse?

Certainly, the division can’t hope to give its 34,000 students a quality education come September, without full representation.

And by full representation, I mean the representation to which I’ve become accustomed, which is having all three trustees in Ward 1 live within six or seven blocks of my house.

The Winnipeg school board has yet to set the date for a byelection to replace Bateman.

The division says that once it sets a date, the campaign can be no longer than 45 days, which would be more than a week longer than the recent federal campaign — though, surely to goodness everyone can see, it will take all 45 days for the six or seven per cent of people who vote in byelections to know the candidates and issues sufficiently well to cast an informed ballot.

The overworked and exhausted eight surviving members of the board opted not for a summer byelection, though they did still have time, when Bateman packed it in to move to Ottawa, to hold a June vote. Now we have summer, and then the Oct. 4 provincial election.

Speaking of the province, it’s not a lot of help here, not as far as forcing a vote to be held.

Says a senior provincial official: "The legislation says that the by-election to fill the vacancy must occur as soon as "reasonably practicable", but in fixing the day the senior election official must consider (a) voter participation; and (b) availability of persons to serve as election officials, and facilities to be used as voting places."

Two months apparently aren’t reasonably practicable time, and now we’ve got the provincial election not only stealing voters’ attention, but gobbling up election officials and hogging school gyms as voting places.

So, it looks as though I’ll have to cope well into the fall, or dare I say it, early winter without my full complement of trustees. Please, think of the children, and make haste to let us fill this vacancy.

Sigh.

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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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