Every four years in the City of Toronto, 44 persons and a mayor are elected to city council to represent it’s population of 2,615,000 people. Each of these 44 councillors represents a ward and the people living in it. A change may be coming to this.
In 2013 the city came up with a plan to study and ask Torontonians whether the ward boundaries should be changed. The ward boundaries have not been changed since the year 2000[i], and since then, there has been a large amount of population growth in certain parts of the city, such as downtown.
This means that not every ward is equal in population; some have 45% more people than the city average. The issue with this is that is means some people's vote is more powerful than other peoples. And this goes against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The outcome of this study (called the Toronto Ward Boundary Review) is to make the population in each ward similar, so that each person in Toronto is equally represented by their councillor at City Hall.
The City of Toronto is over-seeing the review, but the actual work is being done by independent consultants to make sure the process is as fair as possible. The review is a five step process. First background research was conducted. Then there was the first round of public consultation, which included public meetings, an online survey and interviews with Members of Council. Then a series of 5 options for new ward boundaries was developed. A second round of public consultation was then conducted to get feedback on the options and determine which one people liked the most and then the team presented their recommedne option to Council in may 2016.
The review uses population estimates from the year 2026, and the goal is that for three election cycles the ward representations close to equal (it’s not possible for the population in each ward to be exactly the same, so the rule is that they much be within +/-15% of the average ward population). The review is not only considering the voting age population, but other populations such as high school students and people who do not vote what matters most is that every person in Toronto is fairly represented[ii].
Five options for new ward boundaries were developed for consideration and feedback from the public, stakeholders and Members of Council.
Option1: Minimal Change
Population range: 51 000-70 150
Reduce size of 8 wards, increase 5, and adjust 13 wards for the ones that need change
Creates 47 wards in total
The most popular of the choices from the public consultations
Option 2: 44 wards
Ward population range: 63,000 – 77,000
All wards fall within the 15% variance range
Option 3: Smaller Wards
Would have a total of 58 wards
Ward population average is 45,000-55,000
In the consultations, this option was either very popular or very unpopular
Option 4: Bigger Wards
Reduce total number of wards to 38
Ward population range is 67,500- 82,000, average ward population is 75,000
Like option 3, this choice is either widely popular or unpopular
Option 5: Use Natural/ Physical Boundaries
Will keep 44 wards but in a new arrangement
Ward population range from 63 000-77 000
On May 24th, the City of Toronto's Executive Committee reviewed TWBR recommendations and final report. The consultant team recommended a new ward boundary structure similar to Option 1, as it was the most favoured between the city councillors and public. (Small boundary changes were made to Option 1 based on the suggestions from the public and members of Council). The committee did not make a decision on the issue, instead they suggested changes to Option 1- including the possibility of only two extra wards, more public consultations, maintaining the existing Community Council boundaries. On October 26th, the changes will be presented to City Council for them to review as again. By the end of 2016, a decision will be made on which ward structure will be implemented for the 2018 elections with enough time for necessary legal appeals in 2017. The changes will last till 2030.[iv]
If you were a city councillor, which option would you pick? To read about what others think about the options, take a look at the round two public consultation report and see how it matches up to your own views. Have an opinion or questions about your ward, contact your city councillor!
governance: the manner of governing
ward: a defined political area of a city
public consultation: getting the public's opinion on a topic or issue
Councillor Kristyn-Wong Tam has 109, 477 people in her Rosedale-Toronto Central ward, compared to 44, 245 for Mary Fragedakis in Toronto-Danforth
Vanessa Opassinis is a born and raised Torontonian, living in the city and it's suburbs her whole life. She is currently a third year student at the University of Toronto studying Urban Studies and International Relations. She is passionate about civic engagement, homelessness, housing and heritage preservation. In her spare time you can find her walking around Toronto, reading a book or working out. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org, https://www.instagram.com/vanesssaopa/.
[i] Marshall, Sean. 2015. “Toronto Ward Boundary Review: A Primer”. Torontoist. http://torontoist.com/2015/08/toronto-ward-boundary-review-a-primer/#disqus_thread
[ii]“Toronto Boundary Review: Background Research Report”, 2014. Draw The Lines.
[iii] “Proposal could increase councillors at Toronto City Hall to 58”. 2015. Toronto Metro New. Web Access from http://www.metronews.ca/news/toronto/2015/08/11/proposal-could-increase-councillors-at-toronto-city-hall-to-58.html.
[iv] “Toronto Ward Boundary Review: Final Report”, 2016. Draw The Lines.