Commentary

Ward Boundary Review Process Moves Forward

We are not proposing nor calling for any particular solution to ward boundaries but simply asking for a fair and necessary review to commence.

By Laura Cattari
Published May 14, 2012

To say the Ward Boundary Reform Work Group was surprised at the numeric result of the City's electoral roll comparison would be an understatement.

Rather than immediately run off and create a new petition, work group members Ken Sills and I decided to speak to Tony Fallis, Manager of Elections and Print and Mail, City Clerk's Office.

The problem, it seemed, was the addresses provided. They were required to be the address at the time of the last election in order to be verified, not the petitioner's current one.

Further, the petition also required the full legal name as it appears on the electoral roll. Mr. Fallis did instruct staff to allow differences between names like "Sandy" and "Sandra" if the address was correct.

The problem is the electoral roll itself. Potentially 50,000 electors are not regularly enrolled due to the voluntary return of MPAC requests for information. But there are further complications.

As per the Elections Manager, the City itself has already set in motion a legal request for changes to the Ontario Municipal Elections Act that requires them to destroy information 120 days after the last election.

In addition, the City has requested the province to change legislation, to allow for an earlier date to begin collection of information for the next election.

How can a petition be verified as per the Municipal Act if those records are not required to be maintained by the City? By the same token, how could the OMB disallow the petition based on inaccurate record keeping provided for by provincial legislation?

It can't, at least not at first glance.

This process has brought to light glaring discrepancies in our legislation. Yet the question remains: do we attempt to recreate the petition based on the new information?

If the aim of the work group was a perfect petition or we saw the need for one at the Ontario Municipal Board, we would be forced to prepare another - but this it is not the case.

Council, at the behest of the petitioners and the Ward Boundary Reform Work Group, has not only called for a GIC but has scheduled a Special General Issues Committee (GIC) meeting on June 25, 2012 to look at the issue, petition complications notwithstanding.

We remain true to our initial purpose, which is the process of ward boundary reform. As per the Supreme Court of Canada's Carter decision, "Relative parity of voting power is a prime condition of effective representation."

This relative parity of voting power is something we continue to see as lacking in Hamilton at present.

The work group and its members will be asking Council to direct staff to prepare a request for proposals (RFP) for a ward boundary review consultant; with thorough preparation of terms of reference including geography, community history, community interests and minority representation, to guide the review process.

Subsequently, that on January 15, 2015, a qualified and experienced consultant will be prepared to commence the ward boundary review process.

We believe this process has begun. Hamiltonians for Ward Boundary Reform continues in work in good faith with the City and Council.

Looking ahead to the GIC, we would like to reiterate to the public and Councillors that we are not proposing nor calling for any particular solution to ward boundaries but simply asking for a fair and necessary review to commence.

Laura Cattari is a Hamiltonian by choice for 24 years, and an advocate specializing in social policy, human rights and poverty. These are her personal thoughts which she is certain will anger everyone, please no one, which suits her just fine.

18 Comments

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted May 14, 2012 at 07:51:20

Glad to see this moving forward, whether our councillors want it or not. Seriously, what was their reason for not at least reviewing this the first time round? Why did it take the citizens to make this go forward?

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By Ergo Something Something (anonymous) | Posted May 14, 2012 at 08:38:25 in reply to Comment 76869

My guess would be Newton's First Law. Democracy is funny that way.

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By CouldaWouldaShoulda (anonymous) | Posted May 14, 2012 at 08:00:24

"Seriously, what was their reason for not at least reviewing this the first time round?"

http://www.thehamiltonian.net/2012/04/you-may-recall-that-we-asked-question.html

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted May 14, 2012 at 08:12:12

Timing and cost were the reasons? Interesting.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted May 14, 2012 at 15:23:32 in reply to Comment 76872

Job security. Would you care to redwraw your own ward boundary if it meant that you could not run as a proper incumbent next time? Their number one motivation for every decision is not losing their cushy position.

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By CouldaWouldaShoulda (anonymous) | Posted May 14, 2012 at 15:32:29 in reply to Comment 76883

'Job security'?

Perhaps. But nobody knows what any ward boundary reform would result in. If it's a question of providing 'Upper City' residents with more equitable representation (specifically Wards 7&8), then that fear is rather without foundation, regardless of how you reasonably slice things up. (I know, because I've taken the time to come up with several iterations of new maps.)

Instead, read this Hamilton Community News article to ge a better sense of why nobody on Council is eager to move forward with a review:, keying on Councillor Merulla's declaration:

http://www.hamiltonnews.com/news/all-hell-predicted-to-break-loose-over-redrawing-wards/

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted May 14, 2012 at 16:54:06 in reply to Comment 76884

He's wrong. The current wards divide the city precisely because they are drawn along historic dividing lines. A progressive redraw would see brand new boundaries across the entire city, ignoring past borders, and if done correctly could actually unite the city in ways we've never seen. This should be about more than nudging the current boundaries around a bit and adding a ward. If anything, we should look at an overall reduction in number of wards - which only really possible with a complete blank-slate redraw, and is exactly what all incumbent councillors fear most.

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By CouldaWouldaShoulda (anonymous) | Posted May 14, 2012 at 17:42:26 in reply to Comment 76886

"The current wards divide the city precisely because they are drawn along historic dividing lines."

And I have to ask; if you have competent people in office, why should it matter where the 'lines are drawn'? Shouldn't they all be putting the needs of the City as a Whole first? (And can you provide some instances where these 'lines' have resulted in awful decisions?)

As well, how do you see the notion of a wardless city, with 'at-large' councillors?

Finally, how will a drastic re-drawing impact traditional neighbourhoods? Or do you see them as being necessary collateral damage?

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted May 14, 2012 at 17:52:02 in reply to Comment 76888

I personally see a progressive and potentially drastic redrawing of the wards as a tool to give competent candidates a better chance against incumbents. I'm not sure about councillors at large. It might work but it could also make it difficult for them to focus on localized issues.

As for neighbourhoods, they are much smaller than the wards so I don't think a redraw will damage them. Healthy neighbourhood associations (of which we have many) will stay healthy, all that might change is which councillor they lobby to :-)

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By CouldaWouldaShoulda (anonymous) | Posted May 14, 2012 at 18:02:33 in reply to Comment 76889

I appreciate your responses. Thank you.

But why would a re-drawing provide a better chance against incumbents? What are you basing this assumption on?
And in the second go-round after re-drawing, election-wise, why wouldn't the traditional 'incumbents almost always win' kick in? Are you assuming that the new candidates are going to be *that* much better than what we currently have, and therefore it won't be such a tragedy if they get re-elected? (Of course, I have to ask how you feel about term limits.)

As for your view on the impact on neigbourhoods...and NAs...I'm sorry, but I think that's doubtful. On the one hand, you want something 'drastic'. On the other, you're presuming that this will damage them. On what are you basing this wish?

Again; have you sat down and played around with the boundaries? Especially as they relate to neighbourhoods?

Maybe...and I'm just riffing here...the 'drastic' stuff could happen in the 'Upper City', where there is far less a tradition of NAs, and general neighbourhood cohesion, by-and-large, in comparison with, say, Wards 1 and 2.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted May 15, 2012 at 11:37:53 in reply to Comment 76891

If we draw new wards with new names that are totally different than the old, then which ward would a current councillor run as an incumbent in?

Unfortunately no councillors seem to be able to consider the concept of a drastic redraw because it puts their job in such jeopardy that their minds have blocked the idea out. So their vision is a nudge here and there while maintaining the old ward numbers and maybe adding a mountain ward. If that's what ends up happening then there will be little positive effect on the city as a whole and most of this will, as they argue, be a weaste of energy and money.

If a neighbourhood used to be in ward #6 or #3 or whatnot, and becomes part of ward "Purple" (or whatever the new naming scheme is), how does that destroy the neighbourhood? I don't understand your concern... Neighbourhoods are much smaller than wards. If splitting a neighbourhood is a concern, then new boundaries could be drawn in such a way that they do not cut through historic neighbourhood boundaries. But even if an old neighbourhood straddled a new ward boundary, I don't get what the problem is. It might even be better as that association would have the ear of two councillors.

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By CouldaWouldaShoulda (anonymous) | Posted May 15, 2012 at 12:08:54 in reply to Comment 76903

As I have accumulated a little experience in researching ward boundary re-drawings in Ontario since the Harris Amalgamation Tsunami, I have to point out that in almost all situations, the municipality hires a consultant. (In fact, someone in Windsor advised a particular one, whom they felt was eminently qualified to oversee a review.)

The consultant process is thorough. There's all manner of process, referring to OMB guidelines, consulting with community, with City Hall, with Council...with all stakeholders.

In the end, the consultant makes their recommendation based on what appears to be the most prudent and effective approach.

I'm familiar with what's been done in at least a half-dozen municipalities, even at least one where they went through the process twice in less than five years. (I'm in correspondence with the City Clerk from one community who went ahead with a petition-based process, even though they'd had plans to initiate one on their own).

So really, re-drawing the boundaries isn't something that councillors will be able to nix. (They can reject the findings, I believe, but that just means the OMB gets involved, and if the recommendations have been supported by residents...then such an attitude could be seen as political suicide.

I'll be blunt, Sean; you and I do not see eye-to-eye as to the 'necessary result' Moreoever, you seem to be in the camp wanting massive change at City Hall (term limits, too?) whereas I see the need to address the other portion of the equation. We, the people. I respect your ideology, I'm just not on-board with it.

However, I do have to go back to something I proposed earlier this year in The Spec, stating that the most important result of this review process might end up being an increased ability on the parts of the residents to discuss, to engage and to marshall numbers in ways that we don't tend to see that often. Ironically, despite how I've just framed this paragraph, it should allow us to shove aside the ever-present 'Us vs Them' mentality, something that fuels waaaaay too much of discourse in Hamilton.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted May 16, 2012 at 18:30:42 in reply to Comment 76905

You seem to be continually clarifying some sort of point but with every post it just gets fuzzier.

Let me clarify mine:

When I think of a ward redraw, I do not consider adding one ward and shuffling a few lines left and right to be sufficient. We need to stop thinking about the old boundaries and come up with a totally new way of determining the areas covered by each ward. I am not pretending to know exactly what criteria are best, but we have to come up with something best for the whole city.

It is good to hear that an external consultant will take a wider view. But if you read all of the comments from City Hall, they almost all boil down to "it will cost too much to investigate it and we can't afford another mountain councillor salary anyways, so let's not bother". All I'm trying to say is we need to see past their job-security-protecting-smokescreen and realize that there's more too this situation than one way-too-big mountain ward.

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By CouldaWouldaShoulda (anonymous) | Posted May 17, 2012 at 05:41:22 in reply to Comment 77023

Apologies if you're finding my clarifications 'fuzzier'. One of us will have to try harder, I guess. : )

Simply put:

-I doubt very much you're going to see what you're hoping for. My bet is that that's as far away from what will more than likely happen with a review than what you've presented as Council's consensus about 'leave it be'. You want change, so do I, but the degree of change necessary is something you and I are not in agreement about.

-I'm really not interested in 'all the comments from City Hall'. They don't matter one whit, this side of an actual review. Not one that has a consultant (the only way this should go), or the public consultations, and certainly not where the actual OMB parameters and guidelines are providing the framing. So I'm certainly not interested in any of the perceived 'job-security-protecting-smokescreen' mindset. It means nothing to me. It's mindless chatter, and we need to ignore it, to rise well above it.

-Sean, nobody ever said -at least I never did- that it's just a case of a 'one way-too-big mountain ward'. On the other hand, it's also not just a case of drastic change. What it's about is a review process. And allowing that to unfold as communities across the province have seen for themselves.

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By CouldaWouldaShoulda (anonymous) | Posted May 14, 2012 at 17:30:31 in reply to Comment 76886

OK.

So firstly, how do you see the whole 'Old City of Hamilton' vs 'Dragged to The Altar by Amalgamation' fears? Not on the parts of councillors, but on the parts of residents?

And secondly, do you have something to present regarding this 'blank-slate redraw'? Having played around with the boundaries, I'm curious.

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By quo (anonymous) | Posted May 14, 2012 at 08:16:52 in reply to Comment 76872

They were the reasons last time, this time, and they'll be the reasons next time as well if we leave it up to the politicians.

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By Ergo SOmething SOmething (anonymous) | Posted May 14, 2012 at 08:36:15

Absent a reliable database, I would think that the fastest way forward is to overcompensate on signatories (~1,000) and sort out the math after the fact.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted May 15, 2012 at 03:56:26

I think this will be an interesting experiment, though its greatest benefit will likely be to suburban voting muscle.

After the first decade of amalgamation, the population of Wards 1-5 had dropped by around 6,000 residents to make up around 35% of the city's total population.

By contrast, Wards 6-10 grew by almost 9,000 residents during the same period, and now represent almost 39% of the city's total population.

The two most populous mountain wards have a population as large as or larger than the three most populous lower city wards, and recent housing trends offer no indication that things will change significantly.

Except maybe in Wards 11-15, which added almost 30,000 residents between 2001 and 2011.

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