Ottawa Ward Boundary Review

29 08 2020

A Bit of Background

City Council, which governs the City of Ottawa, is made up of 23 Councillors and 1 Mayor. Every 4 years, the Mayor is elected by all voters in Ottawa, and each Councillor is elected by the voters in his/her Ward.

Every few years, the boundaries of those Wards are up for a fresh look to make sure that everybody in the City is well represented.

The last time this happened was in 2005. Clearly a lot of things have changed since then. Population has changed, new issues have arisen, neighbourhoods and communities have changed. Some parts of the City have grown faster than others.

The new boundaries are meant to ensure that everybody gets “effective representation”, and they will be in place for the 2022 municipal election, and also for the 2026, 2030, and maybe for the 2034 election. This means that the new boundaries will have to take into account where we think neighbourhoods and communities will be possibly as far ahead as 2034.

Note that these boundaries will have no effect on Federal or Provincial constituency boundaries (MPs and MPPs), which are adjusted from time to time as well, but through an entirely different process. And they will have no effect on school district boundaries, (school board trustees) which are adjusted from time to time as well, but, again, through a different process.

People in McKellar Park are currently part of Kitchissippi Ward, and we are currently represented by Councillor Jeff Leiper.

How Does the Ward Boundary Review Work?

In 2019, the City of Ottawa hired a team of consultants to look at the Ward boundaries as of 2020, and how they may need to be adjusted to ensure effective representation, both now and up to 2034.

The consultants held a round of consultations, examined population and other projections for the City, and produced an Options Report in July which outlined 5 proposals for new Wards. Later, under Council’s direction, they produced a sixth proposal.

So, there are now 6 options before Council and voters, and these will be examined in some detail in a round of consultations over the next few weeks.

After these consultations are finished, a final report will be prepared for Council by the end of 2020. Council will then make the final decision on the new ward boundaries. While not required to accept all the recommendations, council will clearly be heavily affected by the report they receive later this year.

Once they are approved by Council, the new ward boundaries will be in place for the 2022 municipal election.

What Is the Ward Boundary Review Looking At?

The point of the exercise is to ensure that everybody in Ottawa gets “effective representation”.

What does that mean?

The City of Ottawa website puts it this way:

Generally speaking, “effective representation” means that one person’s vote should be of similar weight to another person’s vote. When applied to wards, the term suggests that wards should be of similar population size. In practice, achieving effective representation for ward boundary reviews involves balancing several components:  

Voter Parity

Ward populations should be similar but not identical and should be in the range of +/-10 per cent to +/-15 per cent of the average ward population. Larger percentage variations are possible, but only in exceptional circumstances such as in Ottawa’s functioning rural community.

Natural/Physical Boundaries

Ward boundaries have to be recognizable. Natural boundaries such as rivers and the Greenbelt, and physical boundaries such as highways, railways and arterial roads make good boundaries.  

Geographic Communities of Interest

Ottawa’s neighbourhoods such as the Glebe or Westboro Village and commercial areas such as the ByWard Market or the Carp Business Improvement Area are considered to be “communities of interest.” When re-aligning ward boundaries, geographically contiguous communities of interest should not be divided, unless they are so large that they must be split to achieve voter parity.

Minority Interests

Minority interests should be considered if they are geographically based.

Ward History

Ward design should, where possible, consider the history of the ward. However, ward history by itself cannot override other major criteria such as voter parity, strong natural/physical boundaries, and communities of interest.

Capacity to Represent

Capacity to represent is often equated with Councillors’ workload. It includes matters such as ward size, types and complexity of issues, ongoing growth and development, etc. and has to be taken into consideration when designing wards.  

Geographic Size and Shape of a Ward

All wards cannot be the same geographic size. Some areas of the city are more densely populated than others and some wards have more open space. Ottawa is especially unique with respect to this component of effective representation because of its large rural area.

Population Growth

The results of the Ottawa Ward Boundary Review 2020 are meant to last for at least three municipal elections (2022, 2026 and 2030) and, perhaps, a fourth municipal election in 2034. The target election for an evaluation of effective representation will be 2026. This allows for Ottawa’s expected growth to be factored into ward boundary calculations.

Balancing the Components of Effective Representation

While all components of effective representation must be taken into consideration, they are not all equal. Voter parity, respecting communities of interest, and well-defined, coherent ward boundaries are the most important components.

What Did the Options Report Come Up With?

Option 1

  • 25-wards
  • 13 urban wards, 9 suburban wards, and 3 rural wards, which would be the addition of two suburban wards, and one core urban ward, and removing one rural ward.

Option 2

  • 24-wards
  • 12 urban wards, 9 suburban wards and 3 rural wards, which would be the addition of 2 suburban wards and the removal of one rural ward.

Option 3

  • 23-wards
  • adds two wards to the suburbs, removes one rural ward, and removes one ward from inside the Greenbelt. It significantly adjusts ward boundaries in the urban area.

Option 4

  • 23 wards
  • 11 urban wards, nine suburban wards and three rural wards. Like option three, it removes one urban ward, one rural ward, and adds two suburban wards.

Option 5

  • 17 wards.
  • nine urban wards, six suburban wards and two rural wards.

Option 6

  • 24 wards
  • adds two more suburban wards while removing one rural ward

What Does All This Mean for Kitchissippi Ward? What Does It Mean for McKellar Park?

Ward Boundary Reviews are inherently complicated, since they deal with neighbourhood boundaries, population projections, balancing the interests of urban, suburban, and rural voters. All of the 6 options are compromises, and none of them do all of the things on the list of “effective representation” perfectly.

It would be easy to fall into the rabbit hole and not come out. Nevertheless, there are some clear effects both on Kitchissippi and McKellar Park.

Councillor Leiper has said that he has three key priorities:

First and foremost, I want coherent communities to stay together. Several of the scenarios for Kitchissippi would split Hintonburg in two, or split Mechanicsville from Hintonburg, which I don’t believe would be healthy. I feel strongly that the same person should represent both of those communities in their entirety. A sixth option would see McKellar Park have a different councillor from Westboro.

I also want to ensure that the “downtown” voice isn’t diminished.

Something I’m feeling very keenly right now is the need to ensure that the ward doesn’t grow so big as to become unwieldy for the next councillor.

For McKellar Park, only the 6th option would see McKellar Park split off from Kitchissippi, and in a different ward from Westboro; it would see McKellar Park, Carlingwood, Woodroffe North and Wood Park, adjoining communities which are broadly similar to McKellar Park, in the same ward. Some may see these changes as positive, some may not.

Should I Get Involved?

The answer is almost certainly yes. The quality of our representation will be heavily affected by the outcome of these new Ward boundary decisions.

Population size will clearly have a big impact on the Councillor’s ability to respond to your needs.

As well, you should decide for yourself if the new boundaries in each of these proposals puts you in a ward where the Councillor’s priorities are likely to be the same as yours.

Finally, do the boundaries, in a general sense, seem like a balanced approach to the fact that Ottawa has urban areas, suburban areas and rural areas? Will the Council be more able to work together and plan for the future, or less?

Look at what makes up “effective representation” in the list above. Do these proposals make the grade? Do some do a better job than others?

All of these issues will have an impact on your future, and on the future of our community.

How Do I Get Involved?

Start by going to the following website:

https://engage.ottawa.ca/ward-boundary-review-2020

From this site you can do a survey, find out about times and locations for virtual meetings, and look at maps, population projections, and detailed description of all the 6 options.

Let your Councillor, Jeff Leiper, know what you think about the options, which you prefer, and why. If you think some can be improved, don’t hesitate to say so. None of these proposals are set in stone – yet.

Don’t forget to include the Mayor in your communications.

Contact information for the Mayor and Councillors can be found at www.ottawa.ca

Councillor Leiper’s website is at http://www.kitchissippiward.ca/

And keep us informed about your views as well.


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