Watson Backs Ward Review In 2019

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This is a release from the mayor’s office:

Dear colleagues,

I have had the opportunity to read the staff report on the Ward Boundary Review. It is a long report, and somewhat technical, which is to be expected given the topic, but a few elements of the report struck me immediately, namely:

There is no requirement under the Municipal Act to conduct a ward boundary review;

The Municipal Act does not identify any criteria for establishing ward boundaries;

City Councils past and present, the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) and the citizens of Ottawa recognize the importance of distinct rural wards, and have understood that these wards will be smaller in population than the average ward while being larger in geography; and

In keeping with past practice, staff has not made a recommendation with respect to the options provided to us, but the report makes it clear that if we retain the current ward boundaries for the 2018 municipal election, we will need to understand that the only option available to the 2018-2022 Council is to conduct a comprehensive ward boundary review beginning in 2019.

Staff has presented four options for the conduct of a ward boundary review in this term:

Option 1 (Comprehensive Review beginning in 2019): Retain the current ward boundaries for the 2018 municipal election and conduct a comprehensive ward boundary review beginning in 2019.  There is no cost to this option.  The major challenge is that Ward 3, Barrhaven, is significantly larger than the average ward while the rural wards are smaller.

Option 2 (a ‘Limited’ review): This would move the lands added to the urban boundary in OPA 76 from their current rural wards to the adjacent suburban ward. This could be accomplished internally, at a cost of between $15,000-$20,000. This would have the effect of increasing the population variance in the rural wards and staff has advised that they believe this is the least defensible option should the change in ward boundaries be appealed to the OMB. Staff has also advised that the current practice on joint oversight of the rural and adjacent suburban ward councillor for the planning matters for these lands would continue if Council retains the status quo.

Option 3 (a ‘Focused’ review): This would limit the ward boundary review to only those four areas identified in the 2005 Ward Boundary Review Recommendations Report: the suburban-rural split in Cumberland, ward boundaries in Ottawa East, adding the rural growth lands to adjacent suburban wards and addressing the growth pressures in Wards 3 and 22, with the potential creation of a new, additional ward. The cost of this review would be $150,000-$175,000, and the cost of an additional councillor’s office would be $1.45 million over the next term. Staff believes the results of a focused review would delay the need for a comprehensive ward boundary review until 2023 (for the 2026 election). However, the focused review would not allow residents of Wards 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 23 to participate in this important exercise with respect to their wards. 

Option 4 (a ‘Comprehensive’ review): A comprehensive ward boundary review is expected to cost at least $300,000 to $325,000 and take more than one year to complete. There will be extensive, city-wide consultations about what each community believes is needed for effective representation.  Following the adoption of new ward boundaries, staff has advised that appeals to the OMB should be anticipated.  It is further anticipated that the results of a comprehensive ward boundary review would remain effective for next three municipal elections.

I have had the opportunity to read the staff report several times, ask my technical questions and have them answered.  As a result, I am supporting retaining the current ward boundaries for 2018 and beginning a comprehensive ward boundary review in 2019. The report indicates that there have been very few requests from residents asking for a change to their ward boundary, and I can confirm that I have not heard from anyone over the past four and a half years looking for a change. 

In the executive summary, there is a statement which resonated with me –“There is no perfect time to have a ward boundary review, but it is clear that it is best if the public is ready to have a focused discussion about what effective representation means to each community.” In addition, I would not support adding additional Council seats at a significant cost to taxpayers. I also want to ensure that our city’s rural wards retain their rural character and not dilute their role on Council.

Conducting a comprehensive ward boundary review in 2019 will mean that residents and those running for office in 2018 will know in advance that there will be a long, in-depth discussion in all communities in the City of Ottawa about ward boundaries and what effective representation means to each of them beginning in 2019, and that the ward structure will be different for the 2022 election.

However, Members of Council should know that I am also recommending this approach because we already have an extremely challenging agenda for the remainder of this term of Council. As you know, Council has been working to establish ambitious Term of Council priorities. We need to continue to focus on the important job of delivering the Confederation Line – on time and on budget. During this period, we will be working hard to secure and finalize funding for Stage 2 – allowing the City to bring better rapid transit East, South and West. Concurrently, we have an ambitious agenda delivering improved protection of the environment, a new Ottawa Art Gallery and redeveloped Arts Court, improved parks and recreation facilities for our growing communities and improved housing for all Ottawa residents. Furthermore, we will be working with residents across the City to ensure we communicate as effectively as we can once the Transitway shuts down on June 28th – as you all know we must remove buses from the Transitway to allow for the laying of track and building of stations needed for the Confederation Line to serve our residents in 2018.

Once you have read the report, I encourage each of you to contact the City Clerk and Solicitor, the Deputy City Clerk and/or Tim Marc to answer any of your technical questions in advance of the Monday June 29th meeting of FEDCO.

Jim Watson

Mayor

City of Ottawa


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