Toronto Ward Boundary Scenario - 50 Councillors

How would Toronto look with 50 Councillors

Recently there were very informative and open public consultations on the prospect of changing the Toronto council ward boundaries.  The process allowed for input from the public on what the new boundaries should be and also asked questions about how many residents should each councillor oversee.  Several possibilities arose about the number of councillors that included decreasing to 22 wards, increase to 50 or more wards or remain the same.  Sadly only 192 attended any of the consultations, although 608 did response to surveys.

Check out my thoughts on a scenario of only 22 COUNCILLORS written earlier this month.

For more information about the "Drawing the Line" click on the photo below to be forwarded to report.


Click on photo to be taken to report

Click on photo to be taken to report

Scenario of 50 Councillors

The concept of increasing council by adding councillors has been brought up to represent the expected Toronto population increase over the next fifteen years.  The correlation of population increase to councillors is best explained as 'how many residents can a councillor manage to give proper access'.  There has often been comparisons of MP's and MPP's and their larger geographic ridings versus the half sized (approximately) wards of councilllors.  When comparing the various levels of government the responsibilities of their office is necessary to understand their need and function on residents.  Given a councillor is most likely the first level of government most residents will need to contact (roads, transit, water etc), they need a balanced amount of residents per councillor proportionally across the city.

I will gloss over my other scenario of only 22 councillors and the reasons behind that option and why it is a negative choice.  When looking at the important decisions council needs to make, having less representation as the city grows is not an appropriate response to save a small percentage of money.  Cutting council in half would mean less access to a councillor, less opinions on council and a likely increased isolation between residents and their elected officials.  Those who believe that all governments are corrupt based on their decisions and the influence they peddle will never be satisfied with any elected government.  Decrease to 22, will the next decrease be to 11... how about a city run by the mayor alone.  Toronto is growing; like other levels of governments that are expanding their elected representatives, so should Toronto.

Running with the scenario of 50 Councillors I have taken the approach of re-examining the 2014 municipal election results to see what the effect would be by increasing council.  The process is hypothetical because the number of wards, their boundaries and the election races may be extremely altered in 2018 if implemented.  I cannot lay out the exact council that would be created but I can use the data available to suggest some of the candidates that were not successful but could have been elected if council had an extra 6 seats.  Data that I will use:

  • Votes received for candidates not elected
  • Anticipating geographic areas that may receive new wards
  • Extra candidates outside of a set 50


WINNERS: The currently elected council is not comprised of the top 44 candidates who received the most votes.  Council is comprised of the top candidate from each ward who received the most votes.  How is this different?  Several current councillors were elected with vote rankings below the top 44, vote percentages within their ward below 30% and even a vote percentage ranking well below the 50 threshold in this scenario.  This is an important factor in adding additional councillors, the need to examine how and who got elected in 2014.  Below is a snapshot of current councillors who were elected as the 'first past the post' representative for their ward but did not receive the top 44 amount of votes.  

A quick observation of these elected officials is just how little votes some received to be elected.  I would credit that to strong candidates running against them and also the power of incumbency for undecided voters. Getting elected with less than 20% doesn't instil a sense of confidence.  

NON-WINNERS: There were several candidates that were not elected but based on total votes received, would have been placed within the top 44.  The current system is 'first past the post' instead of a ranked ballot system which would allow for residents to choose their first, second and third choice if a candidate doesn't win with a majority.  As seen below, Russ Ford received more votes than eleven current councillors and yet was not elected.  The same can be said for the other four candidates that were not elected, lost to incumbents despite their votes received were higher than several other elected councillors.


I'll start with the chart, allowing all readers to examine the list.


Looking at the list of possible candidates to fill the hypothetical six available council seats reveals a few details.

  • Council may include more women: Alejandra, Charmain & Liz were all within the highest 50 most votes.
  • Council could also include women if based on region: Jennifer, Diana or Megan.
  • Council would not have added enough ethnic diversity as many of the top "59" are identified as white.


All current 44 Toronto Wards

One of the questions that may get asked, where do the additional wards fall within the city?  There is no easy answer and is one of the main reasons for the public consultation and analysis.  This question also matters differently depending on the context of which it was asked.  Are residents or councillors worried about an increased or decreased influence of their geographic area?  Would there be better representation for some residents that are currently in wards with almost double the population compared to smaller wards?  Context matters.  The process isn't about creating council seats that would add additional influence based on ideology or region, it will be based on a sense of fairness and an approximation of resident averages per ward.

Two possibilities: Population intensification & also "regional" councillors

Within the report linked at top of post about the Ward Boundary Review, there are very informative infographics about ward population variances.  Click on both of the maps to see what wards and regions have been identified with under representation compared to other wards in Toronto.

The population variances show that there are several identified areas which would likely augment ward boundaries to become within the ward average threshold.  Currently councillors in wards 20, 23, 27 & 42 have a larger constituency compared to other wards with a much lower level.  This influences the ability of a resident to speak to their councillor or have access to their councillor.  

Comparing the 2014 map to the 2031 map shows that the downtown core, North York and areas of Scarborough will have higher variances with the current ward boundaries.  It was best described as "a person in a ward with a smaller population almost has double the influence compared to other wards with a larger population".  This is undemocratic and is one of the main reasons for the review and eventual ward boundary change.

Given the maps provided, the data from the 2014 municipal election, let's assume the following may occur:

  • A new council position in each of the regional council areas
    • Etobicoke-York does have lower variances but assumed 'equality' 
  • The 2 remaining seats would be floating based on highest votes received

Given that there would be a councillor from each regional council, those identified as receiving the highest votes but were not elected in 2014 would have a good opportunity to win a seat.  Russ Ford in Etobicoke, David Mousavi in North York, Alex Mazer or Alejanda Bravo in Downtown & East York and finally Neethan Shan in Scarborough.

The other two seats could be determined by overall votes, although that might put another councillor from Etobicoke on council.  That would not be representative of the changing population of Toronto.  I will not narrow down who could be the 49th and 50th councillor, I leave that to your discretion.  There are plenty of candidates listed above which could be on council (including the only incumbent to lose in 2014).  The concept of a floating councillor is intriguing.  It would solidify the concept that voter turnout is important, that a candidate who came in second could still represent their community.  This may have an effect on the total number of candidates that enter municipal races; can the city and each ward want 10-20 candidates again in 2018?

Taking into consideration of an open seat, some candidates that performed well in their respective areas may have decided to take the challenge of an open race versus campaigning against an incumbent.  With the area of Wards 23 & 24 identified as an area of growth, would David Mousavi have collected more votes than candidate Dan Fox in a head to head race?  Dan was endorsed by several media organizations against David Shiner (notorious for entering race at very end) and did extremely well for this first attempt to knock out an incumbent.  The prospect of a third seat in that geographic area is interesting, an area to watch if 50 council seats occur in 2018.

The concept of open council seats would be very important in addressing under-representation of women on council.  With only 14 of 44 current councillors women (31.8%) and many candidates that received high vote counts, this number could be increased.  Ward 44 had both Jennifer McKelvie and Diana Hall rank high in votes against incumbent Ron Moeser.  If one candidate ran in the open seat and one remained against Ron Moeser, council could have removed an incumbent and also added an additional woman.

The under-representation of visible minorities could also be addressed with adding additional council seats.  Depending on the location of the open seats, candidates that were endorsed by NOW MAZAGINE could include strong advocates from different ethnic communities.  Idil Burale (Ward 1), Andray Domise (Ward 2), Lekan Olawoye (Ward 12) & Amarjeet Chhabra (ward 44) were candidates I followed during the election.  I had spoken to several during and after the election about their experiences and their frustration that council remained more-or-less the same.  Open seats not against incumbents may allow for communities to rally behind one candidate to attempt to gain a seat on council.  Taking into consideration the communities that are not represented on council and comparing to the available statistics of ethnic communities within Toronto, it is a stark contrast.  This will be an important narrative going into 2018 with hopefully many great candidates across the city returning for municipal campaigns.

Slight boundary changes could alter voting results if it were to include communities better geographically aligned with other current ward boundaries.  As I experienced in the ward boundary public consultations, not all wards currently best align with defined neighbourhoods or communities.  Several communities have been split because of geographic markers (major roads, parks, etc) without considering the human aspect of the divide.  Some wards may not change if they fit within the preferred 45,000 - 60,000 ward size.  Other wards may be large in geographic size with a smaller population versus the decreasing size but increasing number of downtown wards.    

I have tried to stay away from hypothetical situations in my posts because of the influence of bias.  I can say that no matter if there were open seats in the 2014 election and one available in Etobicoke, I would not have won.  Etobicoke had 4 open seats (Wards 2-5) that did put 3 new councillors (plus returning Rob Ford) to council.  Some of those choices showed the ideological and political influence that came into campaigns.  I will not besmirch the voters or the elected councillors for their decisions, it was theirs to make.

I end with linking to other posts about campaign financing.  Is there a correlation between the amount of money raised and those who won?   

Toronto's Current Councillors Fundraising

Elections are unfortunately won by incumbency but also by campaign financing.  For those interested to see what elected councillors fundraised for the election, take a moment to go over my analysis of contributions and expenses posted.  The answer is inconclusive with many factors resulting in who won campaigns but is an interesting narrative if one were to make it.




Posted on May 27, 2015 .