What Ward/Riding am I in?
For most residents, the day to day operation of any level of government is not on their minds. People are elected to represent and maintain a level of understanding on what is going on and how to keep the system running. Only when election campaigns are occurring do residents' interest in politics awakens from its hibernation.
One of the first questions people ask is "what ward/riding am I in?" There is the obvious answer of "same one as last election" but the honest truth arises - is it?
All levels of government do assessments of the ward/riding boundaries. Unfortunately for residents, the possible realignments do not all occur at the same time, nor do they alter in the same way. In Toronto the Federal and Provincial ridings are extremely similar, with the municipal ward boundaries half of each Provincial riding. The Federal government has done a realignment for the next election that will alter boundaries, add new ridings (based on factors including population). Some ridings Federally do not stay within municipal boundaries and can overlap segments of cities.
An example of an Etobicoke resident:
A resident may have always voted in the riding/ward of Etobicoke-Lakeshore for all the levels of government. The realignment of the ridings had a section in the northern part be altered and added to Etobicoke Centre. By going to the 'change in map link here", the boundaries are evident in their alteration (will need to focus on specific geographic area). The resident will now vote in these ridings/wards:
- Federally: Etobicoke Centre
- Provincially: Etobicoke-Lakeshore
- Municipally: Etobicoke-Lakeshore Ward 5
The same can be said for a resident in Etobicoke Centre Ward 3, who would vote federally in Etobicoke North.
The idea of possibly voting in two different ridings/wards can be confusing. The different levels of governments attempt to inform residents about the changes, including having forums for giving opinions on boundary changes. The Province will be assessing their boundaries; will they align with the Federal government? This is a discussion that you can be a part of when the public forums open.
Toronto Ward Boundary Review
Toronto is in the process of assessing its own ward boundaries for the 2018 election. The process is in the preliminary stages of consultation and can be found on their website of DRAW THE LINES
The website is a great tool to understanding the process; being informed on where and when public forums are being held and general FAQ's.
I have had the opportunity to attend several meetings and hear from residents, organizations and current councillors about their thoughts and ideas of what the boundaries should be. Ideology is very evident when discussing ward boundaries and proportional representation. Some attendees question the usefulness of council and want less representation, while others realize the important role and disparity in population averages within wards.
Some main topics/views of the meetings:
- Should the municipal boundaries align with Federal/Provincial boundaries?
- Should there be more or less wards?
- What should be the population representation average be per councillor?
- Are there neighbourhoods affected by current/future boundary changes?
- Should the city de-amalgamate
My views on some of the topics/views.
I do not believe that Toronto needs to follow the boundaries set out by the other levels of governments. There doesn't need to be alignment symmetry between the boundaries because of the inherent nature of the boundary assessments. Each level of government does their assessment on their own timeline. Toronto is projecting population density until 2031; the Federal government does an assessment every 10 years. Which boundary assessment is the baseline, when do the other levels change their boundaries? Toronto should be able to control its own governance.
Should there be more less wards? To be honest, wards are different in many aspects and this conversation needs more information. A ward like mine (Etobicoke Centre Ward 3) doesn't have the same concerns, population density projections or major projects compared to the downtown core. The ward's sense of maintaining the 'status quo' is one of the reasons Ward 3 has barely any growth planned and a major reason why the huge disparity in ward representation exists.
I do not agree with the concept of cutting the current councillor count from 44 to 22. The major paradigm behind this opinion is that if other levels of government only have 22 (25 for the next Federal election), why does Toronto need that many more? Seriously? The other levels of government do not have the same control over the day to day issues in our lives. Roads, transit, housing, infrastructure... when there is an issue in your life, you are likely to call your councillor, not your MPP or MP. Reducing the number from 44 to 22 would mean instead of having 60,000 residents per councillor, we'd have 120,000. Try to wait on hold behind that many other residents!
The belief that cutting councillors will eliminate waste in government spending is both naive and problematic. For a government that has an operating budget of $10 Billion and a capital budget much larger than that, having 22 (plus the mayor) to make critical decisions in insane. This would morph into discussions about bringing in a party system municipally (a concept that already exists by examining each councillor's voting tendencies) that is also a bad idea.
Instead of decreasing councillors to reduce the political gridlock, I would suggest increasing the power of the regional council. This is worthy of its own discussion.
I am not sure if having more councillors will make the city more effective. There are plenty of wards where despite low population density, are the current councillors properly representing their community? The average population projections can be found from Draw the Line website (image below). Is having 44 councillors with an average increase of 13,000 residents per ward warrant adding more councillors? I do not believe so.
Should the city de-amalgamate, again another paradigm that creates separation and exclusion. I have heard over the past year that if we de-amalgamated Etobicoke would be better off. I had to bite my tongue several times after hearing those statements because the sense of entitlement was narrow-minded and shortsighted. During the last election I didn't hear from Etobicoke North about the abundance of opportunities, new transit plans or overall high standards of living. Returning to Etobicoke as its own city would essentially consolidate the decision making in proportion to the current city as a whole, the core controls, the outskirts are excluded. This is also another topic that will be revisited.
The process of engagement will continue until council makes its final decision. Make sure to stay informed and add to the conversation. The end result may change who represents you, isn't that worth paying attention for?