'Unbalanced' ward boundaries should be redrawn: report
The current Toronto ward boundaries are shown. (Draw The Lines)
Published Friday, August 14, 2015 10:42AM EDT
The boundaries of Toronto's municipal wards should be altered to reflect the city's changing population density, according to a new report.
The report, published Tuesday by city-commissioned consultants, said that the city's current wards are "unbalanced" and should be altered in time for the 2018 municipal election.
The report estimates that the city's 44 ward populations ranged from 44,280 to 93,784 people during the 2014 municipal election, meaning some wards have more than twice the number of people as in other wards. Despite the wide range of population, each ward elects only one councillor, so some councillors represent a population that is twice as large as those represented by others.
"Ward sizes need to be 'balanced' to achieve effective representation," the report said.
The report proposed five options to redraw the city's wards to improve voter parity. Changes to the wards would also change the number of councillors at Toronto City Hall.
Option 1: Minimal change
The first option proposed in the report leaves 18 current wards unchanged, but reduces the size of nine wards and enlarges the five smallest, so that the average population is 61,000. With changes required in 14 wards, a dozen existing wards would also have to be altered slightly to accommodate the new boundaries.
This option also recommends the creation of three new wards, bringing the city's total to 47.
Option 2: 44 wards
The report's second option aims to keep the same number of wards in the city, meaning City Council would stay the same size. Due to Toronto's population growth, the average ward size would increase to 70,000, compared to the average of 61,000 in 2014. Existing ward boundaries would be changed slightly to reflect the new averages.
Sparser wards would be combined, and new wards would be built in the centre of the city.
Option 3: Smaller wards
The third option would see the creation of 14 wards, bringing the total number to 58. Each ward would have a population range of between 45,000 and 55,000 people. Nearly every ward would need some boundary changes, with the biggest alterations being done in the downtown, Willowdale, Scarborough and south Etobicoke areas.
"It is worth recalling that the City of Toronto had 56 wards at the time of amalgamation," the report said. Option 3 would see the city revert to municipal ward boundaries similar to those that were in place before the city's boroughs came together under one government.
Option 4: Large wards
The "large ward" option would see a slight reduction in the number of wards, changing the population size to an average of 75,000. Under the new restrictions, there would be 38 wards, and six fewer councillors at City Hall. Several sparse wards would be combined in order to balance the larger wards. All current wards except Ward 6 (Etobicoke-Lakeshore) would change.
Option 5: Natural/physical boundaries
The final option takes into account the city's rivers, ravines, major highways, rail corridors and hydro grids. The city would be divided into areas based on major natural and physical boundaries, then each area would be analyzed based on population.
The report suggested a decrease of wards from 44 to 41, each with an average population size of 70,000.