Hamilton City Council, with the exception of Matthew Green, does seem particular keen on completing a 1999 recommendation of the Transition Board to review the City’s 15 ward boundaries.
Council debated the Ward Boundary Review as part of the receipt of a project progress report from consultants.
The consultants states they will be releasing several ward boundary proposals by the end of June.
During a 45 minute question and answer with the consultant from Watson and Associates and Dr. Robert J Williams, Councillors ask how the review is being guided, what are the criteria for new boundaries, and if there is any need to make the changes to the current boundaries..
There was concern about maintaining representation for former municipalities “community of interest” in the jargon of today’s debate.
Ward 12 Councillor Lloyd Ferguson was particularly strong in his remarks, saying the people of Ancaster are happy with the current ward boundaries and their representation as is.
“Two people from Ancaster showed up, others were there but they were from other wards,” Ferguson said. “One goes to everything, one has political aspirations”.
“This means people support the status quo”
Ward 7 Councillor Donna Skelly asked many questions about what is the ideal size of a ward, and concerns about discrepancies in the sizes of ward. She kept to questions.
Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr opened with question about attendance at first round public consultations and asked if people were attending multiple meetings, Are there “ward boundary groupies?” he asked.
Ward 3 Councillor Matthew Green spoke to the need for fair representation by population across the City. He asked what will happen if Council does not adopt changes
“This process begun some time ago by citizens. An agreement was made, perhaps, to hold off and allow things to unfold this term of Council,” he stated. “Given these recommendations come back to Council for approval or not, if we choose not to approve the recommendations, what recourse do residents have to challenge this process and/or the outcomes?”
Dr. Williams stated citizens will have the right to petition Council and then appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board. Just over 500 signatures will be required on the petition to move it to the OMB.
Green said he asked his questions to put on the table “just so that the residents who are watching, people who are still interested in electoral reform and fixing our democratic deficit might be able to take this [to OMB] should we do nothing, it’s always an option for Council to do nothing.”
Ward 8 Councillor Terry Whitehead responded to Green’s comments with “Context purpose – I want to make it clear that it wasn’t a petition driven by the highest populated ward or the lowest populated ward. The petition was primarily driven by lower city residents”.