Toronto is way overdue for ward boundary reform. Finally, in time for the 2018 election, Toronto will have reshaped ward boundaries — and probably three new wards. This will give quickly-growing Downtown Toronto and North York Centre more representation at City Council.
Consultants retained by the City of Toronto have been tasked with reviewing the size and shape of Toronto’s wards, and providing a recommendation for new ward boundaries. Back in August 2015, an options report was released with five distinct options. After further consultation, the final report was released yesterday, May 16.
The final report’s recommendation is similar to the “Minimal Change” option in last August’s options report, but there have been some minor tweaks to the ward boundaries. If the recommendations are approved by City Council, there will be 47 wards, up from 44. Each new ward will have an average population of 61,000, with a range between 51,800 and 72,000 (+/- 15%). These new wards are designed to last for four election cycles, and will be re-drawn again in time for the 2034 election.
The report will be considered by the Executive Committee on May 24, 2016, which will vote on a recommendation to take to City Council on June 7, 2016. If there are no further hiccups, this gives just over two years for aspiring council candidates and city staff to prepare for the next election, which will be held on Monday, October 22, 2018.
The recommendation brought forward is a compromise that improves representation in high-growth areas, while minimizing the loss of council representation elsewhere. It increases the number of councillors, but by a minimal amount. (Had Toronto maintained the practice of having two wards per provincial/federal riding, there would be 50 councillors.) Happily, proposals to cut the number of representatives at City Council were not a very popular idea. In terms of staffing and associated costs, each councillor costs approximately $290,000; it would therefore cost about $870,000 to add three new wards, which in my opinion, is a bargain.
While Downtown Toronto will gain three new seats, and North York gaining one, one seat is lost in Toronto’s west end, in current wards 14, 17, 18. This probably squeezes out Cesar Palacio, a rather poor city councillor who remains in office despite strong competition in the last few elections. Otherwise, despite ward boundary shifts across most of the city, every incumbent councillor should easily find a home that’s mostly made up of their current turf.
I created the CartoDB interactive map, linked below, for Torontoist; my full article is available there.
I mapped the results of the 2014 election for every ward in the city — that was the primary reason why I started this blog in November 2014. That previous work should be helpful for predicting the results of the 2018 election with the new boundaries.