It's official: Hamilton will redraw its ward boundaries, changing how voters are geographically grouped together and which councillor represents them.
City council voted 8-7 Monday not to fight an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) decision to redraw Hamilton's electoral lines.
The decision eliminates Flamborough's rural Ward 14, splitting the area among the Ancaster and Dundas wards, also changing the historic boundaries of those communities. And it creates another ward on the Mountain. It also provides a more even balance of residents in each ward.
This brings an end to a 17-year outstanding issue. Those in favour of appealing the OMB decision to divisional court say the farm community is losing a voice. Those opposed saw little point in spending more money fighting the issue.
"To bring it to the court level now is truly irresponsible," said Sam Merulla, Ward 4 councillor.
"The chances are not good in terms of pursuing this further," agreed Tom Jackson, who represents Ward 6.
This decision was years in the making.
The current boundaries largely follow old municipal lines from before Hamilton amalgamated. When the province dictated the amalgamation in 2000, the transition board recommended council revisit the boundary lines within the next 10 years.
That didn't happen. Meanwhile, Hamilton has continued to grow, and ward populations have become increasingly uneven. In 2015, for example, Ward 14 had 16,640 people, while Ward 7 had 62,435 people. Every area has one councillor.
The city finally spent $270,000 on a consultant last year. That consultant, Watson and Associates, recommended the boundaries change. Councillors gave their own suggestions, and in the end, decided on lines that were only slightly different from the existing ones.
Two residents — Mark Richardson and Rob Dobrucki — fought that decision to the OMB. Last week, the OMB ruled that the boundaries should more drastically change. After a closed-door meeting Monday, councillors voted narrowly not to appeal the decision at divisional court.
Not everyone was happy. Judi Partridge, councillor for Ward 15 in Flamborough, said "the rural way of life is being chipped away at."
"It's so important to appeal this. We have to try."
Coun. Robert Pasuta, who represents Ward 14, said it's not about him, but about the rural voice. But "I'll respect the decision and we'll move forward on it."
With Monday's vote, the boundaries will likely be in place for the October 2018 municipal election.
Who was in favour of appealing
Robert Pasuta (Ward 14), Terry Whitehead (8), Donna Skelly (7), Maria Pearson (10), Brenda Johnson (11), Lloyd Ferguson (12), Judi Partridge (15).
Opposed to appealing
Aidan Johnson (1), Tom Jackson (6), Chad Collins (5), Sam Merulla (4), Mathew Green (3), Jason Farr (2), Doug Conley (9), Mayor Eisenberger.