Edmonton

From A to L: Commission draws new lines for Edmonton's 12 wards

The ward boundary commission is suggesting the city make significant changes to its 12 voting districts, especially those south of the North Saskatchewan River.

Proposed changes include breaking up some of the wards with larger populations

The ward boundary commission suggests significant changes to Edmonton's 12 wards ahead of the fall 2021 municipal election. (David Bajer/CBC)

Edmonton's electoral districts may have a different shape, population size and vibe when voters go to the polls in 2021 to elect the next mayor and council. 

The ward boundary commission suggests the city make significant changes to its 12 municipal voting districts, especially those south of the North Saskatchewan River.

The proposed boundaries are outlined in a report released this week for council to debate May 25. 

Jared Wesley, chair of the ward boundary commission, said voter parity — which gives each vote equal weight — was a key focus that launched the commission's work. 

"We wanted to make sure that an Edmontonian's vote in one part of the city had every bit as much power as another in terms of electing a councillor or the mayor." 

Wards 5, 9, 10, 11, and 12 should be reshaped into a more north-south format, in part, to spread out the population more evenly, the commission recommends.

Some wards in the south side of the city have nearly twice as many people as wards in the north.

The current Ward 9 in the southwest has 106,700 people.

Ward 12 in the southeast has 111,500, while Ward 7 in the city's northeast and the central Ward 8 have about 63,000 people each. 

The optimum number of people in any given ward is 81,000, the report says. 

The redesigned boundaries would even out the density, ranging from 70,000 to 90,000 people based on 2019 population figures. 

Diverse neighbourhoods

The commission was given other criteria to consider, including not splitting up existing neighbourhoods across wards, blending mature communities with newer ones, and considering physical barriers like bridges and natural boundaries like rivers and ravines.

Wesley said the commission considered input from the public and councillors before redrawing the lines.

"We heard in some of the citizen feedback that the idea of creating a Millwoods-only ward, for example, was not desirable," Wesley said. "They wanted to have a diversity of interests, a diversity of viewpoints represented." 

Coun. Sarah Hamilton said she's in favour of the proposed changes, which balances population and workload for councillors. 

"I think that's a good thing," Hamilton said. "You see that kind of diversity within all the wards. The mature neighbourhoods, some developed neighbourhoods and obviously some developing areas." 

From A to L

The report also renames the wards with letters from A to L instead of using numbers.

The envisioned Ward A would replace most of what's now Coun. Andrew Knack's Ward 1. 

The redesigned map means six neighbourhoods, including Summerlea, Meadowlark Park and Jasper Park, would move out what is now Knack's ward and go to the proposed Ward G in the south.

"There's a bit of a sense of loss," Knack noted, having worked with these neighbourhoods over the past seven years. 
Proposed changes to Edmonton wards includes renaming them from numbers 1-12 to letters A to L. (City of Edmonton)

Time matters

After council discusses the report on May 25, the proposed ward changes must go before a public hearing before they are approved. 

New wards would have to be approved by this fall in time for the election in 2021.

"We really don't have a ton of time at this stage," Knack said. 

Candidates are already starting to build their campaigns, he noted, and will have to know soon where their boundaries are.

"I think it's good for democracy just to make sure that people actually have the opportunity to know what will happen more than a year out." 

@natashariebe

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