Mark my wards: City seeks input in redrawing 12 boundaries
'The map-making process is actually far more involved than simply taking a Sharpie and putting it up on a map'
Edmonton is reviewing its electoral boundaries and city officials hope to hear from the public before redrawing the lines of the city's 12 wards ahead of the 2021 municipal election.
The population in some areas of the city has changed dramatically since the boundaries were redrawn in 2009 when 12 wards were carved out of the previous six.
According to 2019 municipal census data, Ward 12 in the southeast now has nearly double the population of Ward 7 in the northeast and Ward 8 in central Edmonton, south of the river.
Represented by Coun. Moe Banga, Ward 12 has just over 111,500 people while Ward 7, represented by Tony Caterina, has the lowest population with 63,250.
Councillors and their respective wards are listed on the city's website.
The optimum population per ward is 81,000 people, or 1/12th of the city's population.
Coun. Tim Cartmell's Ward 9 is also far above the optimum number, with 106,700 people.
It's also one of the biggest geographically, especially since Edmonton annexed parts of Leduc County and Beaumont.
"My ward literally stretches from the south end of the Quesnell Bridge to across the creek from the Devon townsite," Cartmell said Friday. "That's a lot of ground to cover."
He said the review and redrawing the boundaries will hopefully balance the number of people in each ward and bring more value to a person's vote.
"So to share that load and to make that more equitable is certainly some at least one aspect of trying to equalize the wards," he said.
Jared Wesley, chair of the Edmonton Ward Boundary Commission, is working with other private citizens on the project.
"It's the first time in Edmonton history that a group of citizens and non-administration is actually taking a look at this and engaging them in a meaningful way," Wesley told CBC News.
The city is holding at least five public drop-in sessions, starting in Mill Woods on Tuesday.
The commission is eager to hear from the public, Wesley said.
"What does effective representation look like for you? What community do you think you belong in and should have a particular form of representation in city council?"
The commission has prepared two scenarios to present at the public sessions. They are expected to be posted on the city's website before the first session begins.
The commission has a design policy to follow before redrawing the boundaries.
The changes must respect natural boundaries and current community leagues and maintain a mixture of residential, commercial, industrial and green-space areas within a ward.
"Ward boundaries are to be designed so no community league is split between two wards," reads one stipulation in the current ward boundary design policy.
Wesley said in a previous attempt at redrawing lines, the commission inadvertently cut through some community league boundaries.
"The map-making process is actually far more involved than simply taking a Sharpie and putting it up on a map," he said.
Public feedback will be put through filters before the commission can come up with recommendations for council, Wesley said.
The commission is expected to formulate final recommendations to present to council in May. Accepted new boundaries will be in effect for the next municipal election in 2021.
Public drop-in sessions
All sessions run from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. except for the Jan. 14 session in Abbottsfield, which runs from 6:30 p.m.until 8:30 p.m.
The session at City Hall on Jan. 15 goes from 5 p.m. until 7:30 p.m.
Tues. Jan. 7
Mill Woods Senior & Multicultural Centre, 2610 Hewes Way
Wed. Jan. 8
Terwillegar Community Recreation Centre, 2051 Leger Rd.
Thurs. Jan. 9
The Orange Hub, 10045 156th St.
Tues. Jan. 14
Abbottsfield Recreation Centre, 3006 119th Ave.
Wed. Jan. 15
City Hall, 1 Sir Winston Churchill Square
People can also share feedback online at involved.edmonton.ca/wardreview. An online survey ends Jan. 19.