Hamilton committee votes for ward boundary review

A city committee voted Monday to begin the ward boundary review process.

To be complete ahead of 2018 municipal elections

Hamilton’s general issues committee passed a motion to allow a ward boundary review Monday.

A comprehensive review of Hamilton’s wards will begin in June 2015, to be completed two years later in advance of the 2018 municipal election, according to the motion put forward by Coun. Terry Whitehead.

The motion was prompted by a 77-page petition with 618 signatures was submitted by Advocacy Hamilton to the city in April to address the discrepancy in ward representation by population.

"if you want the equal value of the vote, you have to get closer to parity," said Laura Cattari of Advocacy Hamilton. "Really, there is a discrepancy in power and it really needs to be addressed."

To show that discrepancy in population, 2006 census information shows Ward 7, one of the three Mountain wards, holds 58,395 constituents.

Ward 14, a geographically-large rural ward, has only 15,920 constituents.

Cattari told the committee that redividing ward boundaries will give constituents all across the city of Hamilton a more equal value of the vote.

Since fewer constituents are represented by one councillor in some wards, she said, their votes have more power than constituents in highly populated wards.

"There’s a great deal of interest around the table today and that’s mirrored in the community," said Christopher Cutler, local advocate and signatory of the petition, to the committee. "We’re looking for more even and fairer representation."

Cattari said the process to do a ward boundary review first came up in 2006, then again in 2008. In 2012, she said previous staff recommendations to review ward boundaries were dismissed, which prompted the petition.

"What we heard today is that we need after so many years to do review," said Coun. Terry Whitehead, referencing the need to look at ward boundaries now, 12 years after amalgamation.

Whitehead represents Hamilton’s second most populated ward.

Four committee members, councilors Brenda Johnson, Lloyd Ferguson, Judi Partridge along with mayor Bob Bratina, voted against the motion.

Cattari told CBC Hamilton she spoke to the mayor briefly after the meeting and he was not happy with the timelines presented. She said Bratina wanted to see the review done in a shorter timeline.

Coun. Partridge, who represents Flamborough, said this is not what her constituents want.

"What I hear from my residents is that they don’t want ward boundary review, they want an amalgamation review," she said. "They see that as their democratic right."

The motion passed Monday said the review should cost no more than $260,000 with funds sourced from the city’s tax reserve fund.