Ottawa

Ward redistribution 'a slap in the face,' councillors complain

Some Ottawa city councillors are strongly objecting to proposed changes to the electoral map that could be in place by the next municipal election, arguing they arbitrarily divide neighbourhoods and make little sense.

Consultants offer 5 options for redrawing ward boundaries before the 2022 vote

The third option, which maintains 23 wards, pushes one ward currently inside the Greenbelt out to the city's suburbs. (City of Ottawa)

Some Ottawa city councillors are strongly objecting to proposed changes to the electoral map that could be in place by the next municipal election, arguing they arbitrarily slice through neighbourhoods and make little sense.

As the city's general population has grown, ward populations have increased unevenly, creating a disparity among voters and an uneven workload for councillors and their staff.

Consultants Beate Bowron Etcetera Inc., The Davidson Group and Hemson Consulting Ltd. were hired to even things out, but some councillors didn't like what they saw.

Kanata South's Allan Hubley, for instance, struggled to understand why the Carp River should no longer demarcate Kanata from Stittsville. On many maps, the consultants moved the line to Terry Fox Drive, which places the former Kanata city hall, Kanata South business park and Kanata recreation centre in neighbouring Stittsville.

"It will be perceived by the public as a slap in the face," Hubley said Tuesday during a meeting of the finance and economic development committee.

Neighbourhoods split

Across the city, Orléans councillor Matthew Luloff was also disappointed with the redrawn boundaries, which he said further split existing neighbourhoods such as Queenswood Heights and Fallingbrook between two wards.

"If we're going to be presenting options to council, they should be true options. And in the east end, those options just don't exist," Luloff said.

Two of the five redistribution options presented keep the current ward count of 23. One map reduces the city to 17 wards, while the remaining maps boost the number to 24 and 25, respectively.

In this option, the rural portion of Cumberland is combined with Osgoode, reducing the number of rural wards from four to three. (City of Ottawa)

All five maps aim to avoid mixing rural and suburban communities. Some of the options combine parts of Cumberland and Osgoode, creating a vast rural swath stretching from the Ottawa River in the east to Osgoode village in the south.

"People want to come to your office. My office is in Metcalfe. It's 39 minutes away from every resident in Cumberland," said Osgoode Coun. George Darouze. "It's not making sense ... you want to balance it, but it's unbalanced." 

No simple fix

Stittsville Coun. Glen Gower said he doubts residents worry about ward boundaries as much as their political representatives. 

"The lines are important from an administrative point of view, but they're not how people define their communities," Gower said.

There's no simple fix when the stated goal is to keep wards at 23 seats, the consultants said, telling councillors that in order to maintain the existing wards within the Greenbelt, but also accommodate the growing population in the suburbs,  26 or even 27 wards would be needed.

The ward boundary options will go for another round of public consultation this fall, with a final report going before city council as soon as December.

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