Oshawa has implemented a new five ward system for Monday’s municipal election.
“The ward system divides the city into equally divided populations and it allows for an elected official to represent a particular area in the city,” says Andrew Brouwer, Oshawa’s city clerk, who was involved in managing the consulting of the new ward system.
This year, one Regional and City Councillor and one City Councillor will be elected within each of the five wards created. Although the ward system has been updated, the size of local council does not change.
“[The ward system] allows an elector, a resident or business owner, to have an elected representation within a geographic area. It is a way of more neatly dealing with city issues on a neighbourhood basis,” says Brouwer.
The decision to reconsider wards was a result of a question that was on the ballot in the 2014 election, says Brouwer. Electors were asked if they wished to see a return to the ward structure because for the previous two terms the city had been in an “at-large system”, which gave electors a chance to vote for all candidates running for City Council.
Voters who voted were largely in favour of a return to elections conducted by ward vote, according to the City’s website, noting 72 per cent of those who voted in the referendum requested a switch back to a ward system.
The five ward system was recommended in 2016 by consultants hired by the City.. Brouwer says a third party was involved developing the ward system to ensure an arms-length approach.
“Typically [larger] municipalities hire an expert consultant to help with it. The reason is they bring perspective and experience on ward boundary reviews, but also to ensure there is a perception of an independent and impartial review,” says Brouwer.
According to the City, the ward boundary review considered several principles during the proposal process: effective representation, protection of communities of interest and neighbourhoods, representation by population, current and future population trends, and physical features as natural boundaries.
Following a special council meeting on June 15, 2017 featuring much discussion from the public and debate amongst council members, council settled on the five wards found at the end of this article.
The new ward system considered Oshawa’s significant population growth and the development since 2005, when the last ward boundary review occurred. The main objective was to ensure each resident is effectively represented on City Council, states the city’s website.
“The goal strives to achieve reasonable population equality in 2017, which will encourage a more favourable ward balance by 2026,” states Oshawa.ca.
Brouwer says it is important to keep in mind ward systems need to be re-evaluated each election to ensure it is meeting the growing needs and concerns of the community it serves.