Halton looks at council composition - Rebalancing representation
May 27, 2015
By Leah Wong
Halton Region is considering increasing the size of its regional council to fix the representational imbalance created by varied population growth among its local municipalities.
Local councils have been asked to consider changes to regional representation. Milton and Oakville councils have both spoken in favour of increased representation, while Burlington and Halton Hills councils will address the issue at future meetings.
“What’s happening at the region is a collegial and congenial process to redress an imbalance that everyone sees with Milton’s representation, and our own,” said Oakville mayor Rob Burton.
Presently Oakville and Burlington have seven seats each and Halton Hills and Milton each have three, which include the mayors. The current composition of regional council was approved in May 1996.
Population projections from regional staff show that by 2016 Halton Hills will have more than twice as many councilors per resident than Milton. If the current population ratio in Halton Hills was duplicated in the other municipalities the number of regional councilors would increase from 20 to 29-10 seats in Oakville, nine in Burlington, seven in Milton and three in Halton Hills.
If regional council accepted a 25 per cent population variance among the wards, the recommended numbers of eight seats for Oakville (increase of one), seven for Burlington (status quo), five for Milton (increase of two) and three for Halton Hills (status quo) would be considered fair.
In February the region asked for recommendations from local municipalities about how best to address the population imbalance. In its review the region concluded that it would not reduce the number of councillors currently representing each municipality.
Milton council has asked the region work with an outside consultant to undertake a comprehensive review of the size of regional council. At its meeting Monday council endorsed staff recommendations asking the region to add two additional Milton councillors while a review is being competed. It also indicated that should the region not remedy the imbalance prior to the start of the next term it will petition the province to impose a fair representation solution for Halton.
The town is also asking the province to require municipalities to undertake substantive representation reviews every three terms of council.
At its meeting Monday, Oakville council voted in favour of adding an eighth seat on regional council and asked staff to start considering changes to the current ward boundaries. Council also endorsed Milton’s request for two additional councillors.
In early 2011 Oakville staff and consultant Robert J. Williams completed a boundary review. Council approved a seven-ward boundary configuration to come into effect when an additional seat at Halton Region was achieved. Staff will report back on ward configurations once the region makes a decision.
If Oakville’s request for an additional councillor is denied the town will consider changes to its current ward boundaries to address population imbalances.
“Our wards are so out of balance that I don’t think we can continue it much longer,” said Burton.