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Pickering councillors can't decide on changing ward boundaries
June 16, 2021

Pickering councillors can't agree on whether or how to update the city's ward boundaries.

The planning and development committee met on June 7 and discussed a consultant team's recommendations on how to update its ward boundaries that date back to 1974.

The City of Pickering is currently conducting a ward boundary review to ensure that residents receive fair representation at the local council table.

Currently, Ward 3 has 47,000 residents, Ward 2 has 23,000 and Ward 1 has 30,000. Ward 3 is four times the area of the other two wards combined. Each ward is represented by a local councillor and a regional councillor.

The report by Watson and Associates Economists Ltd. and Robert J. Williams found the current boundaries fail to meet two main challenges: providing for population parity -- in which every councillor generally represents an equal number of constituents within their ward -- between wards, and accommodating future population trends.

Ward 1 city Coun. Maurice Brenner suggested going with Option 2 -- which met most of the criteria set out by the consultants. This configuration is forecasted to achieve population parity for the 2030 municipal election.

The boundary lines would be Concession Road 3 (everything north is Ward 3) and Dixie Road, which would divide Wards 1 and 2.

This would take the Ward 1 population up to 49,000, the Ward 2 population to 39,000 and the Ward 3 population down to 11,000. The numbers are expected to balance out as the population grows by 2030.

Two other options, which also involved new boundary lines, were not considered by council. If council takes no action, the old boundary system will remain in place.

Ward 1 regional Coun. Kevin Ashe said hiring consultants cost taxpayers $65,000 and felt it necessary to go with one of the recommendations.

“The current system is flawed,” he said.

He noted the consultants scored options of changing the boundaries very well, but the score for keeping the status quo was dismal.

Mayor Dave Ryan felt even if council couldn’t agree on new boundaries, the money would benefit future work on the matter.

“It’s not a waste of money,” he said. “It’s a good piece of work.”

The consultants said the current system fails to meet four of the five areas used to score the different options. Effective representation is hindered by uneven population distribution and the inclusion of rural residents in a ward with a predominantly urban population.

In Option 2, consultants said effective representation is hindered in the short term by uneven population distribution, but accommodates demands on councillors brought on by large-scale development.

“This is the vision about equity and effective representation," said Brenner, who supported the option.

Ward 3 regional Coun. David Pickles said after the meeting that in finding a better balance of population in the three wards, it isn’t ideal to go with a new option where one ward only has 10 per cent of the population in the next election and does not reach population equality until 2030.

“This would be more inequitable than what we have now, which would not make sense,” he said. “I will continue to talk to my colleagues about a reasonable solution for the 2022 election.”

Only Brenner, Ashe and McLean voted for Option 2.

Although Ryan suggested keeping the status quo, Ashe was successfully deferred the decision to the council meeting on Monday, June 28.