What is a ward?
A ward is a geographical division of the municipality for administrative or political purposes.
What is a Ward Boundary Review?
A Ward Boundary Review (WBR) looks at how the municipality is divided for electoral purposes. The review will look at whether Clarington’s current ward system is effective and equitable in terms of representation. If not, it will suggest a change to the current ward boundaries. Clarington is part of a two-tier government system: the upper tier is the Region of Durham and the lower-tier is the Municipality. Currently, Clarington residents elect a seven-member Council, composed of a Mayor, four Ward Councillors and two Regional Councillors (each representing two wards at the Durham of Region Council).
Why is Clarington conducting a ward boundary review?
The ward boundary structure in Clarington has not been reviewed since 1996.
Since then, Clarington’s population has grown by almost 50 per cent. In addition, growth has not been uniform, and over the next decade, it will be concentrated in three urban settlements. This all means that there is a significant variation in the population between wards. For more information, read Report CLD-036-16. The Municipality of Clarington wants to ensure that its ward system achieves equal representation for residents.
How will a ward boundary change impact me as a voter?
Clarington Council makes important decisions about the Municipality that impact your daily life. Councillors in Clarington are elected in separate wards. A successful ward system will ensure that all areas of the Municipality are represented fairly and accurately so that your voice and needs are reflected in Council decision making. The ward boundary review is being completed to ensure that the electoral system in Clarington functions in a way that is representative of the entire community.
What will be considered in the Ward Boundary Review (WBR)?
The objective of the WBR is to ensure that residents benefit from an effective and equitable system of representation. The review will incorporate some guiding principles to help objectively assess the current ward system, which includes:
Representation by Population
Community Access and Connections
Geographic and Topographical Features
Community or Diversity of Interests
The Ward Boundary Review recognizes that the principles identified above contribute to effective access between elected officials and residents but that they may occasionally conflict with one another. Accordingly, it is expected that the overriding principle of effective representation will be used to arbitrate conflicts between principles. Any deviation from the specific principles must be justified by other principles in a manner that is more supportive of effective representation.
How will the review be conducted?
Discovery - May 2020
First, the consultants will gather information on the present ward system from interviews with municipal staff and elected officials, and compile data on the present and projected population.
Engagement - July 2020/Fall 2020
Public consultation is essential for the review process to be legitimate and effective by allowing the community to provide input on the current and proposed ward boundary structures:
Development - Summer/fall 2020
The consultants will assess the present ward boundaries and develop alternative designs. An interim report will be presented to Council with the alternative designs. This will be followed by a second public engagement period.
Approval/adoption - Winter 2020
A final report will be submitted to Council, who will:
Reconsideration (if required)
Municipal electors may also petition Council or appeal ward boundary decisions to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (formerly the Ontario Municipal Board.)
Will the Ward Boundary Review examine number of Regional Councillors from Clarington?
No. The number of Regional Councillors elected in Clarington is determined by the Regional Municipality of Durham and is outside the scope of this study.
What would it cost to add more local councillors in Clarington?
Councillors are currently paid approximately $37,900 per year (as of 2020) to fulfill their role. There may be some one-time costs required to adjust seating at the Council table and provide support, as well as some minor changes to the staff support budget. Based on the Municipality’s 2020 budget (approximately $55 million) each additional councillor would cost less than .002 per cent of the budget per year.
Wards 1 and 2 have significantly higher populations than the others. Why is there no scenario proposing the creation of a new ward, comprised of parts of Wards 1 and 2, that could help balance the current population disparity?
This is a possibility, but it involves a trade-off. If a new ward were created between Wards 1 and 2, it would contain part of Courtice and part of Bowmanville. Public consultation has revealed a strong sense of community identity, and many residents prefer that these population centres be kept separate. The preliminary boundary options were created with this in mind, and they each attempt to keep existing communities of interest intact, even if it results in ward populations that aren’t optimally balanced. Scenarios that prioritize population parity are also under consideration, but often parity can only be achieved if communities of interest are divided.
What are some of the unique challenges in conducting a ward boundary review for the Municipality of Clarington?
Clarington spans a large geographical area with an unevenly distributed population, and these traits have made conducting this ward boundary review particularly challenging. Bowmanville is large enough that it can be thought of as “a city within a city,” and Courtice is only slightly smaller. These are major urban centres that, together, contain approximately 75 per cent of Clarington’s population. In fact, they are each comparable in size to many full municipalities in Ontario, which are themselves split into multiple wards.
The remainder of the population resides in smaller hamlets and rural areas, each with unique interests and perspectives. The rural population is sparsely distributed, and to achieve something close to population parity, the rural wards must be geographically large, which presents new challenges. A councillor in a large rural ward would represent communities across Clarington, which in some cases, would be very distant from one another. Driving from one side of the ward to the other could take one to two hours, depending on traffic, which presents an obstacle to the councillor’s engagement with the community. So, while a large rural ward may have population parity with wards in large urban centres, it will be more difficult for the councillor to represent his or her constituents effectively. This may ultimately prove to be the desired outcome. Still, it is important that the community is aware of this trade-off and communicates its preferences through surveys and public consultations.
There have been a relatively small number of public participants in this review, and their views might not reflect those of the general population. How much has this feedback been relied upon for this analysis?
The public consultation process is complex, and we employ a multi-faceted strategy designed to determine public preferences as accurately as possible, given the project’s scope. One key aspect of effective public engagement is raising awareness about the project and providing timely and informative updates on the progress of the analysis and the considerations at each stage. The feedback we receive from the public is a vital part of our process. It is used in combination with other factors such as insights from staff and councillors, data and metrics, and knowledge gleaned from research and best practices from within our province and across the country.
With this in mind, it is important to emphasize that this survey is not intended to be a statistically significant representation of public preferences—such surveys require intensive polling and would be comparable in cost to this entire ward boundary review. We gather feedback from those members of the public who choose to participate in the review, and we are mindful that this may not be a representative sample of the entire population of Clarington, nor accurately represent all perspectives in the community. Nevertheless, public consultations always provide valuable insight into the question of why certain options are preferred. Those who participate in feedback sessions care about Clarington’s ward structure and have often thought deeply about the issues. It is crucial that we understand the thought-processes behind their opinions.
In some municipalities, regional councillors are elected at-large; is this something you have considered for Clarington?
It is common practice in Durham Region for regional councillors to be elected in wards, but this is not a legal requirement, and it is possible to elect them at-large. There are advantages and disadvantages to this approach. On the one hand, electing regional councillors at-large affords greater flexibility in determining the optimal number of wards and local councillors. On the other hand, this may cause regional councillors to focus their attention on more populated areas when campaigning, which could give those population centres greater voice in regional affairs.
The municipalities that comprise Clarington were amalgamated in 1974—how relevant should these pre-amalgamation divisions be to Clarington’s ward boundaries in the present day?
This has been a sensitive question for many Ontario municipalities that have undergone amalgamations. Every community has a unique heritage and cultural identity, and these can remain salient long after communities join, sometimes for generations. Clarington is a diverse municipality, and many members of the public have expressed strong feelings of identification with their local communities. This may shift over time as new residents begin to identify more with Clarington as an entity, but in the meantime, we rely on public feedback to determine the extent to which communities of interest should be preserved in our ward options.
However, it is essential to emphasize that electoral wards do not alter the communities within them—wards are impermanent boundaries that need to be routinely recalibrated to adapt to changes in the population distribution. The communities within them are real and will persist, and the next iteration of ward boundaries only serves to determine how each community is represented in the municipal decision-making structure.
How can we continue to participate in the ward boundary review?
Please continue to visit www.clarington.net/wardboundaryreview as we provide more information on the ward boundary review process. We also encourage you to read the Ward Boundary Review Interim Report and take the online survey to share your feedback.