There are no standard practices, terms of reference, criteria, or guiding principles, either in provincial legislation or regulation, that can be used to evaluate the municipality’s electoral system. Instead, municipalities look to relevant Ontario Municipal Board (now the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT)) decisions, case law such as
Reference re Provincial Electoral Boundaries (Sask.),  (“the Carter decision”), and best practices followed in other municipalities, to establish appropriate guiding principles. The following guiding principles have been developed from such sources and will apply to the C.C.W.B.R. in Oro-Medonte.
The objective of the review is to evaluate the suitability of the present council composition and wards in terms of the guiding principles and to develop alternative designs that are consistent with these principles.
- When defining effective representation as the right protected by the Charter, the Supreme Court of Canada noted that the relative parity of voting power was a prime, but not an exclusive condition of effective representation. Deviations can be justified where the consideration of other factors, such as geography, community history, community interests, and minority representation would result in a legislative body that was more representative of Canada’s diversity. According to the Court, considering all these factors provides effective representation.
Representation by Population
- Voters should be equally represented, and wards should have reasonably equal population totals. Voter parity should be the goal of W.B.R.s.
- Population size variances of between plus or minus 25 percent are generally accepted as the maximum variance to achieve voter parity.
Representation of Communities of Interest
- The Carter decision recognizes that the protection of communities of interest may justifiably override the principle of voter parity where the inclusion of a community of interest will lead to a system that is more representative of the Township’s diversity. The Court did not define what constitutes a community of interest; however, it has been understood in Ontario Municipal Board appeals to recognize historical settlement patterns or existing neighbourhoods and to include social, historical, economic, religious, linguistic, or political groups.
Population & Electoral Trends
- W.B.R.s should consider future changes in ward population. Being mindful of anticipated population trends will ensure that a ward and its residents are neither advantaged nor disadvantaged because of development activity throughout the Township. W.B.R.s should take into consideration anticipated changes in population of a period of twelve years, or three elections.
Geographical and Topographical Features as Boundaries
- Ward boundaries will be drawn impartially and with consideration to using distinct physical and geographic features. Physical features should be leveraged as they create pre-existing boundaries which naturally divide Township residents and may facilitate the effective representation of the ward’s residents.
The Review has been broken down into a number of tasks, as follows:
Task 1: Project Initiation, Information Gathering and Research
At the outset of the study process, members of the Consultant Team conferred with key municipal staff to discuss details of the proposed consultation, the scope of the project activities, deliverables, and the draft schedule for the project. The Consultant Team will also undertake research on the present and historical electoral arrangements in Oro-Medonte, as well as relevant academic and public policy research on representation.
Task 2: Interviews with the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Members of Council
Interviews will be conducted to understand and evaluate the operation of the current electoral structure and to determine what directions might be considered in developing recommendations.
Task 3: Compilation of Existing and Forecast Population, and G.I.S. Data Modelling
Using latest development data, discussions with Township planning staff and growth projections data, utilize geographic information systems (G.I.S.) software to represent existing 2020 population, forecast growth (2020 to 2030), and future year population in a spatial format.
Task 4: Public Consultation (Round 1)
Public consultation is a valuable part of the C.C.W.B.R. and will be conducted in a format consistent with physical distancing protocols being enforced during the COVID-19 public health emergency. The Round 1 consultation is intended to inform the public on the C.C.W.B.R. process and the guiding principles detailed in the Terms of Reference for the project. Opportunities will be provided to permit participants to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the current system (including the overall number of elected officials), the guiding principles and their relative importance for consideration in the development of alternatives, including the identification of communities of interest. Responses from participants will be collected through a survey available on the Township website and in other appropriate formats; the input received from the consultation will inform the development of the preliminary council composition recommendations and ward boundary options.
Task 5: Evaluation of the Existing System
The degree to which the current configuration is effective and equitable based on the guiding principles will be evaluated.
Task 6: Development of Preliminary Ward Boundary Alternatives
A number of preliminary ward boundary alternative configurations will be developed for the Township. Each alternative will be developed and evaluated in terms of the guiding principles identified.
Task 7: Public Consultation (Round 2)
Following the format for Round 1, the consultant will seek public perceptions of the preliminary alternatives based on a draft report. Responses from participants will be collected through a survey available on the Township’s website and in other appropriate formats; the input received from the consultation will inform the development of the final recommendations to be presented to Council.
Task 8: Finalization of Alternatives
Further analysis and evaluation of preliminary alternatives based on feedback will be conducted and alternatives will be finalized.
Task 9: Prepare Reports
A final report will be prepared which will present recommendations on council size and composition as well as finalized ward boundary alternatives and be presented to Council.
What Does Council Composition Mean?
Under Ontario legislation, a municipal Council must consist of no fewer than five members, one of whom is the Mayor who must be elected at-large. Councillors may be elected in wards, at-large or some combination of the two systems. There is no prescribed maximum size for a municipal Council and no direction about whether to elect Councillors in wards or at-large.
The Council Composition Review component of this study will assess whether the Council positions and present number of Councillors should be changed and, if so, what positions or number would be appropriate for a municipality like Oro-Medonte. The review would also consider the implications of dissolving the ward system to elect at-large Councillors.
What is a Ward Boundary Review?
A ward is a geographical division of a city, town or township for administrative or political purposes.
A Ward Boundary Review (WBR) is a task conducted on behalf of a municipality to assess whether the present wards constitute an effective and equitable system of representation and, if not, to propose alternatives.
The Township of Oro-Medonte is governed by a seven-member Council, composed of a Mayor, a Deputy Mayor and five local Councillors who each represent a ward. In addition, the Mayor and Deputy Mayor, who are both elected at-large, also represent the Township on the County of Simcoe Council.
Township of Oro-Medonte Existing Ward Structure
Why is Oro-Medonte Doing This Review?
The ward boundaries in Oro-Medonte have not been reviewed since 1994. Since then, the Township has changed, and it is time to at least review the wards to see if they still reflect current population trends. In addition, residential and population growth has not been uniform and over the next decade will continue to be concentrated in specific areas. This means there is and will continue to be variation in population between wards. The Township should aspire to a ward system that represents each of its residents equally.
What Does a Council Composition and Ward Boundary Review Mean for Me?
Oro-Medonte’s Council makes important decisions about the Municipality that impact your daily life. The Councillors in the Township are elected in separate wards. A successful system should ensure that the Township has the right number of Councillors and that all areas of the Municipality are represented fairly and accurately so that your voice and needs are reflected in Council decision-making. The review is being completed to ensure that the electoral system functions in a way that is representative of the entire community.
What Will be Considered in this Review?
The objective is to ensure that residents benefit from an effective and equitable system of representation. This will be achieved by evaluating the suitability of the present Council composition and the present and proposed wards using these guiding principles:
- Effective representation
- Representation by population (relative population parity)
- Communities of interest (recognize community groupings/avoid fragmenting communities of interest)
- Future population trends (consider population for 3 election cycles)
- Physical and natural boundaries (easily recognizable, make use of permanent natural features)
Who is Conducting the Ward Boundary Review?
The Municipality has
retained Watson and Associates Economists Ltd. and Dr. Robert Williams to conduct a comprehensive and independent WBR through a process established by Council. Together the consultant team has conducted close to thirty ward boundary reviews in Ontario. They will use their experience to assess the present electoral arrangements in Oro-Medonte and provide recommendations and design alternatives consistent with the guiding principles.
How and When Will the Ward Boundary Review be Conducted?
Discovery - February-March 2021
First, the consultants will gather information on the present ward system from interviews with Town staff and elected officials, and compile data on the present and projected population.
Development - March-April 2021
The consultants will assess council composition and the present ward boundaries and develop alternative designs.
Engagement - 1st Round April 2021/2nd Round TBD
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. The first phase of public consultation will focus on the evaluation of both the existing council and wards and gathering information on which of the guiding principles should be prioritized. The second phase of public consultation will focus primarily on council composition recommendations and ward boundary reconfiguration options.
- Public consultation sessions (i.e. open houses) will be held virtually to advise the public and gain their feedback. Visit the Township’s website for information.
- Surveys will be available during the open house sessions, as well as on oro-medonte.ca/wbr.
* In the light of the pandemic, public consultation will be implemented in accordance with the Township of Oro-Medonte’s public engagement practices, in a format consistent with current required electronic meetings and physical distancing protocols. The sessions will be converted to live meetings if and when such events are permitted.
Approval/Adoption - Before September 2021
A final report will be submitted to Council, who will:
- determine the size of council,
- determine how members of council are elected (i.e. in wards or at-large); and
- divide, redivide or dissolve existing wards.
Reconsideration (if required) - Before October 2021
Municipal electors may also petition Council or appeal ward boundary decisions to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT)(formerly the Ontario Municipal Board.)
Who Should I Contact for More Information about the Ward Boundary Review?
Yvonne Aubichon, Clerk
148 Line 7 South
Phone: (705) 487-2171 ext. 2142
Fax: (705) 487-0133