City presented five options for ward boundary changes
By Jeff Morris
The City of Ottawa has five options on the table for realigning ward boundaries based on the growth of the city both overall and in suburban areas. In most cases, the Rideau-Goulbourn ward will end at Barnsdale Road to the north to correct the current situation of the ward crawling into the southern end of Barrhaven’s Half Moon Bay and Stonebridge communities. Most options also have Riverside South splitting with eastern Barrhaven in the Gloucester-South Nepean Ward.
The City of Ottawa Finance and Economic Development Committee received an update on the review of Ottawa’s ward boundaries at its July 7 meeting. To ensure effective representation of Ottawa’s growing population, the City hired an independent consultant to conduct the review.
On June 12, 2019, City Council considered the staff report titled, “City of Ottawa Ward Boundary Review (2019-2020).” The staff report noted that the City of Ottawa’s current ward boundaries have largely been in place since the City’s last comprehensive ward boundary review was conducted by an independent consultant in 2004-2005.
Boundaries established by the 2004-2005 review were expected to meet the test of “effective representation” until 2015. The staff report described how ward populations and future estimates for the City of Ottawa indicated that certain wards are, or are projected to be, outside of generally acceptable population variances.
The staff report proposed a ward boundary review process that is meant to establish boundaries that could be used in at least three municipal elections (2022, 2026 and 2030) and, perhaps, a fourth municipal election in 2034. Council approved the following report recommendations, as amended by the Finance and Economic Development Committee.
The report includes five options for new ward boundaries. Of these, two options would maintain the same number of wards as provided by the City’s current ward boundaries (23). One option would provide a lower number of wards (17) and two options would provide an increased number of wards (25 and 24, respectively).
The first option would have 13 urban wards, nine suburban wards and three rural wards and increases the size of Council by two members. The average ward population is 46,000 for the 2026 target year.
Option 1 adds one urban ward in the core area to improve voter parity and capacity to represent and adds two suburban wards, one in Ottawa East and one in Ottawa South, to improve voter parity in these areas. One ward is removed from the rural area, as a result of the suburban population of Cumberland Ward becoming a separate suburban ward in Ottawa East. The extra suburban ward in the south would be with Gloucester-South Nepean becoming two wards split by the Rideau River.
The second option has 12 urban wards, nine suburban wards and three rural wards and increases the size of Council by one.
The average ward population is 47,900 for the 2026 target year.
Like Option 1, Option 2 responds to the support expressed for increasing the number wards during the project’s Round 1 process and the sentiment that Ottawa’s growing population requires more wards.
Option 2 retains the twelve12 urban wards inside the Greenbelt. Various boundaries have been adjusted to improve the functioning of the wards and establish easily recognizable boundaries. Within the urban area, this Option has the fewest boundary changes of any option. Option 2 can be considered as the Option that requires the least boundary adjustments, while still addressing the growth in suburban Ottawa. The Option 2 suburban and rural ward boundaries are the same as in Option 1.
Option 3 This Option has 11 urban wards, nine suburban wards and three rural wards and maintains the size of Council. A sizeable number of respondents during Round 1 of the project’s public process wanted to maintain the current number of wards.
Option 3 responds to the comments that either “things seem to be working fine” or “there should be no increase in the size of Council”. The average ward population is 50,000 for the 2026 target year.
In order to maintain 23 wards, one ward has to be redistributed in the urban area. There are two reasons for this. First, two wards need to be added to the suburban area to improve voter parity and second, the rural population is too large to be reduced to two wards. This requires major changes to virtually all ward boundaries due to the “domino effect” of removing a ward. The Option 3 suburban and rural ward boundaries are the same as in Options 1 and 2, with a second Barrhaven ward being added and the boundary between Barrhaven and Rideau-Goulbourn moving back to Barnsdale Road.
Option 4 also has 11 urban wards, nine suburban wards and three rural wards and maintains the size of Council. The average ward population is 50,000 for the 2026 target year.
Like Option 3, Option 4 responds to the support for maintaining the current number of wards expressed during Round 1 of the project’s public process. Option 4 also redistributes one ward in the urban area inside the Greenbelt. While Option 3 starts the design of new ward boundaries from the west of the urban area, Option 4 begins in the east. This results in very different boundaries in Option 4 than in Option 3. Option 4 is a distinctly different Option. The Option 4 suburban and rural ward boundaries are the same as in Options 1, 2 and 3.
Option 5 would have the most impact on boundaries, with a reduction in wards from 23 to 17.
This Option has nine urban wards, six suburban wards and two rural wards. During the project’s public process another sizeable group of respondents thought that less than 20 wards would be appropriate for Ottawa, some suggesting wards should be reduced to as few as 7 or 8.
Option 5 responds to the sentiment that government should be smaller and wards should be larger. The average ward population is 67,600 for the 2026 target year.
This Option represents a major departure from the current situation. It reduces the number of wards significantly, which leads to major ward boundary adjustments for all wards. In this Option the rural wards are reduced to two, and one suburban ward and three urban wards are redistributed.
In this option, Rideau-Osgoode and West Carleton would become one large rural ward, while Osgoode and the rural part of Cumberland would form the second rural ward. The boundary between Rideau-Goulbourn and Osgoode would no longer be the Rideau River. The new boundary would be Highway 416.
Councillors, residents and stakeholders will be able to provide their feedback on the options beginning in late August. The consultant will recommend an option to the Committee in December.