Back in June, after 30 years and months of debate, Guelph City Council approved an adjusted six-ward map that will go into effect for the 2022 Municipal Election. But now there’s a wrinkle in the form of an appeal, one Guelph resident has applied to the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) to contest the new ward boundary map, which might delay it’s implementation before next year’s local election.
“My main reason was that I just wasn’t satisfied with the decision that was made,” said Alan Hall, the man who’s bringing the appeal to the OLT, which is formally known as the LPAT. “Everyone just seemed to think that this was a great proposal because it looked really nice on a map, and it didn’t change the status quo too much.”
Hall was one of the delegates at June’s meeting, and his appeal to the OLT is based on the same reasons he wanted to delegate about the proposed map options. According to Hall, the map that council approved doesn’t offer effective representation to people in Guelph’s south end, two of the wards exceed the acceptable population variant of 25 per cent, and some boundaries unnecessarily divide neighbourhoods.
“I’m not arguing that the process was flawed, I just think that the final result was was flawed,” Hall explained. “If the City offered a revised map that had balanced populations a bit more, that offered more effective representation and fixed some of the neighbourhoods where the ward boundary split, that would be great if they could fix those issues.”
“If the city was to offer a map that fixed all three of those criteria, I would definitely be interested in seeing it, and I would be interested in wondering why we didn’t see this map prior to the decision that was made in June,” Hall added.
City Clerk Stephen O’Brien confirmed to Guelph Politico on Wednesday that his office had been made aware of Hall’s appeal. “We did receive an appeal package on the Ward Boundary by-law and decision,” O’Brien said. “As such, we now have to package up the requisite materials for the OLT and get it to them in the coming days. The appeal process is handled fully by the OLT.”
How quickly the case will be handled is the question now because any amendments to the new map will need to be completed by the end of the year so that they can go into effect in time for next year’s Municipal Election.
“I thought the City did an excellent job, and the consultants did an excellent job in terms of providing public resources for public input,” Hall explained. “I don’t think this appeal is meant to be a criticism of the councillors because they didn’t want to reject the consultants recommendations and substitute there own, even if they did like some of the suggestions I made to improve the six-ward or the eight-ward map. They would feel compelled to sort of say, ‘You’ve got these two recommendations, you have to pick one.'”
Hall’s explained that he has a background in creating election maps including six years doing research at Elections Ontario, and has hitches with the electoral boundary commissions in Alberta and Saskatchewan. He said that the City needs to formalize a regular review of ward boundaries in the same way that the Provincial and the Federal governments do so that it’s part of the regular council work plan.
“I think for city councillors changing the word boundaries is like getting a prostate exam, you know it’s important, and you know it has to be done every certain number of years, but unless you’re forced to do it, you’re just gonna keep pushing it off,” Hall said.