The New Ward Map? OLT Says Let it Be

The new 6-ward map of Guelph passed this summer is the map we’re going to use for the 2022 Municipal Election. This verdict came down Tuesday from the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT), which dismissed an appeal of the new map approved by council this past June, with the Tribunal’s Vice-Chair saying that due diligence was done, and that the new map “achieves effective representation.” for the city.

“Based on the evidence before me, the Tribunal finds that due diligence has been done and the public interest has been regarded and is being served,” wrote Vice-Chair Mary-Anne Sills in her decision. “The Tribunal finds that these processes ultimately resulted in a ward by-law that achieves effective representation through relative parity of voting power and the consideration of the other factors and guiding principles considered by the consultants and Council.

“The By-law passed by Council implements the ward boundaries and is appropriate,” Sills added.

The City of Guelph in a statement expressed relief that their process, and the results, have been upheld by the OLT. “The City is pleased to see this decision in time to implement the ward boundary changes for the 2022 municipal election,” said Dylan McMahon, manager of Legislative Services. “This outcome is a nod to the excellent community engagement done, despite needing to pivot during COVID-19.”

That just leaves the appellant, Alan Hall. He brought the appeal to the OLT because he thought that the new maps fell short on offering balanced representation for Guelph’s south end, and though he has no regrets, he also thinks that the OLT’s focus on public engagement and process, and not on the finished result, is going to be a problem.

“I think this boundary review had more public engagement than I’ve ever seen in any similar kind of exercise,” Hall said by phone on Wednesday.

“What it really came down to was the decisions made by the consultants, that were then endorsed by a council, to keep the four-two split along the [Speed] river without crossing that boundary,” Hall explained. “They made that decision, and as a result the people in Ward 6 are going to be at the same point 10 years from now as they are right now, in terms of being underrepresented.”

At the tribunal hearing in November, Hall presented three different options for alternative maps, including a 6-ward map that created a ward that traversed the middle of Guelph from Paisley Road in the north to the University of Guelph to the south, and from the west end of the city all the way east to the Guelph Innovation District lands.

In the decision, Sills rejected all three maps, two because they did not fit the approved 6-ward, 12 councillor structure, while the one 6-ward alternative was rejected because throwing out the council-approved, consultant-development map was “not a logical or reasonable outcome given, among other things, the cost and complexity of the Review.”

“I hate the idea of pitting northerners against southerners, but the truth is that there’s a population shift that’s happening in the city, and I had hoped that the boundaries would reflect that to a much greater extent than what the consultants and the city decided to do in the end,” Hall said. “I cited three different cases of what I thought were similar circumstances that where the boundaries were overturned, and she [Sills] decided not to follow that precedent.”

Hall is currently talking to a lawyer to see if he has any further options to pursue this in court, but he doesn’t have a lot of time, or leeway, to make a further issue of this. For now. So, for the 2022 Municipal Election, it looks like this is still going to be your map:

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