Ward Boundary Review Background
The Town of Vaughan was created by provincial legislation in 1971 as an amalgamation of the Village of Woodbridge and portions of the Townships of Vaughan and King. The Police Villages of Thornhill and Maple were dissolved, with their responsibilities taken over by the newly created municipality. In 1991, the municipality achieved official city status.
Although the municipality began with all Members of Council elected at-large, a ward system was established in 1985. The configuration was modified in an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), now known as the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, order in 1994 from three wards electing a total of five Councillors to five wards, each electing one Councillor per ward. Some minor boundary changes were approved before the 2000 and 2006 municipal elections. A by-law passed by Council following a staff-run review was appealed to the OMB in 2009. The existing boundaries date from the OMB’s 2009 order. In 2016, an independent boundary review brought an alternative configuration to Council, but it was not adopted.
Over the last decade, Vaughan’s population has grown by more than 28 per cent (2006 to 2016), but the growth has not been uniform across the city and has resulted in population disparity among the five wards. The City is seeking a ward system that represents each of its residents equitably and effectively. A successful ward system should ensure that all areas of the municipality are represented fairly and accurately so that citizen’s voices and needs are reflected in Council decision-making.
The objective of a Ward Boundary Review is to assess whether Vaughan’s present wards are continuing to provide effective, equitable and democratic representation. This will be achieved by evaluating the suitability of the present wards or new proposed wards using the following guiding principles, in accordance with the Directions for Ward Boundary Review and Council Composition Review presented to Council in May 2020:
- representation by population
- consideration of current and future population trends
- consideration of physical and natural boundaries
- consideration of communities of interest
- effective representation
No ward system design can uniformly meet all the guiding principles since some criteria may work at cross-purposes to one another. As well, different observers will prioritize certain principles over others. Ultimately, the final ward design should be the one that best fulfills as many of the guiding principles as possible.
Effective representation will serve as a kind of summary evaluation built from questions like:
- Are the individual wards proposed reasonable and clear units of representation?
- Do they provide equitable access to Councillors for residents of the municipality?
- Are the proposed wards of a size, scale, and shape that a representative can serve a Councillor’s constituents successfully?
- Do the wards constitute a system that can be judged to deliver effective representation even if some of the specific principles are only partially successful?
The concept of “effective representation” has become an integral part of the evaluation of electoral systems in Canada. To help ensure a municipal Council effectively represents the population of the community, it is important to make voter parity (representation by population) a priority, but also to consider other important factors, including geography, community history, community interests and minority representation. According to the Supreme Court of Canada, considering all these factors constitutes the overriding principle of effective representation.
A final report will be submitted to Council, who will:
- determine how Members of Council are elected (i.e. in wards or at-large)
- divide, re-divide or dissolve existing wards