Hamilton’s general issues committee met Feb. 1 to hear the final report on proposed changes to the ward boundaries. The report, which was created by consultants from Watson and Associates, outlined alternate boundaries for the city’s wards which would equalise the distribution of population among the wards. The report suggested either rearranging existing boundaries to average out population among the wards, or adding a new ward 16 to relieve some population from ward 7 and ward 8.
The committee rejected the report, selecting a plan created in part by the city councillors in October, despite recommendations to the contrary. The report raised concerns that this option did little to alleviate the issues with the current ward boundaries and even increased the population differences. However, the council-created option passed 11-3.
Councillor Matthew Green called for a vote to select the plan to create a new ward, but only three other councillors voted in favour of that option.
Councillor Terry Whitehead argued against the Watson and Associates proposals, saying that the consultants did not understand the communities well.
He said, “I think it’s clear that nobody knows the area or the communities of interest better than the councillors representing them for all these years.”
“One of the things that was really clear that we were hearing from the community is ‘Don’t divide communities of interest, don’t divide the legacy of relationship building that has been established over a generation,'” he added.
After the vote, Mayor Eisenberger spoke out about the heated debate.
“Hopefully this doesn’t lead to some kind of finger-pointing about ‘You were trying to undo my ward,’ because that’s nonsense,” he said. “Option 1, if that’s where council wants to be, that’s fine, the reality is it will probably go to the OMB and they will make a decision about where this ultimately ends up.”
City staff will begin drafting a new bylaw in order to make the proposed changes if the decision is ratified by city council. There will be a 45-day period after the bylaw is introduced for people and organizations to submit official appeals to the decision.