Does a ward Councillor have to live in the ward they represent? Legally no - but most people will tell you they should.

News 100 blueBy Staff

November 10th, 2018


This article has been revised.

Does the Councillor for a city ward have to actually live in the ward they want to represent?

Legally they don’t have to but it became pretty clear that most people thought they should live in the ward and wanted them to live in the ward.

Burlington has one Councillor who doesn’t live in the ward she was elected to represent and another who rents in the ward and spend much of his time in a condominium he owns outside the ward.

Both explained their situations during the campaign – but questions are being asked – where do you live and when do you plan to move into the ward.

Shawna listening to Dennison

Councillor Elect Shawna Stolte

Ward four Councillor Elect Shawna Stolte, writing from the lobby of a hotel in Cuba where she is on a short vacation said: “I believe my Ward 4 constituents would want me to focus on the budget and learning the job over this first year and worrying less about my real estate search.

“My situation hasn’t changed. Now that the campaign is over, looking forward to finishing my renovation and looking at selling and moving likely sometime in 2019.”

Likely and sometime in 2019 is a large stretch of time. In a recent Rocca Sisters real estate report they said that Burlington is currently a “seller’s market”. Smart people normally make hay while the sun is shining.

Rory - glancing

Councillor Elect Rory Nisan

Ward 3 Councillor Elect Rory Nisan has a slightly different situation. He has an address in ward 3 and his driver’s license has that address on it. He also has a condominium in ward 6 that he bought well before he had decided to become a candidate. That was to be his home for him and his girl-friend.

Nisan did consider running in ward 6 but his heart was in ward 3 where he was raised and grew up. He believed he could win in ward 6 but his heart was in ward 3 where he ran and won handily.

Nisan expects to make a statement soon soon – he too is planning a ten day vacation in Ireland before he gets sworn in as a city Councillor and begins work on getting the budget for the city in place.

Nisan provided the following statement:

“In fact, I live in Ward 3 and moved there from Ward 6 earlier this year.

“When I decided to run, I knew that living in the ward is important. But I bought near the peak of the market so a quick purchase wasn’t feasible financially. As a result, and for some personal reasons, I found a place to rent in rural Ward 3. I have a lease and have paid thousands of dollars in rent. That’s why my driver’s licence states that I live in Ward 3 — where else could it say?

My girlfriend lives in Ward 6. We are now happily searching for a suitable place for both of us — in Ward 3 of course.”

A candidate in the ward 3 race isn’t too happy with what she thinks she sees taking place.

Lisa Cooper 2

Lisa Cooper

Lisa Cooper, a close to perennial candidate in ward 3, said in a comment in the Gazette that it: “Would have been nice if Rory Nisan had let us all know in Ward 3 that he didn’t actually live in our Ward.”

She added that this may be “Sour grapes on my part, maybe but I can hold my head up knowing I ran a fair and by the rules campaign, and the only money funding my effort was from my own pocket. The financials should be interesting especially the compliance audit.”

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31 comments to Does a ward Councillor have to live in the ward they represent? Legally no – but most people will tell you they should.

  • Diane Miller

    Fascinated by some of the comments on this thread. I am assuming that everyone making the “live in your ward” comments as the only way you can be passionate about something, care about the people in the ward you are running for, etc. are employed by a business/company within the ward they live in and do not commute to work. If you do not, then you are a hypocrite for claiming that it is the only way someone else should be entitled to the job.

    The election happened on October 22nd. Move on and focus on encouraging all those who won (regardless of whether you voted for them or not) so that they succeed to the benefit of all Burlington constituents.

  • Carie DeMunck

    Stephen White’s opinion in this article is the most balanced and makes the most sense. The qualities and qualifications a candidate possesses to get the job done are far more critical and important than the address.
    The current mayor Mr. Goldring didn’t live in Ward 5 when he represented it as their Councillor.
    I would like to hear the residents who hold these views that a Councillor should live in the Ward they represent back up their opinion with multiple points WHY they feel it is a necessary part of the job description. I personally consider it to be discriminatory and quite narrow minded.
    I happen to live in Ward 4, but right on the boundary of 4 and 5. A literal stone throw. 10 meters. Our friends and family live in Ward 5, my children go to school in Ward 5, we do all our weekly shopping in Ward 5, we use all the retail services and in Ward 5 (North and South) our family takes lessons in Ward 5 and we volunteer in Ward 5. We spend more time in Ward 5 than our own, but if I was a candidate for Ward 5, why would that make me a less desirable candidate regardless of employment and life experience?

  • Lisa Cooper,

    hmmm 3 address. 1 for his driver’s license (mom’s home?) 1 he rents but doesn’t actually live there. 1 in Ward 6 where he lives with his fiance……..nope nothing wrong here. He seems to have a problem with citing his own address.
    When he stated he lived in Ottawa well it was actually Pontiac, Quebec where he ran and lost for the federal liberal party in 2015. Not a word about that address either. As one writer stated once is a mistake (taking corporate donations) more than that is a pattern.

  • D Walker

    Neither candidate represents my ward, but to be honest, I think Shawna provides a perfectly understandable excuse for the time being. You don’t sell your house when it is not “up to snuff”, and “make hay while the sun is shining” is fine to say, but 2018 was not an easy year for sellers regardless of what the Rocca Sisters are saying. There were huge changes compared to 2017, and 2018 started off INCREDIBLY slow for sellers. Besides, the prime time for selling is spring time — not the winter. If her intent is to return to the ward upon completing renovations, I take the answer at face value and can’t blame her. She’s put the answer into writing and will now be held to it, so she’s earned some patience until the promise isn’t kept.

  • G. Gill

    As stated above Rory did own a house in Ward 6, but ever since he decided to run in Ward 3. he rented a place in Ward 3, as he understood the importance of living in the ward he represented. I have personally known him since he knocked on my door while canvassing, and we have been good friends since. As a matter of fact this year I celebrated my birthday at the place he’s renting in out in the country. It is a shame to see such negativity in local politics, I understand and respect everyone’s concerns about their representative and totally believe that people should ask questions whenever doubts arise. But I also humbly request everyone to give that person a chance to answer and actually listen to the explanation before coming to a rational conclusion. Thank you!

  • Iris Jackson

    I am so disappointed to hear this after the election is over. My neighbour asked Rory during the campaign where he lived and he said Brant Hills. She said it was important to her that she voted for a candidate who lived in the Ward, and she is pretty angry because she voted for him. He spent the entire election campaign presenting himself as a diplomat and saying how much accountability and transparency were important to him. Turns out he just said whatever we wanted to hear so he could get elected. His deception was no doubt repeated to residents all over the Ward.

    This is now the second high profile issue dealing with Rory’s integrity and responsibility that has resulted in half-baked explanations (remember the BBQ incident). I gave him a pass on that one as an honest mistake. Now we have a pattern. And he hasn’t even been sworn in yet. What else don’t we know that we will only find out about after the fact? Pepper, we need you to start digging into Rory’s past and start validating his background from third party sources because if he wasn’t willing to openly disclose something as simple as where he lived when asked directly by voters one can only imagine what else he has whitewashed about his career?

    • Kevin Visser

      Iris, he HAS been elected already, give it a rest! Did you see the edited version of this article?? Rory grew up in Brant Hills and lives in Ward 3. Is it possible your neighbour misunderstood, or heard selectively ? It’s time to focus on the future and move forward.

      • Jenn H

        Kevin, It’s not a misunderstanding. I can verify many residents we spoke to that were impressed by Rory said the same thing. He said he was NOW living in Brant hills. He even fudged which high school he went to in some cases.

        Let’s pretend he did rent a place in Ward 3 that and he actually did live there. He admits it was just so he could say he lived there? Knowing that “living in the ward was important”. Is Rory really that out of touch that he felt this was a good explanation??? Renting a place for a short time to be able to say he did? I really don’t get how that’s better. Just a technicality. More games and voter manipulation.

        And I’d like to add that many of those voters that discovered Rory had not been truthful took his sign down off their lawn only for it to be replaced on the night before the election without their consent. SO incredibly disrespectful.

  • Lynn

    The article now states that Shawna is in the process of readying her house for sale and plans to move to the ward in the upcoming year as she said she would. Rory is already living in Ward 3 as a renter (hence, the driver’s licence) and is planning to live there as a homeowner when he makes a purchase, once he sells his other Burlington residence. So even if someone thinks living outside the ward is a problem, which many don’t and which the voters who elected Shawna and Rory obviously didn’t, this doesn’t seem to be an issue anyway.

    • Jenn H

      Yet again missing the point of the article. Not about where he lived about the fact that he lied. It pretty clearly states that Rory bought a house in ward six before deciding to run in ward 3. He considered running in ward 6. I guess he thought about it enough to buy a house. So I guess what we are to believe is that he bought a house for his girlfriend to live in? Then rented a place to live away from her?

      It’s tough to see the amount of minimizing in peoples comments. That’s why we keep accepting politicians lie. Because WE LET THEM.

  • Phllip Wooster

    Much of the discourse on this topic seems to be “sour grapes” from several contributors in Ward 3. Based on my own experience in Ward 4 where Jack Dennison has been my councillor for the past 20 years and who lives in Ward 4, I would say that where the councillor lives is LESS important that the councillor’s ability to COMMUNICATE and ACT on behalf of residents AND the city. My impression is that Rory Nisan will do an excellent job of both.

  • Josie Wagstaffe

    It seems to me that residents might have voted for Rory and Shawna based on their platform and their vision for the city. It also looks like both of them are moving to the wards they represent, so maybe we could let them have their well deserved time off as they had worked hard during the campaign. There will be plenty of time for everyone to judge them based on the work they will do after December 3rd. And something tells me they will work hard for this community.

    Pepper, I am just wondering if this is the first time we had candidates running in wards they did not live in? From what I remember, didn’t our former mayor run in a different ward the first time he ran for public office?

  • Cheryl

    The above entered by Lisa Cooper sure sounds like sour grapes. Move on. Rory and Shawn don’t leave ok back you are not going that way. Heads high represent Burlington. All of Burlington we’ll

  • joe gaetan

    Time to hit the pause buttons folks, lets give the man the benefit of the doubt as Rory has stated ,“I live in Ward 3 and moved there from Ward 6 earlier this year”, nothing wrong so far, “When I decided to run, I knew that living in the ward is important”, that is fine as well, “ My girlfriend lives in Ward 6. We are now happily searching for a suitable place for both of us — in Ward 3 of course”, makes sense. If Rory continues to live in Ward 3, and I believe he will, all will be fine. I believe intention is an important consideration in this matter and is deserving of some weight. Full disclosure at the beginning would have prevented this from becoming a post election issue.

  • Penny

    Luke, Jenn – ECoB is in the process of setting up ward level committees to give residents a voice in discussing issues in their ward and work together with other wards and to liaise with the ward councillor. These committees are not merely a place to complain but to try to find solutions.

    Interesting that residents in all wards except for ward 3 and ward 6 have expressed an interest in being involved. Consider being part of the change that we want to encourage the new council to be a part of.

    To become part of a ward level committee, email ECoB at

  • Luke

    Does a ward Councillor have to live in the ward?

    The rules governing such aspects are in the Candidates guide. Clearly Mr. Nisan was familiar with this aspect of the guide but unfamiliar with the point of fact that “Corporate Donations” are NOT allowed.
    Mr Nisan was asked point blank in which ward he lived by a Newspaper, The Burlington Post and his answer was that he lived WARD 3!
    Oops I forgot where I lived? Really?

    At the very least this is Disingenuous and at its worst, it is a Lie.

    While some, might allow these as minor transgressions ,there are still quite a number of citizens who believe in old fashion notions of “Honesty, Integrity and Transparency.” To those above if I ever have a wager with you I sure as hell won’t expect to collect when I win, as I already know the colour of your eyes.

    To extend Mr. Carr’s Logic(?), perhaps someone from Halton Hills would be as good as anyone from Burlington in Ward 3.

    Someone who is not from the ward might not care so much about the influence of Traffic, Intensification or the gentrification of older established neighbourhoods, so what right? After all “It’s only Mountainside and Brant Hills.” A point Mr Nisan alluded to during the Debate .

  • Jenn H

    To address the question in the comments above about ‘why it matters?’ I know why it matters to me. I’m raising my family here and I am invested in this ward for the long game. I believe being invested in your communities future is a powerful motivator and speaks to commitment. That aside, the real reason it matters is because it mattered to the voters. We heard it over and over when canvassing. The people asking why it matters are likely protecting their own interests by asking such an obvious question and slathering in a healthy dose of minimizing.

    The point is not where Rory lives, but rather the out right lie to the voters he proports to care about, knowing it would effect his votes. At the door a good majority of people who said they were voting for Rory said they liked that Rory was living in Brant Hills currently. And I will clarify, this was not an assumption on their part. It was told to them by Rory at their door. I wonder how those voters feel now?

    All this does is reinforce the notion that all politicians lie. And when the honest ones do throw their name into the ring and run a clean campaign, it’s no match to the political machine. Heaven forbid anyone attempts to tell the truth about another candidates lies during the campaign when it matters most, the trolls come out in full force calling dirty politics for giving the truthful information the voters deserved.

    I have trouble believing the address on his licence is anywhere he actually lived when he owned a condo he could easily and comfortably live in with his fiancé. A condo he purchased ‘well before’ as the article states. So to state the obvious, there’s absolutely no reason to have the other address. Blatant voter manipulation and bold faced lies to the residents he proposes to care about. Not to mention the other allegations against him during the campaign. A clear pattern of entitled behaviour to get what he wants. These are just the things we know about.

    The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. So put on your seatbelts Ward 3 this could be a bumpy ride.

    Oh and Rory,, under the Highway Traffic Act, you have 10 days to change your address. Better hit the MTO before your trip.

    • Kevin Visser

      Calling someone that you don’t know a liar regarding a situation that you know even less about is irresponsible and unfair. It’s very easy to sit behind a computer and slander someone when you don’t have the facts.. Maybe your misconceptions were from the initial version of this article, which unfortunately had some inaccuracies. For one, he is not even engaged! Rory grew up in Ward 3, and freely communicated this at the door when asked. He currently rents a place in rural Ward 3, and bringing his girlfriend and where she lives into this is ridiculous, as is ASSUMING that someone would automatically live with a girlfriend simply because they have a place of their own!?. Rory is a caring, hard working man of integrity, and it pains me to see someone be so vicious to someone that they clearly do not even know.

      Editor’s note: Jenn H is the wife of a candidate who ran in ward 3

      • Jenn H

        I believe what residents told me they heard directly from him. Residents that were angry to learn they had been manipulated and lied to.
        Have a look at the ward 3 debate, that’s where Rory HIMSELF says she’s his fiance. So if it’s not true seems we have yet another lie/manipulation.
        Not only that but his response says he bought the house. If you’d are minimizing the status of their relationship that makes even less sense he bought a house for her and never intended to live there.
        Time to come clean or it’s only going to get worse.

        • Kevin Visser

          No he did not refer to her as fiancé, not that it should really matter either way anyways, You talk about running a clean campaign and yet you sling more mud than anyone. You didn’t lose to the ‘political machine’, you lost to a better candidate who worked harder and longer than anyone, and deserved to win. It’s time to move on, you are embarrassing yourself.

          • Jenn H

            I stand corrected, it was not at the debate that he said that, you are correct. I don’t even understand why it matters, I can only think it’s to minimize. It’s not ‘mud’ if it’s true. You, Rory and I all know there’s more than just where he lived, but today that’s the topic.

            I don’t think you or Rory are bad people, I want to be clear about that. I have high expectations from a public figure to be transparent and accountable. Neither of which Rory has demonstrated in my opinion.

            I’m not intimidated easily, and I’m most definitely not embarrassed to speak the truth. I won’t take your comment personally, I know you are sticking up for your friend.

            I truly wish he were a better candidate. But you are correct, he won, in a way that I don’t agree with but, it is what it is and I truly do hope he proves me wrong.

            Anyhow I think there’s been some great discussion here but, I think the people reading have enough information to decide for themselves.

            Editors note: Closing the comments on this one. The point has been made. Live in the ward you are running in and be transparent.

  • Stephen White

    This fixation on where a candidate lives, coupled with this belief a candidate has to live in the Ward they represent, is a bit overdone. The focus should be on which candidate possesses the policies, skills, education, perspective and experience to best represent constituents at City Hall.

    If a business used criteria such as community of residence to determine which applicants to hire they would be short-changing themselves and missing out on well-qualified, skilled candidates. The same is true of municipal elections. If the candidate didn’t live anywhere in Burlington that would be one thing, but restricting applicants because of election boundaries is something entirely different.

    As a Ward 5 resident who proudly volunteered and campaigned on Rory’s behalf, this City is fortunate to have someone with his background, intellect and perspective on Council. Frankly, he would have won regardless of whether he ran in Ward 3 or Ward 6. For a political novice he ran an amazing campaign. The election night results speak for themselves.

  • George

    Dear Sour Grapes,

    The people voted for the candidate that they felt would best represent them at Burlington City Council you were obviously not that choice.

    Dear Cheryl,

    You would have made an excellent Halton District School Board (HDSB) Trustee and I know you would have done an excellent job in holding the HDSB Administration to account and representing the parents and citizens.

    It is a shame that the majority of HDSB Trustees who voted to close two Burlington high schools were returned to office. It will be frustrating to witness these same HDSB Trustees vote to close Oakville elementary schools as a possible result of the upcoming Pupil Accommodation Review (PAR) to be initiated and conducted late 2018 & into 2019.

  • Lisa Cooper,

    Name: Rory Nisan

    Age: 36

    What ward do you live in: Ward 3

    Occupation: Canadian diplomat

    Reason for running:

    I’m passionate about making positive change, and all change is local. I’m concerned about the future of Burlington and I want to ensure that it continues to be a place where we can all thrive. That includes ensuring that growth is responsible — not putting high-rises where they don’t belong.

    Dated September 20th 2018 The Burlington Post

    Really put the spin on that one. Stated outright he lived in Ward 3 when he actually LIVES in Ward 6.

    • Louise F.

      And also from the Post, dated September 20, 2018:
      Name: Shawna Stolte
      What Ward do you live in: Formerly Ward 4, actively in the process of moving back.
      Reason for running: As a resident of Ward 4 . . . .

      I didn’t expect a for sale sign on her the day after the election but my guess is she isn’t moving any time soon, if at all. I hope she proves me wrong.

      Absolutely, 100%, you should live in the Ward you represent. Why wouldn’t you run in the Ward you live in???

      • Kevin Visser

        Full quote “As a resident of Ward 4, I did not believe the incumbent represented the diverse needs and concerns of the ward nor had a particularly engaging vision for the future of the community. Burlington is changing and it’s time for a fresh start for Ward 4.” Tense matters, and you conveniently offered a partial quote just to further your own point.

  • Cheryl

    Why does it matter where someone lives to be a counselor you need to live in the region. These counselors will be making decisions that impact all of Burlington so I am absolutely sick and tired of hearing why people don’t live in the ward they run in.

    I too was victim of a smear campaign as I threw my hat into the Municipal election to run as a school trustee. To be a school trustee one needed to be over the age of 18, not incarcerated and a Halton region resident. I met all of those criteria. It was unbelievable how dirty politics got to the school level stating that we wanted to overtake the school board. Unbelievable how current trustees liked and shared that smear campaign . These are the people we entrust our children with. Shame on them I wanted to be the voice for all the children because those trustees make decisions that impact every single student. I was a concerned parent that wanted to bring common sense back to the school board and be the voice for our children which is t happening with many of the current trustees . Unbelievable how people are lowballing people. Get over it time to MoveOn for change

    Great job Shawna and Rory. This definitely sounds like sour grapes

  • Lisa Cooper,

    The difference between Shawna Stoltz and Rory Nisan is she made it quite clear she did not live in the Ward. The same can not be said for Rory.

  • Hans

    It seems like a non-issue; the voters will answer that question for themselves.
    Before the election, I considered MMW to be my councilor because she was the only one who was doing what was best for Burlington and I don’t live in MMW’s ward.

  • Mark Carr

    But they also represent the City of Burlington at Halton Region, so……