The size of City Council is already on the minds of this Council. Would Mayor Meed Ward make it an election issue in 2026 ?

By Pepper Parr

July 27th, 2023



How did the idea of a bigger city council end up on the table?

It started with the report on the post-election review of what took place and any lessons learned.

We did learn that the turnout was as bad as it could get and that the city spent $598,190.00 up from $495,543 in 2018

Part of the report included a section on ward boundaries changes.

The last ward boundary review for the City of Burlington took place in 2004/2005 with implementation for the 2006 municipal election. After review six ward boundaries were redrawn and seven-member council composition was maintained. Despite the growth and development in the City, ward boundaries have not changed since then.

There have been calls to redraw or change the boundaries of Wards 1 & 2 to include the neighbourhood of Mapleview in Ward 2.

City Clerk Kevin Arjoon will be looking for additional funding.

Spot boundary changes are not feasible and require a wholesome approach of reviewing the boundaries of all wards. Key to the ward boundary review is ensuring extensive public consultation throughout the process leading up to passing of any by-laws to re-draw any existing ward boundaries.

Any by-law establishing new boundaries must be in force before January 1 of the election year which would be January of 2026
The by-law establishing new ward boundaries may be appealed to LPAT, and in order for the boundaries to be permanent, the notices of appeal must be withdrawn, or the Tribunal must have issued an order to affirm or amend the by-law before January 1 of the election year.

Sufficient lead time is required to be factored into any ward boundary review timeline. Staff recommends a ward boundary review to ensure that the division of wards in the City reflects widely adopted principles of effective representation.

Staff are recommending that committee/Council direct them to prepare a preliminary report. If there are additional items or aspects that need review, the direction should be amended to reflect these additions. Some municipalities have delayed undertaking their ward boundary review, due to the Regional reviews that are in progress by the Province.

In planning for the 2026 election, the team hopes to streamline processes and find efficiencies where possible, however, the planned budget must consider inflationary cost impacts and additional costs for any new initiatives undertaken.

Should the team receive direction to prepare the preliminary ward boundaries review report for Q1 2024, any costs associated will be covered by the current operating budget. Pending the approval of the proposed report in Q1 2024, staff will work with Finance to build a business case based on approved scope for the proposed ward boundary review, and municipal comparators.

Source of Funding
The source of funding for the election is the reserve fund with an annual contribution of $160,000. The Election Team will work with Finance and ensure due diligence to put forth a business case if it is determined that an increase in the contribution is required.

That was what Staff put on the table. The Mayor had a bigger idea. Why stop at looking at the ward boundaries – could we not also look at the size of Council.

Mayor Meed Ward: “I thought it might be good to ask this question in public.”

Meed Ward said: “I thought it might be good to ask this question in public and with counsel just to see where folks heads are at and I’m wondering if the boundary review would also be an opportunity to review Council size and if that’s contemplated as part of this review and if not, whether committee would like to review Council size as part of this conversation.

City Clerk Kevin Arjoon followed saying: “That is why we put that recommendation in there – seeking direction. So if there’s anything you want us to look at that may be a little off the drawing of the lines, now’s the time to let us know so that we can start to work on that and start to conceptualize that build – this conversation is timely.
Meed Ward then said: “I am very interested in that being at least part of the discussion we have with the community. If it requires an amendment to the report, I’m happy to insert the words and a review of council size and see where the conversation goes. So I will move that and then see what my colleagues think about that.

Councillor Stolte who had her own ideas on what a future city council might look like thanked the mayor for “bringing that up. I think that’s a great idea. Would it also be able to include wording that might indicate a new format? We have had conversations in the past about counsellors at large and other options that that might be available. Would we need to have something like that in there or does Council size kind of encompass all of that?

“Yes”, said the Mayor, “I’m open to a completely holistic conversation with the community. I think that we owe ourselves that. I would look to the clerk to determine how specific you want us to be. Maybe it’s including Council size and composition, if that’s a word that captures, how Council is constituted or some other word if you can. Council size and governance. I don’t know I’m open but if we can have another word in there, that would kind of signal we’re interested in the full range of options to come back. I’m in your hands on that and completely supportive of that.”

City Clerk Arjoon:I think the conversation we just had is just fine. And I think in the end the governance model could be put into the review as well.

Counsellor Sharman: How much are we opening up here ?

Councillor Sharman followed with: “My only question with this. I think it should be evaluated and I think it’s good to review. But the question is the process for that review could be quite significant, quite a bit more than what we’re looking at right now. That require additional resources, a different timeframe.

“How much are we opening up here and what can we look at and what would we be expecting because the public aspect would probably be quite important and not what was envisaged in the report. Maybe Kevin, that’d be a question for you.

Clerk Arjoon responds with: “We have a bit of time so I think the one worry would have is on the staff side and the timing in terms of the deadlines.

“I think we have to have the boundary set before the election year. And then there’s also the appeal process too. So we’ll take that into consideration when we bring that report back in Q1 2024 But we need some direction now for some preliminary research and maybe some preliminary engagement before we brought back sort of preliminary report as well.

So I think that’s just where we’re coming from as well – resources. We’re working on that in the background for sure. In terms of the resourcing for the ward boundary review, and then staffing resources in the clerk’s office. So we are working on that and we’re mindful of that as well.

Chair Galbraith: “Okay, sounds good – seeing no further questions

I’ll just read it into the record.
“Receive and file report regarding the 2022 municipal election review, and direct the office of the city clerk to prepare a report on a potential city of Burlington Ward boundary review for consideration. The report should include timelines, a proposed budget scope and a review of council size and governance model by Q1 2024.

“Any questions or comments? Seeing none, I will now call the vote – reminder to raise your hands – all those in favour. And any opposed? Seeing none that carries.”

And what does it all mean?

Get ready for the amount of work this is going to involve and how this council will tie itself in knots getting to the point where anything gets changed – unless of course the province comes in and does to the Region of Halton what it just did to the Region of Peel.

 When this got to Council – there were no delegations.

The public is still asleep at the wheel.

Part 1 of the series

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1 comment to The size of City Council is already on the minds of this Council. Would Mayor Meed Ward make it an election issue in 2026 ?

  • Not all are asleep Pepper, just overwhelmed with the amount of issues that we woud like to address at OUR lectern. However, there are not enough hours in the day! Especially when for the most part delegations are totally ignored, or kept from the lectern with false accusations of did not register or registered on an item that is not on the agenda, or the City Manager or Clerk think they may misbehave!!!!! We have seen and experienced examples of all these when the City just does not want to engage with those who are well qualified to comment on their latest Committee decision or staff actions.

    Anne delegated on this when Craven was on Council and believed it should increase. Perhaps, Pepper, you might like to seek information from him on the exact committe/council meeting it was discussed at and what his position was. A position we fully supported, at the time that never came back to the table when it should have, if memory serves us well – we are getting to be at that age! If you get the date we are assured by the City that you can get a copy of the recording as it likely will not be covered enough in the minutes for your readers to understand the history.