Council composition and ward boundary review

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Blue circle on top of blue quadrilateral, with white lines that imitate roads on a map covering both shapes. Both shapes together look look like a stylized image of a human. Background is light gray with lots of white lines imitating road map.

We’re reviewing Guelph’s Council composition and ward boundaries to understand if our wards and Council representation is effective, equitable and an accurate reflection of who lives here.

This review will have a lasting impact on how you’re represented at the municipal level, now and into the future.

We need your help to answer some big questions about how you are represented:

• Is our Council the right size?

• Should we have full-time or part-time Councillors?

• Should Councillors be elected in a ward system, at-large, or a combination of both?

• Do we need to redraw our ward boundaries to keep our democracy healthy?

If you can, please read the short background documents on each of these topics: study overview, current electoral system, at-large or wards, full or part time councillors, size of council and ward structure. They contain definitions and explanations and comparisons with other cities of similar size in Ontario.

In keeping with the City’s Community Engagement Framework and in response to physical distancing restrictions, public meetings cannot be held in person so citizen involvement has expanded the use of online tools and telephone. Citizens are encouraged to participate in multiple ways, such as:

  • Interact online through this survey and the other website features such as Q&A, Ideas, video, and shared documents.
  • A live-streamed panel discussion scheduled for Tuesday, August 25, 2020 at 6:00pm.
  • The panel discussion will be streamed live on the City's Facebook page and recorded for future viewing and possible re-broadcast on Rogers Cable TV.
  • Dedicated dates for residents to call after hours and speak with someone from the City Clerk’s office.
  • Citizens are also welcome to write a letter to the City Clerk's Department in the good old fashioned way.

On this site you can:

  • Ask questions and get answers;
  • Review background information;
  • Register to keep in touch;
  • Share your ideas; and,
  • Make recommendations.

In Phase 1 we are looking at the “Composition of Council” which refers to the number of elected representatives on the City Council and how they are elected, not counting the Mayor. The role of Mayor is not proposed to change and is not under review.

We are looking at Council Composition first because this will determine the number of wards that we will use in Phase 2, the Ward Boundary Review. Early in 2021, there will be another round of consultation on the ward boundary options.

We’re reviewing Guelph’s Council composition and ward boundaries to understand if our wards and Council representation is effective, equitable and an accurate reflection of who lives here.

This review will have a lasting impact on how you’re represented at the municipal level, now and into the future.

We need your help to answer some big questions about how you are represented:

• Is our Council the right size?

• Should we have full-time or part-time Councillors?

• Should Councillors be elected in a ward system, at-large, or a combination of both?

• Do we need to redraw our ward boundaries to keep our democracy healthy?

If you can, please read the short background documents on each of these topics: study overview, current electoral system, at-large or wards, full or part time councillors, size of council and ward structure. They contain definitions and explanations and comparisons with other cities of similar size in Ontario.

In keeping with the City’s Community Engagement Framework and in response to physical distancing restrictions, public meetings cannot be held in person so citizen involvement has expanded the use of online tools and telephone. Citizens are encouraged to participate in multiple ways, such as:

  • Interact online through this survey and the other website features such as Q&A, Ideas, video, and shared documents.
  • A live-streamed panel discussion scheduled for Tuesday, August 25, 2020 at 6:00pm.
  • The panel discussion will be streamed live on the City's Facebook page and recorded for future viewing and possible re-broadcast on Rogers Cable TV.
  • Dedicated dates for residents to call after hours and speak with someone from the City Clerk’s office.
  • Citizens are also welcome to write a letter to the City Clerk's Department in the good old fashioned way.

On this site you can:

  • Ask questions and get answers;
  • Review background information;
  • Register to keep in touch;
  • Share your ideas; and,
  • Make recommendations.

In Phase 1 we are looking at the “Composition of Council” which refers to the number of elected representatives on the City Council and how they are elected, not counting the Mayor. The role of Mayor is not proposed to change and is not under review.

We are looking at Council Composition first because this will determine the number of wards that we will use in Phase 2, the Ward Boundary Review. Early in 2021, there will be another round of consultation on the ward boundary options.

This phase of the Council composition and Ward Boundary Review have concluded.

We want to answer questions you have about the Council composition and ward boundary review. We're an open book. Ask us a question and we’ll share the answer.  




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    Susan asked a question during the webex virtual townhall. How has the ratio of population to representation changed over the years in Guelph?

    19 days ago

    Consultant team 

    The table below shows the trend since the current system of 12 councillors elected from six wards has been in place.

    Census yearNumber of CouncillorsPopulationPopulation per Councillor
    19911287,9767,331
    200112106,1708,848
    201112121,70010,142
    201612131,70510,975
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    Susan asked this question during the virtual townhall chat. What does research show about the number of women and minorities elected in at-large vs. ward systems?

    19 days ago

    At this point we are not aware of any research in Ontario that addresses this issue. There is a new database that should allow research on this question, but this database has only become available recently. 


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    Susan asked this question at the webex virtual townhall. Any data/research which shows whether full-time or part-time positions support the participation of women or minorities?

    19 days ago

    We are not aware of any research on this issue. The relatively small number of municipalities with full-time councillors in Ontario would make it difficult to do very much research which would yield statistically significant results. We understand that other aspects of female representation are being considered and may be viewed at nosecondchances.ca

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    Susan asked this question at the webex virtual townhall: Do these other cities also have part-time councillors, or are they full-time?

    19 days ago

    Our research indicates that only three cities in Ontario pay councillors what could be considered full-time pay—Toronto, Ottawa, and Hamilton. All three of these cities use single-member wards.


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    This question was asked on Facebook: Is there a breakdown of projected population growth by ward as they are currently available at this time? Seems it might be helpful In making this decision (answer: slide #26)

    19 days ago

    These projections are available and they will be used in drawing ward boundaries in Phase 2 of this project.  It is a widespread practice in drawing ward boundaries that current populations as well as projections into the future are considered. In the Guelph ward boundary review we will use population projections to 2030 to design wards for the next three municipal elections (2022, 2026 and 2030). Wards need to be of reasonably equal size now, but it is undesirable to change ward boundaries too frequently so both current population and future growth are considered.

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    Anonymous Southie asked this question at the webex townhall: Is it better to have wards of different sizes and populations to match the distinct neighbourhoods in guelph (which are of different sizes), or keep wards equivalent populations but blend more than one unique neighbourhood?

    19 days ago

    You point to an inevitable problem in creating wards. Wards should have relatively equal populations (one person, one vote), but they should also be built around existing communities of interest. Sometimes these two considerations can work at cross-purposes. This can be a problem in drawing ward boundaries, but usually a reasonable compromise can be worked out that involves recognizing these two (and other) considerations but bending to a certain extent. 

    There are very few examples of municipalities using wards of different sizes and presumably electing different numbers of councillors. One we are aware of is Chatham-Kent where this came about as a result of an amalgamation in 1998. It seems to work reasonably well there because of the historical circumstances. Niagara Falls used a similar system in the 1960s and 1970s as a product of an amalgamation, but eventually eliminated it. One crucial consideration in a system of this kind is that it would give an advantage to the residents of some wards not others; that is, some people could get to vote for two or three members of council and others only one.  This would not be an equitable system.


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    Corrie asked this question on Facebook. Are there any advantages to having "councillors -at-large" added to one councillor per ward.

    19 days ago

    This mixed system was used in most large cities in Ontario in the 19th and early 20th century. The at-large members formed what was called the Board of Control. This was abandoned in most places in the 1960s or 1970s. It caused tension around the council table because it created two classes of councillors. Thunder Bay has used this system as a product of the amalgamation that created the city in 1970. By most accounts it has worked well there because it has a lengthy history. Kingston instituted a mixed system like this when it was reogranized by amalgamation in 1998. It abandoned the system after one term. A form of this is used in some regional governments where regional councillors are elected at-large and serve on the councils of area municipalities. 

    The lesson seems to be that this system can work where it has historical roots or is a by-product of a larger system such as regional government. However, the fact that it can create two classes of councillor has caused other municipalities to steer away from it. It is not clear what role a number of councillors-at-large would play in Guelph. 


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    Denese asked a question on Facebook: With the idea of growing demand how would it be if we would had 7 Councillors and and 7 wards would that relieve the growing demand of the citizens on the Councillors

    19 days ago

    Reducing the number of councillors from 12 to seven would increase the workload on those councillors. Of course, if they became full-time the expectation would be that they could devote full-time to their council work. The alternative of reducing the number of councillors is open to Guelph City Council and will be addressed in the Phase 1 report to Council in November.

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    Michelle asked a question on Facebook: What is the average number of councilors per capita in a city of comparable size for our projected 2040 population?

    19 days ago

    The table below shows the population per councillors for comparable municipalities in 2020. It is difficult to project forward to 2040 and, in fact, our review is aimed at designing wards based on population projections out to 2030, not 2040. A reasonable assumption would be that whatever changes affect Guelph over the next 20 years would have a similar impact on these comparable municipalities, so the actual numbers will change, but the relationship between them will likely stay approximately the same. 

    MunicipalityPopulationNumber of CouncillorsPopulation/Councillors
    Sudbury168,8131214067.8
    Barrie149,3021014930.2
    Guelph143,1691211930.8
    Kingston135,2041211267.0
    Thunder Bay112,740129395.0
    Chatham-Kent105,666176215.6




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    During our recent townhall the following question was asked: How would changing the number or configuration of the wards affect the distribution and cost of services and/or community funding?

    19 days ago

    Wards are part of the election system in Guelph. It is our understanding that the delivery of services in the City is not affected by the configuration of wards. Therefore, a change in the ward system would have no impact on the distribution and cost of services or other aspects of community funding.