The need for consolidation and redistribution of wards in the city of Ottawa
Author's Video Note:
by Guy Annable, Candidate for Council Ward 8 College
In my 3 years of participating on the City of Ottawa Business Advisory Committee from 2007 to 2010, I did extensive research on the current ward structure and what the City was doing to examine and analyze the “post amalgamation” city ward structure of Ottawa.
Since 2001, ward boundaries are reviewed and have slightly changed but as a city , we have never had a debate about the need to consolidate and seek efficiencies in reducing or combining the 23 Wards although 7 ward reviews and consultant reports sit on the shelf since 2003.
In certain mature areas of Ottawa specifically inside the greenbelt and in the core of Ottawa there is little additional growth potential. The opportunity for consolidation is omnipresent, While recognizing the newer growth areas in the suburbs are is much greater than the mature core urban wards.
When I brought the matter up at committee, I was rebuked with the standard answer “this is not part of our Work Plan at the BAC”, since we did not have a formal work plan, I then asked If I could review the current work plan that city council had engaged the with BAC before my arrival. I was surprised to find out that there was no formal work plan as delegated by city council to the BAC in 2007.
Originally set up in 2003 by then Mayor Bob Chiarelli as a buffer between the Mayor and council the Ottawa Business Advisory Committee was to serve as a vehicle to consult on matters important to the business community. The BAC was abolished in 2010 by Mayor Jim Watson, a decision which I fully agreed with Watson.
The BAC served no benefit to city taxpayers, consumed much staff time and the reports we received from staff had no impact on our mission, as we had no work plan, and no councilors ever visited or provided direction to our group in the 3 years. The minutes will show I attended every meeting.
With that said, now as a candidate for College Ward 8, I am again looking at the ward structure of the City of Ottawa. Not much has changed since amalgamation, yet the city has changed greatly in 13 years. Lets use city Staff language and look at “best practices of other municipalities” to see where other cities of similar size and population to Ottawa line up relative to their size of Council and number of Citizens served per ward. This cursory investigation is not an extensive or expensive city contracted survey, it is just a quick direct comparison to my quest 6 years ago to ask a simple question........ WHY DOES OTTAWA HAVE 23 wards? As previously mentioned there has already been 2 consultant reports on this topic that sit on the shelf at city hall to this day)
Vancouver is the 4th most densely populated area in North America, the 2011 Census recorded 603.502 in the metro City proper with a population density of 5249 per sq Km. Vancouver is the most densely populated Canadian municipality, Vancouver currently has 10 councilors who also have a very strict office budget percentage far below that of any Ottawa ward. Each councilor earns only 67,994 per year before benefits and pensions (P and B were not part of the research for this simple analysis).
In the 2011 Census, the City of Edmonton had a population of 812,201 As Canada's 5th largest municipality. With a land area of 684.37 km2 (264.24 sq mi), it had a population density of 1,186.8/km2(3,073.8/sq mi) in 2011. With a similar but smaller population to Ottawa, Edmonton Proper is much smaller in land mass than Ottawa because we have a great deal of rural areas in Ottawa after amalgamation. Edmonton currently employs a 12 council model and each Councilor earns 96,323 per year before any benefits and pensions as they were not included in this analysis. Edmonton is often used by the city Of Ottawa staff as a “comparable city” when they look outside for similar municipalities.
Calgary is probably the best representative example of similar sized city with comparable population to Ottawa. Calgary has a population of 1,214,839 as of the 2011 Census and is a rapidly growing metropolis making it the largest metropolis in Alberta and the 3th largest municipality in Canada. Calgary employs 14 Councilors earning an annual Salary of 111,066.29 The population density of Calgary is 1,186.8 people per /km2 or 3,074 people per sq mi)
Ottawa had a population of 883,392 in the 2011 census and is the 4th largest municipality right behind Calgary Calgary has 1860.1 per km 2 or 4818 per Sq mile in the Urban Density category with a metro Density of 196.6 people per Km2 or 509 per sq Mile. Although Ottawa has large swaths of Rural Areas with little Population, we have rapidly changing demographics in the growing suburbs of Barrhaven, Ottawa South and Orleans and Kanata and a Unique protected tract of land circling the urban City sector called the Greenbelt with no residents. So direct comparisons to size of the city Vs POP densities cannot be directly correlated to the other cities because of the unique land layout of Ottawa.
Knowing the unique Rural urban/metro divides that is part of Our great City makeup and Given the Greenbelt strapping the core Urban region from suburbia and the Large Swaths of Rural areas encompassing the city outside the suburban areas again makes Ottawa A unique topographic challenge when comparing to other cities. This combined with the growing suburban areas in 4 outbound areas, Kanata, Barrhaven Ottawa South and Orleans begs the Question, WHY HAVE WE NOT CHANGED THE WARDS TO MEET THE CHANGING NEEDS OF A GROWING CITY in 13 years since amalgamation?
When I look at Ward 8 College, the Ward in which I am Running, it could be easily combined with Knoxdale-Merivale ward or Bay ward. Looking at Gloucester South Nepean I ask myself, WHY would you need a over $300,000 Councilor/office budget for a ward that has under 45 streets. When you drill down on this issue we need to look at the Mature Core of the City and CONSOLIDATE some of the core mature wards to achieve efficiencies. With the Service transformation of the City services to the Web in the mid 2000's and many people using email very effectively with City Staff, I would balk at any retort from any councilor that staff would be too overwhelmed if wards were combined, frankly, more on that in another white paper....311 has taken a huge load of city staff in council offices since it's inception in 2003 and the combination and the ability of Citizens' to answer many questions via the city website, one area the city has done a wonderful Job in opening information to taxpayers and minimizing staff involvement.
IT IS TIME TO RATIONALIZE THE CORE WARDS AND ACCOMMODATE THE GROWING SUBURBS TO REDUCE THE NUMBER OF WARDS AND PLAN FOR THE NEXT DECADE when making these decisions to better reflect the changing face of Ottawa.
I encourage any reader of this document to look at the core ward MAPS (http://ottawa.ca/en/city-hall/official-and-master-plans/ward-boundary-re...) in the city? As I feel it is very attainable to bring Council from 23 wards to 16 or even 14 wards and in line with other Canadian municipalities of a similar size. In closing, I know it will be hard to debate or decide on a subject that could cause the demise of your ward and the Loss of your Job, thus why it has not been broached in 13 years....... IT IS TIME FOR CHANGE.
PLEASE LOOK AT THE MAPS. It is not rocket Science and we need to rationalize the size and make up of Council, 13 years after amalgamation.
Candidate for Ward 8 College