On January 1, 2001 amendments to the City of Ottawa Act
amalgamated all eleven municipalities which previously formed the
Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton, creating one-tier
government for Ottawa. Five of these municipalities were the
former townships of West Carleton, Goulbourn, Rideau, Osgoode and
Cumberland. Prior to amalgamation each of these municipalities
were represented by their own Mayor and municipal council. As a
result of the amalgamation each of the wards of the former Region
became new wards in the new City, accordingly five of the new
wards replaced the former townships. On July 24, 2002 the City
passed a by-law changing the ward structure. The by-law reduced
the number of rural wards from five to four by combining Goulbourn
with Rideau. It also expanded the areas of Osgoode and West
Carleton by attaching significant urban growth areas to each of
Community Associations quickly formed in Osgoode, Rideau, and
West Carleton and appealed the by-law to The Ontario Municipal
On October 17, 2002 the Minister of Municipal Affairs and
Housing appeared before the Ontario Municipal Board to file a
Notice of Deferral, which caused the Board to stay the proceedings
indefinitely. Material subsequently filed by the minister lists
the following reasons for his intervention:
"The City of Ottawa is still in its infancy. It is too early
to determine (less than one full term of office) how well the
ward system is working."
"The existing wards took into account the boundaries of the
rural communities that existed prior to the establishment of the
new City of Ottawa to ensure the opinions of these communities
would be heard at city council. Alterations of these boundaries
may reduce the ability of these distinct communities to be heard
at city council."
"Adding urban or suburban electors to the existing rural
wards may have the effect of reducing the number of rural voices
and viewpoints at city council."
"There is a need for further evaluation of the manner in
which rural areas are represented on municipal council."
On November 12, 2002 the City argued a motion asking the Board
to ignore the Minister's direction and continue with the hearing.
The Board dismissed the City's request. The City maintains that
the Minister did not have the authority to stop the proceedings
and will be asking the Divisional Court to review the Minister's
authority in early December 2002.
estimate that the legal costs to the city for this court challenge
will range between $100,000 and $300,000.
The associations have obtained documents from City files
pertaining to the City's activities leading to the passing of the
Within six months of amalgamation, City staff began to prepare
a work plan that would lead to the reorganization of the municipal
ward boundaries in time for the next municipal election to be held
in November 2003. On June 13, 2001 City Council directed staff to
prepare a report that would outline and recommend a process for
changing the ward boundaries. On July 11, 2001 City Council
directed staff to proceed to implement this report. On July 18,
2001 a preliminary meeting of city staff appointed to deal with
this matter was held. Minutes of that meeting described the need
to "use extensive consultation to try to minimize
appeals and show an open process". The document also
suggests five public meetings be held across the city and
"actual draft ward scenarios-more detailed program of public
meetings". The document identifies potential members
of what would become the Citizen's Task Force. It does not make
any reference to the qualifications of any of these individuals.
No document produced by the city discusses the criteria to be used
in selecting what would later be described as an independent task
force. However, the Task Force mandate as described in a City
document date August 29, 2001 would be "liaising with
members of council, Boards of Education, citizens of Ottawa,
Community Associations and special interest groups,
...coordinating the public consultation process ...and preparing a
report to the Corporate Services and Economic Development
Committee, and Council detailing recommended ward boundary options".
Council's direction also required staff and the Task Force to
recognize that geography plays a major role in serving the public,
and therefore recommended that permitted population variations
within a ward could range from 25,000 to 50,000 residents. Council
further directed the Task Force to "preserve
neighborhoods and communities of interest".
Contrary to the
professional recommendation of City staff as presented to
Council, minutes of a Task Force meeting on December 11, 2001
includes the following notation: "Consultation
Strategy - Task Force again noted that it did not wish to issue
one or more draft options for ward boundaries due to a concern
that these could then become targets for debate, rather than
helping to generate interest in the possible revised configuration".
The City published a brochure extensively distributed to the
public during the Task Force consultation process entitled
Striking a Balance. A portion of the brochure entitled YOUR VIEWS
ARE IMPORTANT invites the public to "tell us if or how
these boundaries could be changed in order to serve you."
However at no time did the Task Force advise the public that their
options or suggestions would be excluded from the Task Force
report to be presented to council.
The Ontario Municipal Act requires Council of a city to hold at
least one public meeting prior to the passing of a by-law to amend
its ward boundaries. It may however delegate this responsibility
to a committee, provided that the committee accurately summarizes
the evidence it received during the meeting process in its report
to Council. Ward
boundary options and other material evidence presented to the Task
Force by the public was not incorporated into the
Force report dated June 10, 2002.
Within one week of its publication, the
Force report was presented to Corporate Services and Economic
Development Committee. An announcement that this report would be
tabled was never advertised by the City in any rural community
newspaper. Rural councilors who attended the committee meeting on
June 18, 2002 expressed concern that the content of the report had
received no opportunity for public input and therefore put forth a
motion to differ the consideration of the report for one month.
The motion was defeated by a majority of committee members
representing urban wards. The committee also heard objections from
residents of an urban ward (River Ward), who complained that the
new proposed ward for their area would divide an established
community association. Their concerns were subsequently addressed
by a change to the applicable board boundary. All complaints from
rural spokes persons were ignored. On July 24, 2002 Council
enacted by-law 2002-316
having again rejected motions to allow public consultation on the
contents of the Task Force report.
The new ward structure created wards that range in size
from 652 hectares (2.5 sq. miles) to 78,000 hectares (301 sq.
miles). The amalgamation of Rideau and Goulbourn wards
creates a ward with the second largest area and projected
population of any new ward. Ward 5 (formerly West Carleton) and
Ward 20 (formerly Osgoode) were amended by adding significant
urban population to each. Accordingly, traditional rural areas
would now be voting with majority urban population centers in the
election of their new city councilor. The opportunity to combine
rural populations maintaining their rural character never became
an option for consideration by Council. This option had been
recommended by the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, the
only standing committee charged with the responsibility for
advising Council with respect to rural affairs.
The Committee's advice
was excluded from the report not withstanding staff recommendation
that it be included.
The new city composed of 5 rural wards and 16 urban wards
combines densely and sparsely populated areas. The boundary
structure created by the Province is consistent with the history
and philosophy of Canadian democracy as enunciated by the
Supreme Court of Canada in Re: Carter. The court in this
leading case decided that the ideal of a "free and democratic
society" is not founded upon the principle of parity of voting
power. The Canadian ideal of "effective representation" which
looks to factors such as geography, community, history, community
interests and minority representation are more important
principles for ensuring government effectively represents the
diversity of our social mosaic, as ensured by the Canadian Charter
of Rights and Freedom.
On October 17, 2002 the Associations, by way of a
Release affirmed their position that fundamental issues of
democratic rights should not be determined in a litigation process
and once again extended an invitation to the mayor and the members
of his council to discuss viable alternatives with their rural
To date we have had no response.
Last Modified: Nov.
18, 2002 | © 2002 Ottawa Rural Communities