Municipal Election 2010

Hamilton's Poorer Neighbourhoods Underrepresented on City Council

If we're really serious about addressing poverty in our community - as 97% of candidates professed to be - perhaps we should start by extending an equal voting franchise to rich and poor alike.

By John Neary
Published October 29, 2010

When the new city of Hamilton was created out of the old Regional Municipality of Hamilton-Wentworth, each of the constituent municipalities was given at least one seat on council. (The old city of Hamilton received eight; Stoney Creek and Flamborough two each; Glanbrook, Ancaster, and Dundas one each.)

This distribution of seats was chosen to mollify suburban and rural residents who didn't want to have anything to do with amalgamation. Overrepresenting each of the smaller municipalities made amalgamation somewhat more palatable to them.

In the long run, it also led to votes like this one to increase HSR fares, in which eight councillors (plus the mayor) representing 199,676 residents triumphed over seven councillors representing 289,781 residents.

This vote was widely reported (including on RTH) as pitting the interests of urban voters against those of suburban and rural voters. Which it did.

Affluent vs. Poor

But bus fares are also a classic example of an issue that pit the interests of the affluent against the interests of the less fortunate.

Quite simply, people with money pay taxes (including to fund the HSR) but don't ride the bus much, and people with little money pay fewer taxes but tend to ride the bus more. So the affluent are interested in keeping taxes down (and, therefore, fares up) while the poor are interested in the opposite.

The vote on the HSR fare increase split on urban/nonurban lines, yes. But it also split on rich/poor lines. (Which is unsurprising: it's hard to live in the country if you can't afford a car.)

The five councillors representing our poorest wards voted against the increase. The six councillors representing our richest wards voted for it. The other four councillors were split. The interests of 200,000 people prevailed over the interests of 290,000.

Income and Population by Ward

Here's a list of Hamilton's wards, organized in ascending order of average household income. (Data are from the Hamilton Spectator's election guide from the October 23 print edition.)

Income and Population by Ward
Ward Income Population
2 41,307 37,815
3 45,481 39,910
4 51,879 35,635
5 57,429 38,965
1 63,662 30,080
6 63,963 40,645
7 67,749 58,395
9 76,151 26,695
8 78,043 48,400
10 83,741 24,975
11 86,334 25,900
13 90,585 24,695
14 93,633 15,920
15 106,619 25,490
12 126,715 31,040

Eight of our nine poorest wards have a population over 30,000. Five of our six richest wards have a population under 30,000. Our nine poorest wards have an average of 40,000 residents; our six richest have an average of 25,000.

Our largest ward (number 7, on the central Mountain) is almost four times the population of our smallest (number 15, in Dunwich east Flamborough).

Equal Franchise to Rich and Poor

If we're really serious about addressing poverty in our community - as 97% of candidates professed to be - perhaps we should start by extending an equal franchise to rich and poor alike.

You know, like they started to work towards in England in 1832.

Doing so would not require reducing the number of councillors representing richer neighbourhoods. If we decided that each councillor should represent about 25,000 people, we could keep the richer wards as they are, and add five new poorer wards.

The simplest way to do so would be to split each of three adjacent pairs of wards (1 and 2, 3 and 4, 5 and 6) into three parts, and split the largest two wards (7 and 8) into two parts apiece.

Each of the resulting wards would then have between 22,000 and 30,000 residents, with an average of 26,000.

It's impossible to know who would have been elected under this system, but the second-place finishers in those wards (or pairs of wards) were Tony Greco, Paul Tetley, Chris Behrens, Trevor Pettit, and Kim Jenkinson.

Equitable Distribution of Seats

If we don't relish the idea of a 21-member council, we could reduce the number of seats from 15 to 14 if we split wards 7 and 8 into three 36,000-person wards, combined wards 9, 10, and 11 (Stoney Creek and Glanbrook) into two 39,000-person wards, and combined wards 13, 14, and 15 (Dundas and Flamborough) into two 33,000-person wards.

This reorganization, like the previous, would lead to a much more equitable distribution of seats.

Or we could continue with our current system, in which poor neighbourhoods elect fewer representatives than their proportionate share, and our representatives talk about poverty but focus on building a stadium and an aerotropolis to serve the interests of the rich - who are not just their donors, but their electors as well.

John Neary lives in Beasley Neighbourhood and practices general internal medicine at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton. He would like Hamilton to develop an urban environment that creates less gainful employment for his profession.

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By Andrea (registered) | Posted October 29, 2010 at 07:40:13

Interesting, but another column that could be added to those stats is voter turnout (%). I mentioned in another thread that I would like to see the correlation between home ownership versus renting lined up against voter turnout. Civic matters are very engaging to people that have a vested interest in the communuity (ie home or business ownership). Are people in the poorer wards not voting because of their income, education, disengagement or a combination of all of those factors?

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By TB (registered) - website | Posted October 29, 2010 at 07:42:29

Why not simply charge a lower fare to those who board a bus in Ward 2, 3, 4 or 5 for example?

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By Ryan B (anonymous) | Posted October 29, 2010 at 07:42:30

Maybe the richer neighbourhoods would support transit In their taxes if they saw value for their money.

I understand the routes are rarely updated. Also remember transit has to be easy and fast for more people to use it. Look at Mississauga as an example (limited stop routes). HSR has room for improvement in different areas.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 29, 2010 at 09:13:12

I've always said: gated communities are redundant. You don't need walls in the suburbs. They've already got a fantastically effective way to keep poor people out: they're functionally impossible to reach and navigate without a car.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted October 29, 2010 at 09:27:41

@ Andrea: “another column that could be added to those stats is voter turnout (%)”

02 7,730 votes (20.4% of ward pop’n)
03 7,150 votes (17.9% of ward pop’n)
04 8,309 votes (23.3% of ward pop’n)
05 10,473 votes (26.9% of ward pop’n)
01 8,373 votes (27.8% of ward pop’n)
06 12,006 votes (29.5% of ward pop’n)
07 16,002 votes (27.4% of ward pop’n)
09 7,692 votes (28.8% of ward pop’n)
08 14,956 votes (30.9% of ward pop’n)
10 8,671 votes (35.1% of ward pop’n)
11 10,554 votes (40.7% of ward pop’n)
13 8,341 votes (34.6% of ward pop’n)
14 4,259 votes (26.8% of ward pop’n)
15 6,432 votes (25.2% of ward pop’n)
12 10,226 votes (32.9% of ward pop’n)

I can’t seem to find the registered voter counts for 2010, but the comparative density of activated voters within wards is also interesting. It’s hard to imagine that something like that wouldn’t impact the mindset of a community, or reflect its world view – on a per capita basis, for example, places like Stoney Creek and Dundas are arguably about twice as engaged as Ward 3, despite only raking up 14-18% more ballots. That seems to reflect a perceived ownership as much as bricks-and-mortar ownership.

It’s not the first time the urban/suburban poor/affluent divide has been remarked upon, incidentally. CATCH noted that around 22,000 Ward 1-5 voters dropped from the registered rolls in the 2006 election, vis the 2003 rolls:

http://www.hamiltoncatch.org/view_article.php?id=15

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By highwater (registered) | Posted October 29, 2010 at 09:28:04

Maybe the richer neighbourhoods would support transit In their taxes if they saw value for their money.

They do get value for their money. It's just that the value isn't necessarily frequent transit service right on their doorstep. Transit is a public good like public education, something everyone benefits from regardless of whether they have children in the system or not. Changing the public perception of the purpose of transit is just as important as improving service in outlying areas, presuming of course that these 'richer neighbourhoods' you speak of are on the periphery. There are plenty of 'rich' neighbourhoods in Hamilton that currently have the density to justify a higher level of service.

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By thompsmr (registered) | Posted October 29, 2010 at 09:43:10

some more data:

Map of turnout in Ward 2: http://goo.gl/maps/HQFe Spreadsheet of Ward 2 polling stations: http://goo.gl/5DEL

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted October 29, 2010 at 10:11:05

Here’s an intriguing wrinkle: Wards with 10K+ in 2010 ballots.

Ward 11 10,554 votes (40.7% of ward pop’n)
Ward 12 10,226 votes (32.9% of ward pop’n)
Ward 08 14,956 votes (30.9% of ward pop’n)
Ward 06 12,006 votes (29.5% of ward pop’n)
Ward 07 16,002 votes (27.4% of ward pop’n)
Ward 05 10,473 votes (26.9% of ward pop’n)

The ward with the highest per capita voting saw a newcomer over the incumbent.

And here are the next highest vote counts:

Ward 10 8,671 votes (35.1% of ward pop’n)
Ward 01 8,373 votes (27.8% of ward pop’n)

Those eight wards have an average population of 37,300 and average income of $78,454; the remaining seven wards have an average population of 29,451 and average income of $72,236.

Would be informative to track which wards are proactively steering policy (ie. moved, seconded) rather than simply voting on someone else’s motion, and also which wards’ interests habitually mesh in terms of voting record and moved-seconded allegiances. Sometimes political apathy is not simply a grassroots dilemma.

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By JustTheStats (anonymous) | Posted October 29, 2010 at 13:37:00

Ward Voter Turnout

Ward # Voters %turnout
Ward 1 20676 40.71
Ward 2 19424 40.37
Ward 3 23670 30.96
Ward 4 23721 35.5
Ward 5 25755 41.32
Ward 6 28266 43.13
Ward 7 40751 39.86
Ward 8 34259 44.18
Ward 9 19235 40.25
Ward 10 19350 45.33
Ward 11 24655 43.3
Ward 12 24449 42.19
Ward 13 18349 45.83
Ward 14 12147 35.1
Ward 15 18609 35.07

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted October 29, 2010 at 15:56:33

Ward Avg Inc #Voters %turnout

02 41,307 37,815 [40.37%]
03 45,481 39,910 [30.96%]
04 51,879 35,635 [35.50%]
05 57,429 38,965 [41.32%]
01 63,662 30,080 [40.71%]
06 63,963 40,645 [43.13%]
07 67,749 58,395 [39.86%]
09 76,151 26,695 [40.25%]
08 78,043 48,400 [44.18%]
10 83,741 24,975 [45.33%]
11 86,334 25,900 [43.30%]
13 90,585 24,695 [45.83%]
14 93,633 15,920 [35.10%]
15 106,619 25,490 [35.07%]
12 126,715 31,040 [42.19%]

VOTER TURNOUT

Most Affluent Half of Wards = 41.41%
Least Affluent Half of Wards = 39.01%

Most Affluent Third of Wards = 40.30%
Least Affluent Third of Wards = 37.78%

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By F'N HARRIS (anonymous) | Posted October 29, 2010 at 16:20:47

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted October 29, 2010 at 16:57:11

Transit is a public good like public education, something everyone benefits from regardless of whether they have children in the system or not. Changing the public perception of the purpose of transit is just as important as improving service in outlying areas… - Highwater

How true Highwater. Some people seem to think people ride public transit for kicks or something. Most people ride public transit to get to work, school, etc…

Changing the way we look at transit will perhaps lead people to realise it is in essence a corporate subsidy. As for what is in it for the rich, well I guess we could eliminate all public transit and then let people see how long it takes to get from their McMansion in Aurora to their office in downtown Toronto??? That might help them figure it out.

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By ward 4 (anonymous) | Posted October 29, 2010 at 17:07:52

Merulla reps me incredibly well!!!!! Thanks

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted October 29, 2010 at 18:28:41

What's being described here, yet again, is a stratified society. Much like health care, courts, transportation or education, political representation is far better the richer you get. In short, you are considered a "person" to the extent that you have money - and your ability to get money in the future is highly dependent on that.

Having lived and stayed in both very poor and very rich communities, I can tell you that this does not go un-noticed in poor ones. People get very tired of being neglected and looked down upon, and sooner or later, give up entirely on the system. Given some of the abuse (welfare, city workers, police etc) I've seen around the North End, it really isn't surprising.

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By RichardDenOtter (registered) - website | Posted October 29, 2010 at 21:48:49

I'm considered a "well-off" resident of ward 2. I own a condo and run a small business here. I do not have a car and use public transit for transportation. I find it amazingly convenient, and on an odd occasion I use a cab a carshare coop or rent a truck, which is expensive but still much, much cheaper than buying a car and paying for insurance, maintenance, fuel etc.

I think we should use $500 million LRT money to encourage car-share rentals and increasing bus ridership, not only inside the city but also withing GTA and between GTA and K-W regions (i.e. encourage $9.50 public GO transit instead of $33.50 commercial Coach Canada/GreyHound to go to Kitchener-Waterloo region).

My point is that Ward 2 (and other "poor people's" wards) do not just represent low-income people, and it's not just the "poor" that use public transit. Public transit makes economic sense, and also has positive effect on community development, commerce and environment.

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By Andrea (registered) | Posted October 29, 2010 at 22:08:29

^ It's not just the poor that live in the central city either. If I may beg everyone's indulgence and share a letter I wrote to the Spec (which won't get printed) that echos a bit of the above sentiments:

"Regarding your column from the October 26th print edition; both facilities that Ace & Joy Clarke founded (including the Joshua Centre, directly across the street from the Hamilton Dream Centre) have proven to be assets to our neighbourhood. Ace, Joy & their congregation are wonderful neighbours; they have made capital improvements to their building & property, they engage the community when holding special events and demonstrate a genuine love of helping people.

There is one quote in your piece that has motivated me to respond: “If you don’t’ normally think of ‘dreams’ when you think of that part of Hamilton, you may be forgiven”.

Although I am familiar with ‘Code Red’ and do recognize that Ward 3 is one of the poorest and most crime ridden areas of the City, it gets very disheartening to continually see the way in which the media presents the central city to the rest of Hamilton. It is one thing to report cold, hard realities and bring attention to a serious matter, but it’s quite another to paint an entire part of the City with broad sweeping strokes. I could throw a football and hit the Dream Centre, yet my particular neighbourhood is definitely NOT a ghetto. Our neighbourhood exhibits both diversities and disparities but I think it’s important to recognize that in addition to the typical ‘Code Red profile’ many middle class families, working individuals, entrepreneurs, professionals and multi-generational families live in the area. Believe it or not, some folks do choose to live the urban lifestyle, and it’s not due to poverty, unemployment, disability or lack of education.

Obviously I am not an expert, but I have lived in this part of our city for almost 30 years. It does make a lot of sense from a practical point of view, that in ANY city, the most economically challenged citizens are going to live in the oldest part of the City. The old City of Hamilton is relatively affordable for housing (albeit not always in a good way), there is accessibility to mass transit, and has amenities (groceries, drug stores, doctors, parks, recreation centres) that are easily within walking distance in residential areas. All of which are important considerations when living on a fixed income or tight budget. That is the reality. It is certainly not all sunshine and rainbows, and I am not burying my head in the sand and denying that our Ward doesn’t have many challenges, but I like to think that Central Hamilton neighbourhoods located East of Wellington street, also have a lot of positive attributes. In my particular area we have beautiful, character, century homes that are substantially less expensive than their West Hamilton counterparts. We have sidewalks and mature trees. There are ample parks, we can get our groceries without having to drive into a box store mega-centre, we know our neighbours and local business folks and we have great community associations. Ultimately, I do feel safe when out walking the dog or going to the local drug store at night.

We all need to work on many issues in the entire City for Hamiltonians to collectively become prosperous and proud, as was reflected in the platforms of many candidates during the recent election. While recognizing our challenges it’s also important to highlight the positive attributes of the central City to engage and encourage those that have vibrant and viable lifestyles to stay here and work towards making the necessary improvements instead of giving up and moving to the other areas of Hamilton."

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By d.knox (registered) | Posted October 29, 2010 at 22:59:51

I often pause and remind myself that this very discussion we are having was engineered by the Feds when they downloaded social responsibilities to the provinces and thence to the municipalities.

While "the poor" are someone else's vague responsibility, everyone seems fine to talk about giving more money. But make it tangible, as increases to our property taxes do, and people naturally become more accountable.

When our vehicle insurance and gas costs go up, no one is up in arms about the poor middle classes and how we will manage. Municipal transportation systems face the same cost increases, and the costs should be passed on. It's still much cheaper to ride the bus than it is to drive a car - I think I can buy a year's transit pass for just the cost of insurance on my car. Given that the HSR is cheaper than any other comparable transportation system in the Golden Horseshoe, and it even offers a 50% discount to any working person below the LICO, I think our rates are more than fair, and fare increases are not unreasonable.

I don't think we'll ever resolve the natural dialectic of rural/suburban vs. urban. I like to see it as an integral checks and balances.

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted October 30, 2010 at 11:51:00

It's a minor point. d. knox -- but i think there's more of a disconnect between true rural and suburban, and it's a group that often gets pushed in together, although rural people often do without a lot of the services that suburban people get, and the suburban ones are complaining the loudest that they're paying too much for the services in the densest parts of the city - but snowplowing, road maintenance, etc. are all done in the suburbs but not at all or very minimally in rural areas.

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By d.knox (registered) | Posted October 30, 2010 at 11:57:10

I agree, Meredith. I was only including the rural with the suburban because the article set up the divide that way.

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted October 30, 2010 at 12:01:35

I understand - thanks for allowing me the point of clarification.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted October 30, 2010 at 13:35:33

We need to stop thinking about "poor people" as some disadvantaged minority. For every person who drives a Lexus in this town there's several with beat up old Cadilacs. By statistically defining the LICO and other measures relative to median income, we define them as minorities, even if sixty or eighty percent of the population were struggling, the poverty line would just drop.

If you look at actual income distribution in this country (or city, or planet), the richest 20% of the population makes nearly half (46%) of our national income. Of them, the richest quarter makes nearly half of that (the top 5% control 24%), with the richest fifth of them taking nearly half of that (1% of earners make over 11% of income.) Of them - the richest 0.1% of our country's earners (one in a thousand) earn between a third and half of that (4%), roughly the same as the bottom fifth of all Canadians.

http://www.policyalternatives.ca/publica...

The "poor" aren't the minority - the "rich" are, even among the wealthy. And while some people are far worse off than most, even a lot of people with very "good" incomes in what is a very rich country are still struggling.

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted October 30, 2010 at 15:07:00

And on the flipside, having a low income doesn't necessarily equate to being disadvantaged. Many people with a good education (or in the process of getting that education) have a low income, and if you have certain circumstances in place or certain circumstances (e.g. grandparents providing childcare, a low rent or mortgage payment on an energy-efficient hosue, skills to make your own food and not rely on convenience foods, proximity to work and school that cuts transportation cost) a low income alone may not be an indicator of a poor quality of life.

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By d.knox (registered) | Posted October 30, 2010 at 17:48:05

It's interesting to look at some of the studies done on "the poor" in Ontario. In one report, people defining themselves as poor were mapped on the same income breakdown as Stats Can uses - dividing the population into 20% chunks. There were people from every group, including the top 20%, who identified themselves as poor, though only about 5% of the highest income group considered themselves poor. And consistent with what Meredith points out, only 50% of the lowest 20% considered themselves to be poor. That's one of the difficulties of talking about "helping the poor".

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted October 30, 2010 at 18:16:29

yeesh, sorry for the repetition and spelling errors on my last post.

Which report is that, d. knox? I'd like to take a look if I can.

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By d.knox (registered) | Posted October 30, 2010 at 19:44:50

@ Meredith:
http://www.dailybread.ca/learningcentre/...

There is a link on this page to the document "Testing the Validity of the Deprivation Index" and the other link that's germaine is Ontario's Deprivation Index Tables. I'm still searching for the one I read with the self-reported poverty, but this document was one of quite a few I was reading at the time I found the other statistics. I read far too many things at once and then lose track, so I'm still looking ...

I found much of what was done on the Deprivation Index to be quite interesting.

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By ward 1 (anonymous) | Posted October 30, 2010 at 20:38:21

There is quite a number of immigrants in the poorer wards and without a citizenship we have no right to vote. The lower turnout could be partially explained by it. And yes, I would love to vote, so may be at the next election...

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted October 31, 2010 at 10:14:39

Here's an idea. Realign the ward boundaries to match federal/provincial riding boundaries, (Or as close to them as possible ) then elect two councillors per riding. Why is it that municipal/provincial/federal election boundaries are different? It makes no sense to me. Would it not benefit the people that are served by our elected politicians to have all 3 levels of government serve the same geographic areas at each level? Would it not make sense for these people to be on the same page? Just a thought.

Comment edited by Shempatolla on 2010-10-31 09:15:25

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted October 31, 2010 at 10:37:34

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Comment edited by turbo on 2010-10-31 09:37:55

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 31, 2010 at 10:41:27

No matter where the lines are drawn, I think the ward boundaries need to be rewritten.

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted October 31, 2010 at 10:51:58

I don't think the ward boundaries is the problem. The problem is a general lack of understanding that no matter where you make it easiest for poor people to collect social services thats where they'll live. As such the province does large cities a great disservice by making it a municipal responsibility ensuring only large cities have the ability to provide services. If it was just as easy to live in Freelton as it is to live in the city there would be many many many more choose to live in the surrounding areas and thus spread out the poor so they don't reach critical mass and doom entire communities to be unattractive to investment like they have in some neighbourhoods

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By adam2 (anonymous) | Posted October 31, 2010 at 11:27:53

Turbo: Your post claims that the suburbs and outlying areas are subsidizing the downtown. This is a fallacy. I think you are talking about the many halfway houses and subsidized programs that are based out of the downtown?

Remember that these subsidized programs and homes are populated with people from all over the GTA. In fact Hamilton receives money from the provincial government for taking mentally ill and those needing assistance from other cities.

I guess the solution would be for the city of Hamilton to start distributing the social programs and homes across the entire amalgamated city. This would mean you would have a halway house a couple blocks down the street from you. In this way, you would no longer be able to claim you are subsidizing the downtown because you'd have a subsidized program in your own neighbourhood! Make sense?

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By adam2 (anonymous) | Posted October 31, 2010 at 11:36:38

Just to add to my post, think of the "higher" taxes that subsidize social programs downtown as the price to pay for a homogeneous neighbourhood out in the suburbs. I can't how someone can let the downtown take care of all of society's needy and then turn around and complain about higher taxes. If these social programs didn't exist in the downtown, they'd have to exist somewhere else - your neighbourhood maybe?

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted October 31, 2010 at 11:43:51

Welfare as I have stated should not be a municipal responsibility. Since the province made it so Hamilton has been on the path to bankruptcy. Thats why the province forced amalgamation on H/W. The problem is that all that happened is the city sucked the suburbs dry. This is really a provincial issue. I actually advocate spreading services across the city. Welfare slums are a direct result of clustering services. BTW I used to live in the burbs but moved into Ward 3. So much for your theory that I am a NIMBY on this subject.

Comment edited by turbo on 2010-10-31 10:46:01

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted October 31, 2010 at 13:09:28

Turbo your suggestion that the city is sucking the suburbs dry is a fallacy. If you took a typical suburban home and plunked it down in the city the taxes on that home would likely triple. Under area rating homes in the city pay a vastly higher percentage based on the size of their lot/home than those in the suburbs. The move to area rating was done to placate suburban fears that amalgamation would be unfair. It was. To the people who live in the city. In one of your previous posts you suggested snow plowing etc was done by the former towns on budget and with no subsidy from the city. Again you are mistaken. With the exception of the towns proper, the outlying areas are regional roads and were plowed by Hamilton/Wentworth Regional trucks or contracted trucks. Thus money from the city was going towards that cost.

This fallacy that the suburbs are somehow paying the frieght for amalgamation needs to be put to rest.

Comment edited by Shempatolla on 2010-10-31 12:10:17

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted October 31, 2010 at 13:23:32

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Comment edited by turbo on 2010-10-31 12:40:22

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 31, 2010 at 13:57:33

Turbo, you are on to something in your assessment of the concentration of poverty, but your sense of the direction of causality w/r/t amalgamation is backward. I've spoken to a number of people who were part of the Harris government that forced amalgamation, and they all confirm that the government amalgamated the cities with their suburbs for the explicit purpose of creating a large enough regional tax base onto which they could then download social services.

They did not amalgamate Hamilton with its suburbs because Hamilton was "bankrupt"; Hamilton's finances were sustainable before amalgamation. Rather, they amalgamated the region because the city would be bankrupted once it had to assume social service costs as well - costs that, as you point out, are distributed unevenly across municipalities.

Amalgamation, and the service downloading that necessitates it, doesn't have winners and losers. Everyone loses when public costs are not located at the level that makes the most sense and when local communities lose autonomy and/or fair representation.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2010-10-31 12:59:51

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted October 31, 2010 at 14:08:43

You make some sense Ryan but frankly its still a worse deal for the burbs.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted October 31, 2010 at 14:29:19

Thanks to Hamilton's low development fees in the last decade, the average suburban house costs taxpayers ten or twenty thousand dollars more than we get back to extend even the bare minimum of services (water, roads etc) to them. Amalgamation was, is, and will continue to be flustered all to cluck, for a hundred reasons.

That being said, blaming social services for "bringing" poor people fails on every level. Not only does poverty exist where social services don't (rural residents have lower incomes than urban ones across the country), but not instituting the services only makes poverty worse. The absence of poor people in some suburbs is more a reflection of the high cost of living, inaccessibility and other factors which effectively forbid them from living there.

Meredith's right, though, words like "poor" and "rich" only tell part of the story. This is an issue which can never really be addressed without asking some very deep and probing questions about how ranked and stratified our society really is.

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By allantaylor97 (registered) | Posted October 31, 2010 at 14:42:29

Sorry but services attract people. The fact is that it is cheaper to live in small towns but since you cannot access services you need you move to where its more expensive but you get more money. Pretty simple theory and basically when cities started to pay the poor to move to other cities it was pretty much verified that people move to where the money is. Sadly its us

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted October 31, 2010 at 17:11:18

Welfare as I have stated should not be a municipal responsibility. - turbo

I can't believe this got downvoted.

You cannot effectively deal with the problem of poverty with the main onus being on cities.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted October 31, 2010 at 19:15:58

Interesting discussion. I was blissfully away from my internet connection for the past 48 hours, so I've been reading it all at once.

I probably should have picked a different city council vote to illustrate my thesis, as I did not intend this article to be about public transit. Rather, I was trying to illustrate how the urban versus suburban/rural narrative is used to justify a systemic under-representation of low-income neighbourhoods on city council. The HSR vote was an example of how that under-representation skews our municipal decision-making in a way that works counter to the interests of the majority of residents.

thompsmr's map raises an additional point of interest. Voter turnout correlates with income -- for example, in Ward 2 the highest voter turnout was in Durand and along the waterfront, and the lowest was in Beasley, north Corktown, and along Main St. West -- so ward councillors tend to adopt platforms that are tailored towards their higher-income constituents.

Richard DenOtter and Andrea: I did not mean to paint the lower city wards as slums or their residents as a monolithic block of "the poor." (Nor did I mean to paint the suburbs as elitist gated communities, or the rural communities as some other stereotype.) I myself am an affluent resident of Ward 2. But it is nevertheless true that (1) the lower city (and north Mountain) have (in aggregate) less affluent residents than the suburbs and rural areas, (2) the political interests of citizens tend to vary with income, and (3) our system of wards disproportionately allocates seats to richer neighbourhoods. That's all.

And I wrote this article because, as a voter in ward 2, I'm sick of politicians proposing solutions to poverty while being silent on the political under-representation of neighbourhoods (like mine) that are affected by poverty.

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By d.knox (registered) | Posted October 31, 2010 at 22:17:05

John: What difference do you think equal representation would make in a ward where fewer people vote anyway? If it's more or less the middle and upper classes who are voting, regardless of where they live, then what difference does more representation make in the lower city wards?

I could see your argument if the lower city wards had astonishingly high voter turnouts, yet their issues still weren't getting a fair hearing at council. But that's not the case.

Comment edited by d.knox on 2010-10-31 21:18:23

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted October 31, 2010 at 22:35:57

d.knox: equal representation would mean more representatives from the under-represented regions -- the lower city and also the north Mountain.

Yes, I argued above that councillors tend to favor the interests of people who actually vote, but it's not an all-or-nothing phenomenon. And while some issues tend to play out along socioeconomic lines, others play out according to geography. So the interests of all voters in wards 1-8 and 10 would be better (if imperfectly) served by a fair allocation of seats by population.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted November 01, 2010 at 09:39:17

Voter turnouts aren't going to improve as long as the under-representation of those communities continues to be blatantly obvious to those who live there.

Ask people why they don't vote, and you'll get one overwhelming answer, "they're all full of it anyway". Not terribly articulate, but also not very different from what many of us say all the time. The question is, why is it so hard for poor people to be taken seriously when they talk about these things, based on their own life experiences? Why can only privileged people talk publicly about the plight of the under-privileged?

Class affects language just like it affects cars, houses and clothing. When we construct debates around big impressive-sounding words and obscure references, we exclude a lot of people. RTH is a very middle-class forum in terms of the way we talk (I'm guessing most of us have at least some University, but everyone picks it up in their own way). It's not necessarily a bad thing - but we have to recognize that someone is not necessarily stupid because they haven't been professionally trained to talk this way.

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By realfreeenterpriser (registered) | Posted November 01, 2010 at 11:24:31

While I agree that equal representation is a desired outcome, this analysis seems to be ignoring the elephant in the room.

The inequity in representation in the new city is greater between the lower city and the mountain wards than between the lower city and the "suburbs". If my math is correct, the lower city has one repesentative for every 36,481 citizens, the mountain wards have one per 49,147 and the "suburbs" one per 24,959 That's a difference of 12,666 per representative between the lower and upper city and 11,522 between the lower city and the "suburbs".

There's really very little corelation between representation and income. Clearly, those with the highest income, Wards 9 through 15, tend to have the most representation but those in the middle income range, Wards 6,7 and 8 have the least. The lowest income wards, 1 through 5, have a level of representation that's almost smack dab in the middle.

Given that Wards 1 through 8 have existed unchanged for decades, and given that those boundaries could have been realligned on numerous occassions by Councillors in the old city, one has to wonder if the disparity in reprsention in the new city has less to do with income and more to do with Councillors in Wards 1 through 8 tacitly agreeing for years not to rock the boat and eliminate one of their colleague's seats in the lower city. Who really cares how big one's ward is if you've got a job for life?

Prediction: Ward reallignments necessarily begin on the fringes of a municipality and move to the centre. Hence, a rejigging of the existing 15 Wards would undoubtedly mean a radical reallignment/overlap of the "periperal" old city wards, 1,5,6,7 and 8 with the adjacent wards in Dundas, Ancaster, Stoney Creek and Glanbrook, I predict that, if any reallignment is proposed, it will involve an expansion of Council under the guise of preserving represntation in the "suburbs" when, it fact, it will be all about preserving Councillors' jobs in the lower city.

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted November 01, 2010 at 12:59:33

I think any ward realignment in the absence of other, much-needed changes to our municipal democratic system will merely amount to disruptive tinkering at the margins. Voters/taxpayers/citizens in the 'burbs will rightly get their backs up to a plan that would see their representation watered down, especially during the administration of a Mayor who has raised the spectre of de-amalgamation. There's nothing in it for those voters who already feel properly represented, however re-alignment makes sense within a larger plan to re-invigorate our civic democracy.

Top-of-mind considerations include:

(1) Two term limits. This is a no-brainer move that will limit the ability of career politicians to set up personal fiefdoms, and offer increased opportunities to up-and-coming candidates who are consistently defeated by incumbents with name-recognition.

(2) Some form of preferential voting, especially for the Mayor's race. There is nothing complicated about the idea of ranking your favourite candidates, and progressives must start combating the endless drone of conservative commentators who imply that the public is too stupid to comprehend any other system than FPTP.

(3) Electing some candidates at large. This may be a good way of achieving ward realignment with a populist spin. A la "Gravy Train" Ford, propose reducing the number of councilors by combining wards and having the top-two candidates in each ward elected to council. Though I'm a big proponent of direct, community-based democracy, I have yet to be convinced that more representatives = better decisions, so why not join the less-is-more bandwagon?

These are just the top three things on my list, and I can see each one working more effectively as a package than as a single reform.

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By d.knox (registered) | Posted November 01, 2010 at 13:59:36

I have to confess, I don't see it as a terribly big deal. Apart from ward 8 and ward 14, we're are more or less fairly well represented. Ward 8 was a little shocking, but if that was some agreed to arrangement before amalgamation, there's not much point in talking about redistribution now.

Frankly, if people want real representation and a real voice, they need to get involved. That's a much surer way of getting good representation that adjusting boundaries. People need to create citizen groups for whatever their favourite hobby horse is, behave in a manner which engenders respect and civility for everyone, and work with their councillors to achieve the desired result.

I know this is much harder to accomplish in some wards because civic engagement is time consuming, sometimes tedious, and often frustrating. But I think it was pointed out on RTH that you can't simply vote once every four years, do nothing civic in between elections, and still consider yourself to be involved in the process.

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By Paul (registered) | Posted November 04, 2010 at 14:05:50

Back to the transit issue, we need to reduce fares, increase service not only in frequency but reaching many outlying areas severely underserviced.

To do this we need to actually invest! A god start is actually using the gas tax which many others already do. By improving service you get more riders and then through that also get more from the gas tax. We lost money this year because we lost riders because we refuse to make significant advances with transit.

LRT will help but it is still in the future but we need work done now.

A big issue aside from service is this rather arrogant idea that transit is only for the poor. the car has become such a status symbol for success but why? what does having a car really mean? you get to pay insurance, sit in traffic jams, pay increasing gas prices, repairs etc. pollute the air force the city to pave more and more greenspace so single occupancy cars can play follow the leader everyday on congested highways etc.

I could buy a car but do not want one.

I use transit when needed or walk when possible. there is nothing wrong with using these options. For those outside the core a better transit in and out would mean that sometimes you could use it as well (depending on how close to town) as can your kids, seniors etc and anyone else who chooses to do so.

There is no shame in sustainable transportation and it is this false stigma that has a huge impact on ridership.

Investing in transit rather than stadiums, more roads and sprawling infrastructure is the best way not only to improve traffic and reduce fuel usage but increasing accessibility to other areas will help people get to jobs currently not possible because you need a car to get there. It also increases community to some extent as people would be travelling together instead of many seperate isolated vehicles (come on some riders can be rather colourful on some routes but that just makes the ride more interesting!).

For those who need their car for employment or the sheer number of locations to reach such as with some families, transit is still a viable method for non-essential trips or those during less hectic moments in life.

Our city continues to grow but it's transportation system lags years behind (like many other things) and we need to fix it now.

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By Pangloss (anonymous) | Posted November 05, 2010 at 12:13:48

Hamilton: the best of all possible cities?

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted November 05, 2010 at 13:59:48

@Pangloss Do you want me to be candid?

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