Petition to Revise Hamilton Ward Boundaries

By Ken Sills
Published April 13, 2012

this blog entry has been updated

All voters are equal, but some voters are more equal than others. City councillors have decided not to revise the ward boundaries before the 2014 municipal election. This means that the most represented ward (ward 14) will have nearly four times the voting power as the least represented ward (ward 7).

This democratic deficit has been reported by Citizens at City Hall (CATCH), Hamilton Spectator( and Occupy Hamilton, and is clearly visible in census data posted on RTH.

The City of Hamilton governance review sub-committee also reported on both the problem, and a potential solution.

Often, these articles point out that all that is needed to force Hamilton city council to take care of this problem is a petition with the names of 500 concerned Hamilton residents. If our councillors do not act after receipt of the petition, anyone who signed the petition can take the matter to the Ontario Municipal Board.

The process is explained here. This has happened before in London, Ontario, where the OMB's decision forced the city to revise its ward boundaries.

This is not a popular issue. Our councillors will continue to focus on running our city while ignoring the divisive issue of fair representation. What they need is for citizens to force their hand by delivering a petition that requires their action. They will defer and delay until the OMB decides for them.

Why wait any longer? Print out a copy of the petition form [PDF] and ask fifteen eligible Hamilton electors to sign it. Kindly send the completed petition to:

All Voters Are Equal
41 Uplands Avenue
Hamilton ON
L8S 3Z6

You can also sign the petition at tonight's Art Crawl on James North. Look for Chris Cutler at the corner of James and Cannon.

Most of us know at least fifteen people who will be happy to sign. Many businesses would be happy to put the petition on their store counter for people to sign.

If 50 people get 15 signatures each, we will have enough to go to Council and begin the process. If we don't, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Update: Here is a list of locations where you can sign a petition:

Ken Sills is a physicist and engineer who works and studies at McMaster University. He also is the bass player and singer for the Hamilton band Wednesday's Engine. He served as member-at-large representing Wards 1 and 2 on the Citizens' Forum on Area Rating.


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By mrgrande (registered) | Posted April 13, 2012 at 08:45:13

Look for Chris Cutler at the corner of James and Cannon.

I will try, but I don't know who Chris Cutler is.

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By MattJelly (registered) - website | Posted April 13, 2012 at 08:50:25 in reply to Comment 75900

He'll be at the North East corner of James and Cannon with a clipboard. :)

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted April 13, 2012 at 09:34:01

I like the idea of printing and mailing signed petitions. Online ones obviously miss so many people. I can discuss this with some people who might not otherwise read this or bother to take a few moments to sign an online petition, and turn my othwerwise one signature, into say 15 or at least more than just mine.

I like the notion that we could possibly create more change no matter who was elected, if we could win many other battles in this matter with an office like the OMB, able to force councils hand with large numbers of signatures.

There will possibly always be so many that don't vote but would they listen to a friend or family member for 5 minutes and sign petitions?

What if voting was less important? What if we did this for things like the Board of Ed? A video like Matts and a 2 page printout that strongly pointed out both sides so possible petitioners knew all the facts and could chose to use a simple signature to make a difference?

Is there a way to make the people in office less significant? For them to truly represent our voice and not their own?

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By Butterfly Ballot (anonymous) | Posted April 13, 2012 at 09:45:58 in reply to Comment 75902

Constant vigilance, ceaseless civic engagement, tireless advocacy. It's not rocket science. It just requires a less passive citizenry.

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By CouldaWouldaShoulda (anonymous) | Posted April 13, 2012 at 10:27:43

Something from the sidelines: I've been in touch with councillors today. And after reading what I'd sent them, that the element front-and-center is the disparity in ward populations, this is what was offered from one:

"Thanx for this however in the criteria established by the Province (and in recent OMB decisions), rep by pop is amongst the least of the deciding factors."

Be prepared to be sandbagged. The expected tactic will be to deflate the impetus by pointing out that 'the powers that be' won't go along with ward boundary reform if it's solely predicated on numbers.

I responded accordingly. : )

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By Brendan Simons (anonymous) | Posted April 13, 2012 at 10:59:13

Wait, I'm confused. If Wards 11 and 12 saw the biggest increase in population since 2006 (per the CATCH article), won't the suburbs be getting more councillors out of this process? How is that going to improve the urban/suburban split on council?

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted April 13, 2012 at 22:29:03 in reply to Comment 75907

That would be the case if all of the wards currently represented equal numbers of people, which is not so. In fact, there is almost a fourfold difference in population between our smallest and largest wards.

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By kensills (registered) | Posted April 13, 2012 at 22:28:51 in reply to Comment 75907

Hi Brennan,

I believe that when a ward's population is substantially above or below the average, it's boundary should be changed to ensure proper representation. I don't want to frame this as urban versus suburban versus rural, and would rather think of it as fair representation for all residents of Hamilton.

However, if you look at the census data provided in the RTH link in the article, you will see that ward 7 is currently the most under-represented ward.



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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted April 13, 2012 at 12:37:28

This is great; thanks Ken. I've printed out a copy and will get my neighbours to sign it and send it off. Ideally, when do you want the completed forms in by?

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By kensills (registered) | Posted April 13, 2012 at 22:15:31 in reply to Comment 75910


There is no set date for this. We'll need around 750 signatures before we can proceed. When I checked at the art crawl at around 8pm, we had a little over a hundred. If we could get the signed petitions before the end of next week or sooner, that would be best. I don't want anyone's work to go to waste.

Thanks for supporting this!


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By CouldaWouldaShoulda (anonymous) | Posted April 13, 2012 at 12:48:57

It's worth the time to take a look at this:

Especially the source document:

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted April 14, 2012 at 09:56:31

Was able to get 60 signatures at Hamilton HIStory + HERitage last night. When people understood that the petition was being use to trigger the discussion with and by Council, they had no problem signing. I told them we were not proposing a specific solution, other than trying to make things fairer than they are now. The solution will come through the dialogue, although the goal is pretty clear.

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By C. Erl (registered) - website | Posted April 14, 2012 at 21:30:10

The petition got around 40 signatures in a day from the Hamiltonian students and staff at Mac. People are definitely looking for a conversation about representation.

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By where? (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2012 at 11:01:25

is there a place downtown to sign?

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By CouldaWouldaShoulda (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2012 at 12:21:24

Here are some observations from a fellow Ontarian, including some wise caveats:

I led a petition drive in Windsor that was successful in convincing our Council to change their mind and change our wards rather than letting the OMB do it. One thing to remind all signatories is that in order for their signature to be valid, they must have been an eligible voter in the last Hamilton Municipal election. This is why you need to get more than 500 signatures. The City Clerk will compare your petition against the last election list and strike anyone off it that does not qualify. In Windsor we collected just over 800 signatures and the end result was close to 600 valid signatories once it was checked. Here's a link to the entire process followed by Windsor, including the consultant's reports. While the situation is obviously different in Hamilton, the reports are worth reading to get an understanding of the Carter case you refer to and to grasp all of the factors considered when looking at new boundaries. One final note, including calling back the consultant for further studies after they first tried to shelve everything, I believe the entire cost for the consultant was in the neighbourhood of $60,000.

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By HamiltonTransitHistory (registered) - website | Posted April 19, 2012 at 10:35:01

Last year, the city of Washington DC had a similar issue. The Greater Greater Washington blog created an online game that allowed people to adjust the ward boundaries themselves to come up with possible scenarios. Anyone want to create a similar game for Hamilton?


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By JoeyColeman (registered) - website | Posted April 19, 2012 at 14:16:12 in reply to Comment 76056

Thanks for finding this.

I believe I can do the work on it.

  • Joey

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