22 Jun, 2017

New IMFG research paper explores the contested legal terrain of ward boundary reviews

New paper from the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance provides lessons for cities across Canada from Toronto’s 2013 ward boundary review.

Toronto, June 22, 2017 – In 2013, the City of Toronto embarked on its first ward boundary review (WBR) since the enactment of the City of Toronto Act, 2006. By the time the review began, the populations of Toronto’s 44 wards varied widely across the city’s, ranging from 45,000 to 90,000 residents. This discrepancy had significant representational issues for city residents, as noted by the City Clerk’s Office who questioned whether “constituents are fairly and adequately represented among all wards.” It also left the city legally vulnerable: under the City of Toronto Act, 2006, 500 electors can petition the OMB for new, more equitable ward boundaries in exactly these circumstances.

A newly released IMFG Paper, (Re)creating Boundary Lines: Assessing Toronto’s Ward Boundary Review Process, evaluates the City’s ward boundary review process. According to the report’s author, U of T Professor Alexandra Flynn, “the ward boundary review process is a legal minefield, with broad principles but no clear rules, the potential for residents to appeal proposed boundaries, and a lack of precedent in decisions made by the Ontario Municipal Board.”

Across Ontario and elsewhere in Canada and the United States, there are no firm rules when it comes to ward-based representation. This paper presents a number of lessons for other municipalities embarking on such reviews.

About the Author

Alexandra Flynn is an Assistant Professor in the Human Geography and City Studies program at the University of Toronto (Scarborough), where she teaches and researches in the area of urban governance. She is currently co-editing a special volume of the Journal of Law and Social Policy on interdisciplinary approaches to planning and property law. In addition to her academic work, Alexandra has more than 10 years’ experience as a lawyer and senior policy official, most recently at the City of Toronto, where she worked in intergovernmental relations.

About the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance (IMFG)
The Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance is a research hub and think tank that focuses on the fiscal and governance challenges facing large cities and city-regions. It is located within the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.

For more information, please contact:
Selena Zhang | Manager, Programs and Research
Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance
Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto
selena.zhang@utoronto.ca | 416-978-2168