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The City of Sault Ste. Marie


Ward Boundaries

Current Ward Boundaries

Currently, the municipality is divided geographically into six wards. Each ward is represented by two members of council.

Current Ward Map

Address Locator Map

Proposed Ward Boundaries

The proposed boundary changes to create a five ward system have been designed bearing in mind the following guiding principles: representation by population; communities of interest and neighbourhoods; present and future population trends; and physical features as natural boundaries. All of these are subject to the overriding principle of effective representation as enunciated by the Supreme Court of Canada. At this stage the proposed boundaries are in draft form pending further community input.

The Principle of Effective Representation

The principle of effective representation was set out by the Supreme Court of Canada in Reference Re Provincial Electoral Boundaries (Saskatchewan), [1991] 2 S.C.R. 158 (Carter), the leading authority for evaluating electoral systems in Canada.

The issue in Carter was whether a difference in population between provincial ridings in Saskatchewan infringed the right to vote protected by section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In Carter, the Supreme Court held that the purpose of the right to vote enshrined in the Charter is not "equality of voting power" but the right to "effective representation." Effective representative is the right to be "represented in government," where "representation" entails both the right to a voice in the deliberations of government (the legislative role of elected representatives) and the right to bring your concerns to your representative (the ombudsman role of elected representatives).

Effective representation begins with voter parity, the idea that all votes should have equal weight and, as a result, the number of people living in each ward should be similar. According to the Supreme Court:

"A system which dilutes one citizen's vote unduly as compared with another citizen's vote runs the risk of providing inadequate representation to the citizen whose vote is diluted. The legislative power of the citizen whose vote is diluted will be reduced, as may be access to and assistance from his or her representative. The result will be uneven and unfair representation."

The Supreme Court held that while parity is of "prime importance" it is "not the only factor to be taken into account in ensuring effective representation:"

Notwithstanding the fact that the value of a citizen's vote should not be unduly diluted, effective representation often cannot be achieved without taking other factors into consideration in achieving a balance.

The principle of effective representation has been interpreted and applied in Ontario Municipal Board cases regarding ward boundary issues.

Representation by Population

Ideally, population in all five wards would be equal; however, a variance of up to 25% has been deemed acceptable when balanced against other principles. The proposed boundary changes result in the following population distribution:

Percentage of
Total Population
Ward 1 16,886 115%
Ward 2 13,881 95%
Ward 3 14,507 99%
Ward 4 16,095 110%
Ward 5 11,999 82%
Total 73,368  
Mean 14,674  

While the proposed new Ward 5 would have a lesser population, this is offset by the significantly larger geographical area it occupies.

Proposed ward boundaries duplicate census subdivisions, giving ward councillors insights into demographics, income, housing type, ethnicity and other census data pertaining to their constituents.

Communities of Interest and Neighbourhoods

Proposed ward boundaries are respectful of historical neighbourhoods and communities of interest. There are very few examples of historical neighbourhoods being bisected by the boundaries. As well, the focal areas of current development (Downtown area - Ward 2, Great Northern Road corridor - Ward 3) are now encompassed within one ward.

Present and Future Population Trends

The proposed Wards 1, 2 and 4 are fairly densely populated, while Wards 3 and 5 (as proposed) have lower population density and potential for future development. The population levels in all proposed wards should remain within the acceptable variance ratios for the near to medium term.

Physical Features as Natural Boundaries

Using natural and man-made features that already serve as physical boundaries helps to ensure a coherent, contiguous shape that is straightforward. The proposed boundaries follow arterial routes and physical boundaries such as rail lines.

Next Steps

The Minister of Municipal Affairs or any other person or agency may appeal a ward boundary by-law to the Ontario Municipal Board within 45 days of passage. Any appeals must be finalized by December 31, 2017 in order for the boundaries to be in place for the 2018 municipal election.

Two open houses will be held at the Civic Centre in order to provide detailed information to the public and to obtain community input.

Public Open Houses

Date: July 26, 2017 and August 2, 2017
Time: 4 - 7 p.m.
Location: Russ Ramsay Board Room, Civic Centre, 99 Foster Drive

A by-law regarding Council composition and ward boundaries will appear on the August 21, 2017 Council Agenda (which may include amendments recommended as a result of public consultations).

Maps and Reports

Proposed Ward Map

Limits of Proposed Ward Boundaries

Council Report

Questions and Comments

Questions and comments may also be directed to the following individuals:

Malcolm White
Deputy CAO / City Clerk, Corporate Services, City of Sault Ste. Marie

Rachel Tyczinski
Deputy City Clerk / Manager of Quality Improvement, City of Sault Ste. Marie
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