Residents concerned boundaries include disparate neighbourhoods
The City of Edmonton is reshaping city wards in time for next October’s civic election.
“Administration provides a report to council on the City ward boundaries following every municipal election,” says the Edmonton Elections office. “Small adjustments to boundaries are often made following these reviews.” They take into account potential growth and decline of each ward.
Since the last election, the City of Edmonton has annexed land from Leduc County and from the City of Beaumont. Edmonton has also had extensive residential development.
Because of these changes, city council reviewed ward boundaries and created a temporary committee called the Ward Boundary Commission. According to the Edmonton Elections Office, “The commission was tasked with reviewing the current state of Edmonton’s ward boundaries, reviewing Council’s existing Ward Boundary Design Policy and providing recommendations to guide future ward boundary amendments.”
The commission advised the wards be reshaped to better accommodate the city’s growth. In June, Indigenous Elders and Indigenous community members asked city council to consider changing the names for the new wards. A committee of Indigenous Elders gave Anishinaabe names to the wards, which will replace the previous number system.
When creating ward boundaries, the City considers factors such as community league boundaries and communities with shared interests or roadways.
The new boundaries change the wards for all seven of RCP’s neighbourhoods. Spruce Ave and Westwood will now be in a ward called O-day’min. Alberta Ave, Eastwood, Parkdale, and Elmwood Park will be in Métis. Visit https://tinyurl.com/yy7cqzea for maps of the proposed boundaries.
Suzzette Mellado, a senior communications advisor with the City, says, “Changes to ward boundaries must be made through bylaw and passed no later than December 31, 2020 for them to take effect on Election Day this upcoming October 18, 2021.” Mellado notes the proposed bylaw needs three readings before Dec. 31 in order for it to pass. These changes were made official as of Dec. 7.
These new boundaries are a concern to some residents.
“Our new ward Métis will be the only ward that has neighbourhoods on both sides of the river,” says Steven Townsend, president of Parkdale Cromdale Community League. “We have heard some worry that the concerns in our area of town may not be the same as the concerns of the constituents on the south side of the river.”
Though Townsend is hopeful a councillor will be elected that represents the diversity of the new ward, he says he believes community leagues will continue to work together. “We have already used the opportunity to form new relationships with leagues on the south side of the river.”
Evan Halbert, development director with Alberta Avenue Community League, says, “Our initial concerns with the new ward boundaries relate to how the community leagues in our area will be represented once lumped in with more affluent neighbourhoods with (generally) higher voter turnout south of the river. That being said, at least some of those neighbourhoods are dealing with issues similar to those which are ongoing in terms of development (and the City’s continual granting of exceptions to development rules to accommodate developers), so there’s certainly some areas of mutual concern.”
The league also has concerns that the councillor of the new ward may not adequately represent the league and the surrounding communities and that they may lose their Neighbourhood Resource Coordinator to reassignment.
“It is challenging to always be at the edge of political boundaries (97 Street is the boundary for municipal, provincial, and federal jurisdictions) and the ward re-draw does not change that, obviously. This means that we are never together with our Alberta Avenue neighbours, even though we share resources and enjoy other partnerships,” says Kate Boorman, president of Spruce Avenue Community League.
Boorman explains, “With the development of Blatchford and other downtown development/expansion, that feels a more accurate reflection of Spruce Ave’s physical location.” It would also better represent their needs. “Spruce Avenue shares similar challenges and concerns regarding densification and development as other core/downtown neighbourhoods.”
Boorman hopes the ward change opens the door to new partnerships for events and advocacy.
“For Spruce Avenue, I hope the particular concerns, challenges, and opportunities we share with central neighbourhoods/the downtown are well represented.”
Feature image: The city now has new ward boundaries. | City of Edmonton