The federal government is not the only one thinking about boundary changes. The City of Brampton is considering boundary adjustments to account for the rapid population growth over the last decade. The city council has approved one map for the community to comment on. Before I describe the proposal I wanted to briefly comment that it is unfortunate that the council is only presenting one proposals. The council was given four different options, and is, in a way, limiting choices to the public.
The council has endorsed a map to add two more wards to Brampton and therefore elect one city councillor and one regional councillor. This will bring the total to 12 members of the council, with the mayor being the 13th. The additional two councillors are in response to the Ontario government awarding Brampton an extra seat at Peel Regional Council. Brampton elects its regional councillors, but over the last year or so the city council has selected a member from its ranks to represent the seat at Peel. The position comes with additional pay, and according to the Brampton Guardian, has resulted in some internal conflict at City Hall.
In terms of representation Brampton is about average in Canada. Currently Brampton has one councillor for 52,000 residents, the addition of two more seats would bring the per capita representation to 44,000. Toronto sits at 59,000 and neighbouring Mississauga is at 65,000. The city councillors argue that additional councillors are needed due to growing constituent needs, and the fact that office staff is shared between two councillors. Therefore the cost of the increase will result in the expense of two councillors’ salaries, and one full-time executive assistant.
All four proposed maps can be found here and the final one being offered to the public here. I have no issue with the boundaries. It should be remembered that in Brampton wards are paired together and each elect a city and regional councillor. Any population imbalance is likely solved by joining together its pairing ward. If there is a community interest at stake then I’m sure someone can express it.
The city is holding public consultation in November. The dates of the consultations can be found here.
Mayor Fennell and other members of Brampton’s council have come out against the proposal. The suggestion to add two councillors makes sense to me, and addresses a simple problem in allocating that new seat and maintaining the balance between city and regional councillors. However, Brampton’s city council is somewhat of an opaque institution. While they are not necessarily hiding anything the public knows very little of what their representatives are up to. In addition incumbency is rampant at city hall. In the 2010 elections all eleven politicians at city hall were returned to office.
Whether or not there are eleven or thirteen councillors in 2014 will make very little difference. I think it is time to start considering reforms. I am not sure what they might be but such a static cast of leadership cannot be healthy for a city in such profound need of reform.