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Bradford West Gwillimbury

Bradford West Gwillimbury > Ward Boundary Review

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Ward Boundary Review

The Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury is undertaking a Council Composition and Ward Boundary Review.

Project Status

The consultant team of Watson & Associates Economists Ltd., in association with Dr. Robert J. Williams, has completed a thorough evaluation of the Town’s existing electoral structure and has also heard the public’s thoughts. They have presented council composition and ward boundary options for the public and council to consider, and incorporated feedback into a final version, which has been adopted by council. See the Notice for information regarding appeals.

The final report, and final ward maps, are available in the Documents menu at right.

Background and More Information

Below you'll find some​ context to the review, including the study objectives, process ​and schedule, as well as the guiding principles. The guiding principles will help in the development of ward boundary options for Council to consider for adoption.​

 Select a topic to learn more:

How to Participate

​Thank you to everyone who participated in public consultation!

Council has approved the revised ward boundaries, and passed a by-law to enacut the re-division of wards in the municipality.

Under subsection 222(4) of the Municipal Act, 2001, any person or agency may appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal if they have an objection to the by-law passed by the municipality. Appeals must be filed within 45 days of the by-law being passed. The last day for filing an appeal is Thursday, August 5, 2021. 

Any appeals of By-law 2021-49 must be filed with Rebecca Murphy, Clerk, The Corporation of the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury, 100 Dissette Street, P.O. Box 100, Bradford, ON, L3Z 2A7, setting out the objections to the by-law and the reasons in support of the objections.​

Study Objectives

The project has several key tasks, as​ follows:
  • Develop a clear understanding of the present ward structure. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the present system and explore alternative options.
  • Develop and conduct an appropriate consultation process in accordance with the Town’s public engagement practices in light of the present public health emergency.
  • Prepare population projections to 2030 and evaluate alternative electoral structures for the 2022, 2026 and 2030 municipal elections.​​
  • Write and deliver a report that will set out council composition recommendations and alternative ward boundaries to ensure effective and equitable electoral arrangements for the Town.

Guiding Principles

There are no standard practices, terms of reference, criteria or guiding principles, either in provincial legislation or regulation, that c​an be used to evaluate the municipality’s electoral system. Instead, municipalities look to relevant Ontario Municipal Board (now the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal) decisions, case law such as Reference re Provincial Electoral Boundaries (Sask.), [1991] (“the Carter decision”), and best practices followed in other municipalities to establish appropriate guiding principles. The following guiding principles have been developed from such sources and will apply to the review in BWG.

The objective of the review is to evaluate the suitability of the present council composition and wards in terms of the guiding principles and to develop alternative designs that are consistent with these principles.

Effective Representation

  • When defining effective representation as the right protected by the Charter, the Supreme Court of Canada noted that the relative parity of voting power was a prime, but not an exclusive, condition of effective representation. Deviations can be justified where the consideration of other factors, such as geography, community history, community interests and minority representation, would result in a legislative body that was more representative of Canada’s diversity. According to the Court, considering all these factors provides effective representation.

Representation by Population

  • Voters should be equally represented, and wards should have reasonably equal population totals. Voter parity should be the goal of ward boundary reviews (WBRs).
  • Population size variances of between plus or minus 25 per cent are generally accepted as the maximum variance to achieve voter parity.

Representation of Communities of Interest

  • The Carter decision recognizes that the protection of communities of interest may justifiably override the principle of voter parity where the inclusion of a community of interest will lead to a system that is more representative of the Town’s diversity. The Court did not define what constitutes a community of interest; however, it has been understood in Ontario Municipal Board appeals to recognize historical settlement patterns or existing neighbourhoods and to include social, historical, economic, religious, linguistic or political groups.

Population & Electoral Trends

  • WBRs should consider future changes in ward population. Being mindful of anticipated population trends will ensure that a ward and its residents are neither advantaged nor disadvantaged because of development activity throughout the Town. WBRs should take into consideration anticipated changes in population over a period of twelve years, or three elections.

Geographical and Topographical Features as Boundaries

  • Ward boundaries will be drawn impartially and with consideration to using distinct physical and geographic features. Physical features should be leveraged as they create pre-existing boundaries that ​naturally divide Town residents and may facilitate the effective representation of the ward’s residents.

Study Process

​​The review has be​en broken down into a number of tasks, as follows:

Task 1: Project Initiation, Information Gathering and Research
At the outset of the study process, members of the consultant team conferred with key municipal staff to discuss details of the proposed consultation, the scope of the project activities, deliverables and the draft schedule for the project. The consultant t​eam will also undertake research on the present and historical electoral arrangements in BWG, as well as relevant academic and public policy research on representation.

Task 2: Interviews with the Mayor and Members of Council
Interviews will be conducted to understand and evaluate the operation of the current electoral structure and to determine what directions might be considered in developing recommendations.

Task 3: Compilation of Existing and Forecast Population, and GIS Data Modelling
Using latest development data, discussions with Town planning staff and growth projections data, utilize geographic information systems (GIS) software to represent existing 2020 population, forecast growth (2020 to 2030), and future year population in a spatial format.

Task 4: Public Consultation (Round 1)
Public consultation is a valuable part of the WBR and will be conducted in a format consistent with physical distancing protocols being enforced during the COVID-19 public health emergency. The Round 1 consultation is intended to inform the public on the Council Composition and Ward Boundary Review process and the guiding principles detailed in the Terms of Reference for the project. Opportunities will be provided to permit participants to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the current system (including the overall number of elected officials), the guiding principles and their relative importance for consideration in the development of alternatives, including the identification of communities of interest. Responses from participants will be collected through a survey available on the Town website and in other appropriate formats; the input received from the consultation will inform the development of the preliminary recommendations and ward boundary options.

Task 5: Evaluation of the Existing System
The degree to which the current configuration is effective and equitable based on the guiding principles will be evaluated.

Task 6: Development of Preliminary Ward Boundary Alternatives
A number of preliminary ward boundary alternative configurations will be developed for the Town. Each alternative will be developed and evaluated in terms of the guiding principles identified.

Task 7: Public Consultation (Round 2)
Following the format for Round 1, the consultant will seek public perceptions of the preliminary alternatives based on a draft report. Responses from participants will be collected through a survey available on the Town’s website and in other appropriate formats; the input received from the consultation will inform the development of the final recommendations to be presented to Town Council.

Task 8: Finalization of Alternatives
Further analysis and evaluation of preliminary alternatives based on feedback will be conducted and alternatives will be finalized.

Task 9:​ Prepare Reports
A final report will be prepared which will present recommendations on council size and composition as well as finalized ward boundary alternatives and be presented to Town Council.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Ward Boundary Review?

A ward is a geographical division of a city, town or township for administrative or political purposes.

A Ward Boundary Review (WBR) is a task conducted on behalf of a municipality to assess whether the present wards constitute an effective and equitable system of representation and, if not, to propose alternatives. 

The Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury is governed by a nine-member Council, composed of a Mayor, a Deputy Mayor and seven local Councillors who each represent a ward. In addition, the Mayor and Deputy Mayor, who are both elected at-large, also represent the Town on the County of Simcoe council. Click to see the current Town of BWG ward map.

What does Council Composition mean?

Under Ontario legislation, a municipal council must consist of no fewer than five members, one of whom is the Mayor who must be elected at-large. Councillors may be elected in wards, at-large or some combination of the two systems. There is no prescribed maximum size for a municipal Council and no direction about whether to elect Councillors in wards or at-large.

The Council Composition Review component of this study will assess whether the present number of councillors should be changed and, if so, what number would be appropriate for a municipality like Bradford West Gwillimbury. The review would also consider the implications of dissolving the ward system to elect local councillors.

Why is Bradford West Gwillimbury doing this review?

The ward boundaries in BWG have not been reviewed since 2009. Since then, The Town’s population has grown by more than 40% and is expected to continue growing. 

In addition, growth has not been uniform and over the next decade will continue to be concentrated in specific areas. This means that there is a significant variation in population between wards. The Town aspires to a ward system that represents each of its residents equally.

Population by ward*:

Ward #​
​2016 Population Estimate
​Optimal Range
Ward 1
Ward 2
​Ward 3
Ward 4
Ward 5
​Ward 6
​Ward 7
​Avg. size

*Source: Statistics Canada Census derived by Watson & Associates Economists Ltd. Note: numbers have been rounded.

What does a Council Composition and Ward Boundary Review mean for me?

BWG’s Council makes important decisions about the municipality that impact your daily life. The councillors in the Town are elected in separate wards. A successful system should ensure that the Town has the right number of councillors and that all areas of the Municipality are represented fairly and accurately so that your voice and needs are reflected in Council decision-making. 

The review is being completed to ensure that the electoral system functions in a way that is representative of the entire community.

What will be considered in this review? 

The objective is to ensure that residents benefit from an effective and equitable system of representation. This will be achieved by evaluating the suitability of the present council composition and the present and proposed wards using these guiding principles:

  • Effective representation
  • Representation by population (relative population parity)
  • Communities of interest (recognize community groupings/avoid fragmenting communities of interest) 
  • Future population trends (consider population for three election cycles) 
  • Physical and natural boundaries (easily recognizable, make use of permanent natural features)

Who is conducting the Ward Boundary Review?

The municipality has retained Watson and Associates Economists Ltd. and Dr. Robert Williams to conduct a comprehensive and independent WBR through a process established by Council.

Together the consultant team has conducted more than 25 ward boundary reviews in Ontario. They will use their experience to assess the present electoral arrangements in BWG and provide recommendations and design alternatives consistent with the guiding principles.

How and when will the Ward Boundary Review be conducted?

​January 2021

​​First, ​​the consultants will gather information on the present ward system from interviews with Town staff and elected officials, and compile data on the present and projected population.

January-April 2021

​​The consu​​ltants will assess council composition and the present ward boundaries and develop alternative designs.

​1st Round March 2021/ 2nd Round TBD

​Public consultation is essential for the review process to be legitimate​​​ and effective, by allowing the community to provide input on the current and proposed ward boundary structures. The first phase of public consultation will focus on the evaluation of both the existing council and wards and gathering information on which of the guiding principles should be prioritized. The second phase of public consultation will focus primarily on council composition recommendations and ward boundary reconfiguration options.

  • Public consultation sessions (i.e. open houses) will be held virtually to advise the public and gain their feedback. These sessions will be advertised on this website, Town social media and local news sources.
  • Surveys will be available during the open house sessions, as well as on this website​

In​​​ light of the pandemic, public consultation will be implemented in accordance with the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury’s public engagement practices, in a format consistent with required physical distancing protocols. The sessions will be converted to live meetings if and when such events are permitted.

​Before June 2021

​A final report will be​ submitted to Council, who will:

  • determine the size of council,
  • determine how members of council are elected (i.e. in wards or at-large); and 
  • divide, redivide or dissolve existing wards.​
​Before September 2021 (if required)

​Municipal electors may also petition Council or appeal ward boundary decisions to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (formerly the Ontario Municipal Board.)​