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Six-Ward Council system coming to Aurora in 2022

July 2, 2020   ·   0 Comments

A significant shake-up is coming to local government in time for the next municipal election.

Council last week formally approved measures that will replace the current “at large” system of government in 2022 in favour of six electoral wards.

Presently, Aurorans vote for a Mayor and up to six Councillors to represent the community as a whole. In the new model, which was approved on a 4 – 3 vote on June 23, residents will still be able to elect a Mayor to represent the entire community but will be tasked with selecting a single Council candidate to represent their neighbourhood’s interests.

“As our community grows and the demographics change, we need to look at how we can provide the best possible governance for all Aurorans,” said Mayor Mrakas, speaking in favour of the motion to adopt the Six-Ward model. “I believe we will see a more diverse field of candidates as well as representation from all areas of our Town.

“This change is about better governance, better engagement with our community from our Councillors. This will lead to a more informed and a more engaged community…which will make our Town even better.”

The themes of better engagement from residents and Council members alike were embraced by Councillors Harold Kim, Sandra Humfryes and Michael Thompson, who joined Mayor Mrakas in voting in favour of the new system.

For those voting against the ward system, it was a matter of public engagement.

Councillors Wendy Gaertner, John Gallo and Rachel Gilliland each expressed concerns there wasn’t a fulsome buy-in from members of the public while citing results from a 2014 referendum held in conjunction with that year’s municipal election which saw voters give the thumbs-up to a reduced number of Councillors but a thumbs-down to a ward system.

“On very big issues that effect everyone, I think it is incumbent upon us to reach out to the residents,” said Councillor Gallo. “I would be in favour of sending the [Six-Ward proposal] back to staff and asking them, ‘How do we implement a mid-term referendum?’ in order to gauge the community. It is an error making this decision without properly engaging the public.”

Members of the public had the opportunity to speak out for or against a ward system at the start of last Tuesday’s meeting.

Resident Rebecca Beaton was the only resident to do so, connecting to the virtual Council meeting via telephone.

“Voters voted against the ward system and yet subsequently a committee was formed, a consulting firm was hired and $100,000 was spent on this issue,” said Ms. Beaton, asking each Council member to explain their position “in 30 seconds or less…why you are even considering this if a majority of residents said no?”

With the decision now made, however, the Six-Ward configuration, as adopted, will divide Aurora into electoral districts in a model designed to maintain voter parity for more than a decade to come.

Ward 1, barring any later tweaks, will be bordered by the railroad tracks in the east, Orchard Heights Boulevard in the south, Bathurst Street in the west, and the Town’s boundary with Newmarket in the north.

Orchard Heights will be the northern boundary of Ward 2, with Yonge Street at the easternmost edge, Kennedy Street West in the south, and Bathurst in the west.

Bathurst, Kennedy Street West, and Yonge will form the west, north and east edge of Ward 3, with the railway line as the southern marker.

The largest ward by area will be Ward 4, which is bounded at the south by Bloomington Road, to the west by the railway tracks, Wellington Street East in the north and Highway 404 in the east.

Aurora’s fastest growing communities in the northeast will be divided in two by Mavrinac Boulevard.

On the west side of Mavrinac will be Ward 5, which is bordered by St. John’s Sideroad in the north, the rail line in the west, and Wellington in the south.

Ward Six will include the entire northeast quadrant of Mavrinac and Wellington Street West up to the boundary with Newmarket in the north and Highway 404 in the east.

“The recommendation is based on projected populations for the Town, an objective analysis of the ward boundary options for Aurora and two rounds of public engagement,” said consultants in their final report to Council. “Along with the expertise of the Consultant Team, Round 1 informed the development of four options for a new ward system and Round 2 informed the selection of the preferred option and its ward boundaries.

“Given the projected populations, the recommended ward alignment should serve Aurora for three and possibly four municipal elections – 2022, 2026, 2030, and perhaps 2034. The recommended ward configuration achieves effective representation and is based on principles established by the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal and the Courts.”

By Brock Weir



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