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Lack of representation on Calgary City Council and the New Wards

By DJ Kelly February 20, 2009

Yes, it is true – despite much protesting from Alderman Andre Chabot – the City of Calgary has decided to change it’s Ward maps for 2010. This was done, from what I understand, to create a more balanced work-load among alderman, as some Wards have grown larger than others in recent years.

Personally, I really liked Ald. Chabot’s suggestion that maybe it is time for the City to add two more alderman to the fold. The city has grown by leaps and bounds since the number of aldermen was expanded to 14 in 1976. (Here come the numbers!) In fact the population has more than doubled in that time! (470,043 people in 1976 to 988,193 in 2006.)

Council barely batted an eye at Chabot’s suggestion however. So I thought I’d do a little research to see what the top 25 most populous Canadian cities let pass for democratic representation. Here’s my chart in all of it’s Wikipedia researched glory:

Municipality Population 2006 # of Councillors (not incl Mayor) # Citizens Represented
Toronto 2,503,281 44 56,893
Montreal 1,620,693 64 25,323
Calgary 988,193 14 70,585
Ottawa 812,129 23 35,310
Edmonton 730,372 12 60,864
Mississauga 668,549 11 60,777
Winnipeg 633,451 15 42,230
Vancouver 578,041 10 57,804
Hamilton 504,559 15 33,637
Quebec City 491,142 37 13,274
Brampton 433,806 10 43,381
Surrey 394,976 8 49,372
Halifax 372,679 23 16,203
Laval 368,709 21 17,558
London 352,395 19 18,547
Markham 261,573 8 32,697
Gatineau 242,124 17 14,243
Vaughan 238,866 5 47,773
Longueuil 229,330 26 8,820
Windsor 216,473 10 21,647
Kitchener 204,668 6 34,111
Burnaby 202,799 8 25,350
Saskatoon 202,340 10 20,234
Regina 179,246 10 17,925
Richmond 174,461 8 21,808

So is City Council just rearranging the deck chairs on their democratically challenged Titanic?

A quick look at these number and the first thing that should jump out at you is: in the entire country, Calgarians are the most under-represented on their City Council. In fact, the second most under-represented citizenry are about 10,000 people shy of our mark. That’s 15% less representation we have than the second worst offending city in the country?! That number is surprisingly high.

Another way to look at this would be to say our aldermen are that much more overworked than their colleagues elsewhere in the country. Or our aldermen have that much less time to work on local issues.

No matter how you look at it the time has come to address the number of aldermen on council. With the population growing more that 100% since we added any additional representation of Calgarian’s to our own council. And isn’t easing the work-load what prompted Council to take a look at re-zoning the Wards in the first place?

I only hope we’re not too late, and that Council hasn’t closed the book on this topic yet. This situation must be looked at and taken into account.

(PS – The second thing that may jump out at you is that boy howdy! do Quebecers love them some big government! Almost every Quebec city is at the top of the list for number of councillors per capita. That might explain a lot about their closely guarded cultural identity. But that’s a topic for some grad student’s thesis.)

  • -dj

    I should point out that not all municipal governments have the same representative system so the number of “councillors” I use here is the number of elected representatives on a council not including the mayor of that city. It was the fairest way to do it I could find.

  • -dj

    I should point out that not all municipal governments have the same representative system so the number of “councillors” I use here is the number of elected representatives on a council not including the mayor of that city. It was the fairest way to do it I could find.