From the high ideals of 1993 to the gerrymander of 2009

By DJ Kelly May 30, 2009

Below is some interesting information to help frame the discussion around whether Ald. Chabot’s council approved map is a good solution and if a proper process was followed.

Policy Title: Ward Boundary Determination and Review
Policy Number: CC017
Approved by: Council
Effective Date: 1993 May 03

The criteria used by the Returning Officer for reporting or in developing proposals
during ward boundary reviews are as follows:

  1. Total Population/Total Electors – all calculations will be based on the number of electors and total population. The total population is to be relatively equal between the wards. It is desirable to maintain a relative equality between the wards and the number of electors;
  2. Deviation – the maximum allowed deviation from the mean population per ward is +/- 25%. The preferred deviation that the Returning Officer should attempt to achieve is +/- 10 to 15%. This is consistent with current court decisions.
  3. Future Growth – the potential for growth in each ward over the next 10 years is a factor to be considered.
  4. Community Boundaries – wherever possible the Ward Boundaries and The City developed Community District Boundaries should coincide. Community Association boundaries are given consideration to attain limited splits. It should be noted that these are not controlled by The City and are difficult to guarantee.
  5. Easily Identifiable Boundaries – wherever possible, the Ward Boundaries shall be readily identifiable to the public by utilizing major streets, significant topography, etc.
  6. Least Number of Changes – to reduce confusion to the electorate and implementation costs, proposals developed by the Returning Officer should involve the fewest changes possible to accomplish the required adjustments.
  7. Block Shaped Wards – in accordance with the 1960 October 19 plebiscite, wards are to be relatively “block” shaped and not “pie” shaped with the downtown being the centre of the pie.
  8. Environmental Mix – efforts will be made to equalize, wherever possible, the distribution of commercial, rural, industrial, institutional and green space areas between the wards.
  9. Philosophy of Approach – the general philosophy to be used in developing proposals for Ward Boundary changes are two fold; (a) to develop changes which should not require major adjustments for a span of three general elections; and (b) to have the higher population in the more stable inner city wards and the lower population in the growth area wards.

You’ll also notice that no where in this policy – that was first written in 1960 – does it give the criteria of 5 aldermen on the east side of Deerfoot. So why is it appropriate to suddenly give this new criteria to the Returning Officer after she submitted her proposals? After all she’s been at work on those proposals since May 2006…

Here is is the text of C2009-12 Attachment 1 which shows where the ball started rolling at that time:

Council asked Administration to begin the ward boundary revisions earlier than scheduled by the Policy. At its meeting of 2006 May 15, Council adopted the following recommendation, as amended, FCS2006-19:

“3. Direct Administration to commence a process for a major Ward redistribution in 2008 January, with a view to have the complete recommendations to Council before spring of 2009.”

Following that the Returning Officer sped things up considerably before returning with Report 2008-83 on 2008 November 28 giving two proposed options. Alderman Chabot apparently was a fan because an excerpt of those minutes show:

“REFER, Moved by Alderman Chabot, Seconded by Alderman Connelly, that Report C2008-83 be referred to Administration to report to the 2009 February 09 Combined Meeting of Council with a comparison to the recommendations which were contained in Options A and B in 2006.”

The Returning Officer did just that. She showed up with the same documents as well as the maps she created in 2006 for the 2007 election that were not adopted. On 2009 February 09 C2009-12 was adopted which states:

“That Council;
1. Adopt Scenario A as the ward boundaries for the 2010 general election; and
2. Direct Administration to prepare a bylaw to amend Bylaw 19M91, Ward Boundary Bylaw, to return to Council no later than 2009 March.”

The bylaw was written. 13M2009 could now have first reading.

Then along came 2009 March 16 with C2009-21 when proposals by Ald. Chabot, Ald. Farrell and Ald. Hawkesworth were also tabled. The suggestion was:

“That with respect to Bylaw 13M2009, Being a Bylaw Of The City of Calgary To Amend Bylaw 19M91, To Establish Ward Boundaries, Alderman Chabot, Farrell and Hawkesworth’s proposals be referred to the Returning Officer for a report to the 2009 April 06 Combined Meeting of Council.”

C2009-21 goes on to state:

That Council:
1. Abandon Bylaw 13M2009; and
2. Give Bylaw 25M2009 first reading.

Confused yet?

And here we are with bylaw 25M2009 – Ald. Chabot’s proposed map – having had first reading and everything the Returning Officer has been instructed to do since 1993 being thrown out the window.

Remember that policy given to the Returning Officer in 1993? How much of that do you see in Ald. Chabot’s map? It’s been a long journey from the high ideals of 1993 to the gerrymander of 2009.

Oh, and by the way: from AOCC2009-58 (the infamous meeting where Aldermen asked the Returning Officer to come up with a proposal showing 5 aldermen on the east side of Deerfoot):

The Committee determined it was uncomfortable with recommending a specific Ward boundary Scenario to Council.

But thanks for the map Ald. Chabot!

And after all that boring blah-blah-blah. How about some maps showing the history of proposals from 2006 until now?

I hope that helps you make a little more sense of it. It’s all very confusing. Suffice to say: don’t gerrymander, let the Returning Officer do what you asked them to do. Sometimes the simplest things that prove to be the hardest…

PS – A big thank you the the City Clerk for tracking down all 17 documents associated with C2009-12 and C2009-21.

  • calgaryrants

    DJ, excellent work. Shane

  • calgaryrants

    DJ, excellent work.