The boundaries of Toronto’s municipal wards could be significantly altered in time for the 2018 election, resulting in an increase or a decrease in the number of city councillors.

A city-commissioned consultant’s report that was released Tuesday notes that the current municipal boundaries are “unbalanced” and puts forward five options for how the wards can be redrawn to create greater voter parity.

The options range from redrawing the boundaries for the 44-exisitng wards to creating 58 smaller wards or 38 larger wards. A so-called “minimal change option” also proposes reducing the size of nine wards, enlarging the size of five others and then creating three new ones for a total of 47.

All five options are based on the projected population for 2026, which is expected to grow from 2.6 million to more than three million, with much of that growth concentrated in the waterfront communities along Lake Ontario.

“The surprising aspect is how fast Toronto is growing. It is going to grow by 600,000 over the next few years and at today’s ward average size that would mean 10 new wards but what we have to do is balance the growth in the core with some of the wards that are good neighborhoods but aren’t growing,” one of the authors of the report, Gary Davidson, told CP24 on Wednesday. “It’s really a balancing of those two aspects that we are looking to do.”

According to the report, the population of Toronto’s 44 wards during the 2014 election ranged from 44,280 (Ward 18) to 93,784 (Ward 23), creating a situation where “one person’s vote was worth twice that of another’s” in some situations.

The five options proposed in the report aim to create a population range of no more than 10 per cent from one ward to another. If Toronto were to keep its existing boundaries, only 17 wards would meet that standard by 2026, according to the report.

“The definite conclusion is that the status quo is not an option,” the report states. “Voter parity, a basic tenet of representative democracy, does not exist now and will only get worse in the coming years.”

The report, which was first requested by city council in 2013, will now be presented to residents for feedback at 12 community meetings planned for September.

At that point, a second report with community feedback will be prepared. A final report endorsing one of the options will then be brought to executive committee in May.

Here is a list of the five options under consideration:

Minimal change – Increases the total number of wards to 47. A total of 18 wards would remain as is while nine others would be reduced in size and five others would be enlarged. The average population of each ward would be 61,000.

Maintain existing wards – Keeps the existing number of wards the same but redraw the boundaries to create an average population of 70,000.

Smaller wards – Creates 58 smaller wards with a population range from 45,000 to 55,000. According to the report, there was “ample” support for this option among residents who “believe that smaller wards improve citizen access and the councillors' capacity to represent their constituents.”

Larger wards - Creates 38 larger wards with an average population of 75,000. A total of 35 of 38 wards would fall under the target population variation threshold of 10 per cent while the other three would be within 15 per cent.

Natural boundaries – Reduces the number of wards to 44 and redraw the boundaries using natural physical barriers, such as rivers, expressways and major roads. The average population of each ward would be 70,000.

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