12 Councillors, 12 Wards: More Than A Dozen Reasons Why…

Edmonton City Council has passed in first reading the approval of the 12 ward system. The proposal will be coming to Council for a second and third reading on July 22nd. Edmonton will potentially join many other cities in establishing a more accountable and more democratic system of representation. It is expected to pass, but it never hurts to send a note to your councillors@edmonton.ca letting them know that you support this decision.


Philosophically, it is the right thing to do.


Under the old 6 Ward system, the constituent populations had gotten to an unmanageable level. Campaigning required trying to connect with ward populations of over 100 000 constituents- an almost impossible task. Such large wards naturally favored the incumbents during campaigns based on name recognition– no campaign team could knock on every door. 

The increased cost of campaigning over such a vast region left many candidates more dependent on large donations and saddled with the real-or-perceived political baggage that came with them. More ordinary Edmontonians will now be able to throw their hat into the race, leading to a more accessible, competitive, and engaged democratic debate. 

A 12 Ward system will make for more equitable campaigns, but it will also make for more effective representation. Councillors constantly had to check for duplication of efforts and often the higher-profile Councillor ended up getting the lion’s share of the phone calls and constituent calls. Now there is a clear line of accountability between the Councillor, their constituents, and their concerns. A citizen is always welcome to contact the Mayor, or any Councillor for that matter, with a problem, especially if they do not feel that their elected representative is being effective. However, Councillors will likely have more time to be effective representatives now that they have a smaller constituency base to attend to. 

The concern that Councillors may become too focused on just their ward is mistaken; they are elected to attend to the interests of the city as a whole and judging by how many issues are multi-jurisdictional, it is likely this cooperation will continue.


The map is sound. 


Though it is unfortunate that the Municipal Government Act (MGA) has Councillors drawing up their own constituencies, the wards are well-justified:

– It effectively follows natural geographic boundaries (the river, calgary trail, etc

– It respects community league boundaries, with a couple of minor changes– quite impressive considering that there are 150 leagues.

– It takes into account population variance (61, 276 to 70,840 (-6.1% to +8.6%)) and elector variance (48,529 to 62,152 (-8.0% to +17.9%))

– It takes into account the potential for future growth.


For future consideration:

– Council should not be left to draw up their own boundaries, but they should be established by a non-partisan electoral body.

– The MGA should allow for preferential balloting in elections. This would allow candidates to be ranked according to voter preference. It can easily be done with electronic voting.

– Tax credits should be allowed for municipal campaign contributions.


bettProposed 12 Ward Map


5 responses to “12 Councillors, 12 Wards: More Than A Dozen Reasons Why…

  1. Brock Richardson

    but i’m curious of what similarities you see between the current system in Edmonton and the failed STV system in B.C.
    I took STV to be more unfair in rural areas, where a grossly increased riding size would present a genuine barrier to representation. In urban centres, however, i felt the STV would make more sense as the geographic region would not balloon unreasonably with the necessary increase in population.
    My main focus was obviously geographic size and the ability of a representative from one area to speak for the people of a small town a few hundred kilometers away.
    The Edmonton debate is different. It is focussed on the number of people in the ward. In principle though, STV, proportional rep, or some form of mixed member representation are often looked upon as more democratic because they are more inclusive, especially of minority constituent groups. An obvious difference is that the party system is not in play, but the issue of minority representation is not exclusive to party systems.
    I do not disagree with your points, they are valid and speak to some of the problems with the current system, and some possible benefits of a change.
    I guess we’ll just have to wait, examine, and come up with our own guesses as to whether or not the coming change improves the democratic representation of Edmontonians.

  2. Congratulations!

    This is something citizens have been trying to get back in our city for over 70 years.

    Read http://www.thinkcity.ca/node/161 to get an update on how our new mayor is moving Vancouver up the democratic ladder.

  3. Single-member wards invite the usual objection — they guaranteed a lack of effective democratic choice of representation.

    How can one politician pretend to represent everyone and every interest ( answer :not honestly)?
    Who represents all the folk, often
    a majority, who do not vote for the winner — or who would vote if the incumbent were not a shoo-in?
    A council that represents all voters and all interests fairly cannot be based on single-member districts.

    Multi-member districts — the STV concept — allow for suitably diverse representation.

    As for campaigning difficulties related to district size, the single transferable ballot mitigates the problem and so would some rational adaptation by politicians. Why, for example, wouldn’t councillors of similar outlook band together to help each other and paint voters a picture of their intentions, i.e. advertise, i.e. behave like a party. That would make them jointly accountable — as compared with a ward system in which noindividual councillor is responsible for anything beyond pretending to get potholes fixed and speed bumps installed.

  4. A 12 ward system is not good. If a person is elected in and does not represent the people, some residence will just say ” You can’t fight City Hall”. Other people will go to other councillors outside their ward. For people going outside their ward, they could be told they have to deal with their councillor.

    What if the Community or residence do not see eye to eye with the one councillor.

    What checks and balances will be put in place?

    Every ward is going to be fighting for money. 12 instead of 6. This may create a lot of infighting.

    It is very interesting because 400 people were polled to find out what they thought of the ward systems. Problem is : what political dealings have they had with different levels of government. It would have been much better for community advocates to be polled and citizens that deal with issues all the time. They have an understanding of how City Hall works. I would bet that maybe 2 percent of the people polled know anything about politics.

    Why was the vote taken in the summer when citizens are on holidays?

    A better solution to this ward system would have been to deligate certain issues to a ward councillor and keep the 6 ward system.

  5. Pingback: 12 wards for edmonton in 2010. | daveberta.ca

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