Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Uneven city wards ignored by council

No decision until after census

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Uneven growth in different regions of Winnipeg has exacerbated the population disparity among city council wards -- but politicians are poised to ignore the problem for another four years.

Between 2006 and 2011, the City of Winnipeg's population grew by 37,878, a census-data analysis released late last week by the city clerk's department said. But the rate of growth varied widely among city council's 15 wards.

A single ward, Old Kildonan, accounted for more than a fifth of the city's growth, as 7,808 people moved into Amber Trails and other neighbourhoods in Winnipeg's northernmost political jurisdiction.

Significant growth in St. Boniface, St. Norbert and St. Vital, fuelled by new housing developments, added to the existing population bulge in southeast Winnipeg, while slow or negative growth in St. Charles, St. James-Brooklands and Charleswood-Tuxedo pointed to the absence of new homes in western Winnipeg.

The net result is St. Boniface, now Winnipeg's largest ward, has more than 54,000 people, while St. Charles, the city's smallest, has fewer than 32,000. St. Charles is now the only Winnipeg ward in which the population varies by more than 25 per cent from the rest of the city -- a variance that demands the ward's boundaries be changed the next time the city reconfigures its political boundaries.

A report before council's governance committee, however, recommends against making any such change until after the 2014 general election. The committee will consider a plan Thursday to wait until the 2016 census to rejig Winnipeg's ward boundaries.

If approved, the city won't have new ward boundaries until the 2018 general election. Existing city councillors, who already passed up the chance to add one or two more wards in time for the 2014 race, are resigned to live with the uneven population distribution until then.

"I don't mind representing that many people, but it's unfair one ward has 54,000 and another has 32,000," said St. Boniface Coun. Dan Vandal, who represents Winnipeg's largest ward.

He rarely sends mailouts because of the cost of reaching so many residences in both official languages.

St. Charles Coun. Grant Nordman, who represents Winnipeg's smallest ward, said he was OK with the uneven distribution until he helped his brother Greg campaign in a council byelection in St. Vital, the city's third-largest ward.

"It's like a federal riding," said the council speaker, who also chairs the governance committee. "And here I am with 20,000 fewer people than some of the other guys."

Population disparity is not the only consequence of leaving ward boundaries alone. There are geographic issues with the existing city ward map.

A small section of St. Vital, for example, belongs to the St. Norbert ward, most of which lies on the opposite side of the Red River. Most of the population of the North Point Douglas neighbourhood resides in the Mynarski ward instead of Point Douglas. Several sections of Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry are on the north side of the Assiniboine River.

Council had the chance to remedy this situation in 2012 by adding two more wards, a move allowable without provincial permission. Instead, Nordman pushed for the addition of one new ward, which likely would have been carved out of southeast Winnipeg, with the permission of the province.

Council, however, balked at the $175,000 cost of adding one more councillor's salary and an additional ward spending allowance. "Everyone said just leave it alone and let's wait for 2011 (census) numbers," Nordman said.

This year, however, council voted to boost ward spending by a total of $600,000, negating any savings resulting from putting off changes to ward boundaries -- which will remain the same until 2017, pending a vote Thursday.

Disparity within Winnipeg's borders

St. Boniface 54,194 up 5,034 since 2006
St. Norbert
53,544 up 5,894
St. Vital 52,340 up 2,260
River Heights-Fort Garry 51,653 up 3,188
Old Kildonan 49,096 up 7,806
Daniel McIntyre 45,542 up 1,547
Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry 45,510 up 360
Elmwood-East Kildonan 43,396 up 1,801
Point Douglas 42,571 up 2,791
Mynarski 42,145 up 2,345
Charleswood-Tuxedo 41,819 down 361
36,849 up 3,939
North Kildonan 36,451 down 179
St. James-Brooklands 36,009 up 969
St. Charles 31,915 up 485


-- Source: City Clerk's department

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 10, 2013 A6


Updated on Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 7:09 AM CDT: corrects typo

10:34 AM: adds table

1:16 PM: adds Point Douglas to table

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About Bartley Kives

Bartley Kives wants you to know his last name rhymes with Beavis, as in Beavis and Butthead. He aspires to match the wit, grace and intelligence of the 1990s cartoon series.

Bartley joined the Free Press in 1998 as a music critic. He spent the ensuing 7.5 years interviewing the likes of Neil Young and David Bowie and trying to stay out of trouble at the Winnipeg Folk Festival before deciding it was far more exciting to sit through zoning-variance appeals at city hall.

In 2006, Bartley followed Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz from the music business into civic politics. He spent seven years covering city hall from a windowless basement office.

He is now reporter-at-large for the Free Press and also writes an outdoor-recreation column called Offroad for the Outdoors page.

A canoeist, backpacker and food geek, Bartley is fond of conventional and wilderness travel. He is the author of A Daytripper’s Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada’s Undiscovered Province, the only comprehensive travel guidebook for Manitoba – and a Canadian bestseller, to boot. He is also co-author of Stuck In The Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg, a collaboration with photographer Bryan Scott and the winner of the 2014 Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award.

Bartley’s work has also appeared on CBC Radio and Citytv as well as in publications such as The Guardian, explore magazine and National Geographic Traveler. He sits on the board of PEN Canada, which promotes freedom of expression.

Born in Winnipeg, he has an arts degree from the University of Winnipeg and a master’s degree in journalism from Ottawa’s Carleton University. He is the proud owner of a blender.

On Twitter: @bkives


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