What is a ward boundary review?

A ward boundary review examines the size and shape of the geographic area (in Toronto they are called wards) a City Councillor represents.

A ward boundary review looks at the current number of people living in each ward and at how those numbers are expected to grow in the future.  If necessary, a review proposes changes to the ward boundaries, so that the population in each ward is similar in relation to all the other wards.

A ward boundary review must also make sure that boundaries among wards make sense based on: geographic communities of interest (e.g. specific ethno-cultural communities that live in the same area) and neighbourhoods, physical and natural boundaries (e.g. ravines, roads and railway tracks), the ward’s history and other relevant considerations.  Changes will come into effect for the municipal election in 2018.

A ward boundary review does NOT cover items such as: how municipal government is organized (e.g. whether there should be party politics or whether there should be more community representation); how people vote; who votes (e.g. Canadian citizens only or all Toronto residents); how good a job a Councillor is doing; or how City departments operate.

What is effective representation?

"Effective representation" is the goal of all ward boundary reviews.  The primary consideration when it comes to effective representation is ‘voter parity’ (often also referred to as representation-by-population).  This is the principle that all votes should have equal weight and therefore the number of people living in each voting area (i.e. ward) should be similar. This is fundamental to the democratic electoral system. 

Other factors used by the courts and the Ontario Municipal Board to define effective representation include protection of communities of interest and neighbourhoods; respect for natural and physical boundaries; ward history; and recent and projected population growth. These factors allow the population numbers among the wards to be varied to some extent.

What is a community of interest?

The concept of a "community of interest" is important when thinking about creating wards that achieve effective representation. It is also very hard to define precisely. The idea is that wards should be more than arbitrary, random groupings of individuals. They should be, as much as possible, cohesive units, areas with common interests related to representation. Examples of communities of interest are specific ethno-cultural communities that live in the same area or business communities, such as a Business Improvement Area.

Who is responsible for the Toronto Ward Boundary Review? 

The TWBR is being undertaken by a consultant team that consists of the Canadian Urban Institute, Beate Bowron Etcetera, The Davidson Group and Thomas Ostler. The team was selected by the City of Toronto in March 2014, following a competitive Request for Proposals process.

Toronto City Council will make the final decision on whether or not to accept the recommendations regarding ward boundaries and must pass a by-law to implement any new ward structure.

What is the timeline for the Toronto Ward Boundary Review? 

June 2014 to November 2014: Background Research

July 2014 to September 2014: Interviews with the Mayor and 44 Councillors 

December 2014 to February 2015: Round One Engagement and Consultation on Current Ward Boundaries

March 2015 to July 2015: Development of Ward Boundary Options

August 2015 to November 2015: Round Two Engagement and Consultation on Ward Boundary Options

February 2016 to May 2016: Completion of Final Report

May 2016: Submission of Final Report to Executive Committee and City Council

Why is it important to maintain the independence of the Toronto Ward Boundary Review?

In the past the Ontario Municipal Board has ruled that specific direction by Council, such as how wards should be divided or the parameters for a minimum or maximum number of wards, has led to a boundary review being ruled unacceptable. The reason for this is a long-held concern about ward boundaries being shaped to the benefit of specific political interests. This does not mean that individual Council members cannot participate in the Review; however, the consultants undertaking the Review are responsible for ensuring that Councillors' advice and that of the public and other stakeholders is obtained and considered in an objective manner.

What is "Draw the Lines"?

‘Draw the Lines’ is the name of the communications and engagement campaign that supports the Toronto Ward Boundary Review.  It relates to the objective of the review, which is to determine where the ward boundaries or "the lines" should be.  

How will the consultant team decide on an option to recommend to City Council?

Deciding on a preferred option will require consideration and balancing of the various components of effective representation. The consultant team will carefully review and analyze the feedback and suggestions for improvement received during Round Two of the Civic Engagement and Public Consultation process.  

How long have Toronto's current ward boundaries been in place?

With the amalgamation of the City of Toronto in 1997, Councils of the six former cities were eliminated. The new Council for the "megacity" kept the ward map of Metro Toronto, but doubled the number of Councillors by adopting the system of electing two Councillors from each ward. An additional ward was added to give East York equal representation. This system was only used for the first megacity election in 1998.

In 2000 a new ward structure was devised based generally on the federal ridings (electoral districts) that covered Toronto.  Each riding was split to create the current system of 44 wards.  These are the wards that are in place today.

What will happen if my ward boundary changes?

Depending on the results of the Toronto Ward Boundary Review, your ward and your City Councillor could change.  This means you would vote in the new ward you will live in for the 2018 municipal election.  Any change in wards would not affect your tax rate, or anything else related to your residency.  An official announcement and communications about any ward boundary changes would be sent to you by the City of Toronto.

School board electoral areas are composed of one or more municipal wards. Therefore, any changes to the municipal ward boundaries could affect the school boards' electoral boundaries. Any new boundaries would be established by the school boards following the final approval of any new municipal ward structure.

When will any new ward boundaries come into effect?

The final Toronto Ward Boundary Review Report is expected to be complete by spring 2016.  Once the report has been submitted, the recommendations will be reviewed by City Council.  If approved, City Council will develop a by-law that will implement any ward boundary changes.

Who should I contact if I have questions about the Toronto Ward Boundary Review?

Please use the contact form to submit your comments, questions or suggestions related to the Ward Boundary Review.

Why is the Toronto Ward Boundary Review necessary?

Due to factors like population growth and new construction, some of the city’s wards are more than 30% to 45% above the population of an average city ward. Therefore, each Torontonian is not being represented equally at City Council.  In other words, one person’s vote does not have the same value or weight as that of the next person.

The populations of Toronto's current wards have already been challenged at the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). This is the reason the City has embarked on the Toronto Ward Boundary Review.  If Toronto does not review the current size and shape of its wards, a new ward structure could be imposed by the Ontario Municipal Board without the public’s involvement and without City Council approval.  

How can I participate in the Toronto Ward Boundary Review?

The Toronto Ward Boundary Review includes a significant public involvement process that allows Council members, stakeholders and the public to express their opinions on the current ward boundary structure as well as on the options.   There are several ways that you can provide input to the Ward Boundary Review, including:

ATTEND A PUBLIC MEETING Several public meetings were being held in each Community Council area (Toronto and East York, North York, Scarborough and Etobicoke) in both Round One and Round Two of the Toronto Ward Boundary Review's engagement and public consultation process. 

COMPLETE A SURVEY  Surveys were conducted in Round One and Two.

STAY CONNECTED Follow the Toronto Ward Boundary Review on Twitter @drawthelinesTO or sign-up for the mailing list to get up-to-date information about project milestones and learn about additional opportunities to participate.

STAY INFORMED Refer back to this website www.drawthelines.ca often for up to date information about the Toronto Ward Boundary Review.

How is the Toronto Ward Boundary Review being conducted? 

The Toronto Ward Boundary Review (TWBR) consists of research, public consultation and civic engagement and a final report with recommendations to Council. Each of the two rounds of consultation and engagement involves interviews with all Council members, stakeholder groups, 12 public meetings, as well as online engagement through discussion guides and online surveys.

The TWBR project has 5 key components:

1.    Background Research  Research is being done to examine the legal context for ward boundary reviews, as well as the experience in Ontario and some larger Canadian cities.  The current Toronto ward situation and expected ward sizes for future elections (e.g. 2018, 2022, 2026 and 2030) are also analyzed.

2.    Consultation and Engagement on Current Ward Boundaries - Round One  Round One is focused on gathering input on the current ward characteristics and boundaries.  Read the Round One Report.

3.   Ward Boundary Options  Based on the public input, expected population growth and background research, a series of options for new wards boundaries will be developed.  The development of options is a key part of the process and the focus of Round Two of the public consultation and engagement and the final recommendations to Council. Read the Options Report. 

4.  Consultation and Engagement on Ward Boundary Options - Round Two  Round Two of the Consultation and Engagement process will present a number of ward boundary options that meet the principles of 'effective representation’ and gather feedback from the public, stakeholders and elected officials. Click here for more information about the Round Two of the Consultation and Engagement process. 

5.  Final Report to Council  The Final Report will outline the entire Toronto Ward Boundary Review process and include recommendations for ward boundaries to be used in City of Toronto elections beginning in 2018. Toronto City Council will make the final decision on whether or not to accept the recommendations regarding ward boundaries and must pass a by-law to implement any new ward structure.

Who provides advice to the Toronto Ward Boundary Review?

An independent Advisory Panel provides advice on both substantive and process issues. The Advisory Panel represents diverse perspectives in the city including the legal profession, academic expertise in electoral and public policy, the business community and civil society.

Members of Council, the public and other stakeholders also provide input through interviews, online engagement and consultation at public meetings to help determine the most appropriate ward boundaries.

A Steering Committee that consists of representatives from relevant City of Toronto Divisions and the consultants is providing strategic advice, issues management and City resource coordination.  

How were the options developed?

The options were developed based on extensive background research (see the Toronto Ward Boundary Review: Background Research Report), comments from Council members, stakeholders and the public during Round One of the TWBR (see Toronto Ward Boundary Review: Round One Report on Civic Engagement + Public Consultation) and the team's own experience in ward boundary reviews.  The methodology for developing the options was complex. Several factors were considered:  

  • Toronto’s growth - The design of the options needs to accommodate the expected growth of Toronto over the next 15 years and address the current imbalance in ward population size.
  • Four municipal elections - Ward boundary reviews are complex, costly and include extensive public involvement.  Municipalities cannot conduct reviews for every election.  The TWBR's goal is to create a ward system that will last for the next four elections – 2018, 2022, 2026 and 2030.  To achieve this, the ‘target year’ for effective representation is set at 2026.
  • Unique options - There are literally hundreds of possibilities when developing options for a realigned ward system. The TWBR employs a methodology that achieves a limited number of unique options with different objectives for public discussion and feedback.
  • Balanced ward sizes - Ward sizes need to be ‘balanced’ to achieve effective representation.  The TWBR attempts to develop wards that are within plus or minus 10% of the selected ward population average for 2026.  Once a variance is over 15%, effective representation may be in jeopardy. Only in certain limited circumstance is a variance of 15% or more acceptable.
  • Effective new boundaries - Ward boundaries also need to be effective. To develop a ward boundary option the TWBR uses three variables: the average ward population size of the current wards for 2026; the plus or minus 10% range that the average ward population size allows and the specific number or range in number of wards permitted.

Many other potential ward boundary configurations were also tested before arriving at the 5 ward boundary options. 

More details about the methodology for developing the ward boundary options are included in the Toronto Ward Boundary Review Options Report.

What are some examples of Ward Boundary Reviews that have taken place in other Canadian cities?

City of Ottawa

On October 7, 2005, the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) affirmed City of Ottawa by-law 2005-302. The new ward structure consists of 23 wards, which have been the basis for conducting the Ottawa municipal elections since 2006.

City of Markham

The City of Markham completed a review of its ward boundaries in 2013. This review was necessary to address significant population differences across the City's eight wards to ensure an effective and equitable system of representation that takes into account future growth within the city.

City of Brampton

The City of Brampton completed a review of its ward boundary structure in 2013.  City Council passed a by-law in March 2013 to re-divide the existing 10 wards into 10 new wards, with adjustments made to the boundary lines.


The City of Oakville completed a review of its ward boundary structure in 2012.   Council voted to keep the status quo on its current ward boundaries until Halton Region awards Oakville an additional seat on Regional Council. The final report was received and a seven-ward system was recommended for the city, when its regional council representation increases in the future.