McKellar Park residents upset at proposed ward boundary changes

·3 min read

Residents in Ottawa's McKellar Park neighbourhood are upset by a proposed electoral map that would move them from Kitchissippi ward to Bay ward.

The new map, which would see city council grow by one in the next municipal election, is favoured by independent consultants. It's the sixth map presented to council and was requested in July after the first five maps met with widespread disapproval.

McKellar Park residents Stacey Coburn and her husband Matthew Baraniak said they feel there's been little transparency, given how late the changes came in the consultation process.

"This really wasn't communicated well to residents," Coburn said. "It was handled in a way that was very complicated and somewhat withholding, to be honest with you — that this option wasn't even on the table several months ago."

"We have a community here, and it's important that such big decisions be transparent," Baraniak said. "As citizens of the ward, we deserve that."

City of Ottawa
City of Ottawa

Part of McKellar Park's identity

Sybil Powell, president of the McKellar Park Community Association, said the neighbourhood's residents feel a close identity with Kitchissippi: they shop and send their kids to school in neighbouring Westboro and are invested in ward's more urban issues.

"We sort of thought of us as being part of that downtown, sort of semi-downtown ... feeling, which is not the same as being in the suburban ward," she said.

Powell wrote an open letter to Mayor Jim Watson, posted on the association's website, that details a list of concerns McKellar Park residents have about the shift. Many residents, including Coburn and Baraniak, have also written to the mayor and to Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper.

The neighbourhood isn't being moved to Bay ward, Powell noted, because the two wards' issues are closely aligned.

"They're moving the boundary on a numbers issue. And the numbers aren't big," she said.

Ward overpopulated

Leiper told CBC he'd originally asked to keep Kitchissippi's boundaries intact, and while he's received dozens of letters from residents, the ward is becoming overpopulated — making it harder to offer proper representation.

Matthew Kupfer/CBC
Matthew Kupfer/CBC

"Kitchissippi is well over the amount of population that it should have for one councillor to be able to serve effectively," he said, adding the proposed change would move around 7,000 residents out of the ward.

But Powell said Bay ward will also become more dense, with developments going in around future LRT stations, and feels moving the eight blocks that make up McKellar Park won't make much of a difference.

Concern over schooling

Many McKellar Park residents also expressed worry that school boundary lines will change and they will no longer be able to send their children to Broadview Public School.

Leiper said he's asked the school board about this possibility and doesn't think it's likely to happen.

"If you've got an elementary school across the street, the school board is not going to make the street the boundary," he said.

The recommended new ward boundaries go to finance committee Tuesday for approval, then on to city council Dec. 9.

Leiper said he hasn't decided how he will vote, but vowed to take all concerns into consideration before making up his mind.