Tensions that arose within Hamilton as a result of amalgamation have never gone away as many had hoped. This past year, Council passed a motion that was not unanimous, calling for a review of the City’s Ward boundaries, which will once again create problems in the relationship between the old city and the amalgamated suburban areas. The reason is that should an extra ward be added to the original eight, the very delicate balance between old and new will be disrupted to the disadvantage of wards 9 through 15. As it stands, there are 8 votes on the old side and 7 on the new, with the mayor rounding out the total to 16. Getting a motion passed requires the approval of at least 9 Councillors. If Council is split between the old city representatives and the amalgamated areas, the mayor can give the 9th and deciding vote to pass the motion, or give the 8th vote to the others which would mean the motion loses on a tie.
Adding another riding to the old city would render the other side ineffectual if that new member chose to always go along with wards 1 through 8. It was for this reason that I proposed at the time an amendment that called for public input into the terms of reference for the review. This would at least allow arguments to be heard underlying the concerns of the amalgamated areas. In any case, I still voted against the review along with Councillors Partridge, Pearson, Ferguson and Johnson. Voting for, were all the Councillors from wards 2 through 8, along with Pasuta and Powers (McHattie and Clark were absent).
The balanced scenario we now have worked to the ultimate success of the very divisive area rating dispute. Former Mayor Eisenberger wanted the input of a Citizen’s Review Panel before a Council decision, which was opposed by the old city Councillors who were ready to put the issue to bed in 2010. Although I represented downtown Ward 2, I voted with the mayor and 6 suburban Councillors (Clark was absent), which won the day by a vote of 8 to 6 and allowed for the new Council, with me as mayor, to create a much more equitable and acceptable result for all residents, as imperfect as it may still be. The impending Ward Boundary Review may well exacerbate the tensions that were created by the imposition of amalgamation 13 years ago, and which in large part persist to this day.