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McMaster political scientists wade into OMB hearings over Hamilton’s ward boundaries

PhD student Rachel Barnett and Professor Karen Bird's research paper on visible minority vote dilution in Ontario municipalities highlighted in Ontario Municipal Board hearings over the City of Hamilton's ward boundaries.

Nov 10, 2017

A research paper on visible minority vote dilution in Ontario municipalities, co-authored by PhD Student Rachel Barnett and Professor Karen Bird, found its way to the centre of recent Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearings over the City of Hamilton’s ward boundaries. The paper shows that visible minorities tend to have reduced voting power at the municipal level, as a function of their concentration within highly overpopulated wards, and the practice of overrepresenting rural wards. In particular, Barnett and Bird’s analysis of several large Ontario municipalities found significant visible minority vote dilution in Toronto, Hamilton and Mississauga. In Hamilton, the average visible minority vote counts for about 10 per cent less than the average non-minority person's vote. Their paper also asked what are the principal factors considered when municipalities undertake a ward boundary review (WBR). Based on a content analysis of public documents related to WBR across 22 Ontario cities, they found that issues related to geography, history and ‘communities of interest’ trump all others, while terms related to minority and ethnocultural communities made up just 1.4% of considerations. Rachel presented these findings at the OMB hearings in late October, arguing that the principle of fair and effective representation requires taking into account how the electoral map impacts visible minorities and other disadvantaged communities . Together, Rachel and Karen also published a comment piece in the Hamilton Spectator, and appeared on the “City Matters” show on Cable 14. The OMB is expected to release its decision on Hamilton’s ward boundaries in late November.