Council considering ward boundary changes, at-large electoral system

KENILWORTH – Wellington North council has begun discussing how the township’s electoral ward boundaries may need to change with the township’s growing population.

A report from township clerk Karren Wallace, presented to council on May 8, prompted discussion of how to better delineate ward boundaries to reflect a fairer distribution of electors.

Currently, Wellington North council is formed by four councillors, each representing their respective ward, and a mayor who is elected “at large.”

At the county level, Wellington North is represented by two councillors.

Township Wards 1 through 3 are represented by County Ward 3 (accounting for 5,821 electors as of 2022) and township Ward 4 is represented by County Ward 4 (accounting for 5,383 electors).

There were 8,357 Wellington North electors last year:

  • 33% were in Ward 4;
  • 30% were in Ward 2;
  • 24% were in Ward 1; and
  • 14% were in Ward 3.

Consisting mostly of agricultural properties west of Highway 6 between Arthur and Riverstown, Ward 3 has a smaller proportion of the township’s overall population.

In her report, Wallace wrote that “by 2026, it doesn’t appear the representation in each ward would vary too greatly from 2022.”

However by 2030, Wallace wrote, boundaries in Wards 3 and 4 would require adjustment.

According to anticipated property growth in each ward, current boundaries would mean 37% of Wellington North’s property (and associated voters) would be found in Ward 4 by 2030. But just 11% of properties would be located within Ward 3.

It’s difficult to predict the number of eligible voters in the township by 2030, which is why Wallace has relied on anticipated property growth instead.

According to 2021 Census data from Statistics Canada, there were an average of 2.5 persons per home in Wellington North.

Taking into consideration the anticipated number of properties, there could be as many as 12,628 eligible voters by 2030 — that number takes into account the township’s current proportion (24%) of people aged zero to 19. (Though voting eligibility begins at 18 years of age, Census data includes 19-year-olds in its 15 to 19 age range bracket.)

“If we decided we wanted [changes] in place for the 2026 election, everything has to be done … by Dec. 31, 2025,” Wallace told councillors, adding staff would need to get the process going “pretty soon.”

Township of Wellington North image


A change to wards, Wallace explained in her report, involves analyzing representation levels, where boundaries should be redrawn, and how county wards would be affected.

Though public meetings aren’t required in the process, staff would recommend one anyway to receive residents’ input.

A bylaw to make changes would need to be passed by council, and its decision would be open to appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal for 45 days after.

Mayor Andy Lennox said he wants to see wards more representative of the township as a whole.

“I’d really like to see us move away from wards that are defined north and south, to something that’s more inclusive of our entire community,” the mayor said.

Continuing, Lennox said there’s an unspoken “rivalry” between those in Mount Forest and Arthur who believe councillors’ decisions are made in the interest of one community over another.

“We’ve had this issue that’s been with us since amalgamation … and I think we have a duty to take leadership in that regard to set a different tone,” Lennox said.

He spoke of two wards with two councillors each, but added he wasn’t sure about his instinct.

“I’m not trying to direct it, I just do think we need to address the issue. It’s kind of an issue that is not openly talked about, but I think needs to be talked about,” Lennox said.

Wallace noted another option was an “at-large” system. Within the county, four municipalities elect “at large” councils, including Minto, Mapleton, Erin and Puslinch.

Councillor Sherry Burke said she has heard from “a lot of folks” who favour an at-large system and say ward-based representation is “dated.”

“We should be looking at the community as a whole, not just as our specific ward,” Burke said, also nudging at the idea of increasing the number of council seats.

A recommendation to review ward populations following the 2026 municipal election was amended by council, and Wallace will instead return with a report examining available options in the near future.