Thornhill councillor to fight new city wards

‘Second chance’ may give residents back a second vote at council

Councillor Howard Shore stands at the existing western boundary of his ward

A City of Markham councillor is challenging his own city’s decision to merge Thornhill’s two existing seats at council into one for next year’s municipal elections, claiming a botched official study.

Coun. Howard Shore, who represents Thornhill’s Ward 2, appealed Markham’s new ward boundaries to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) on May 3. Faced with a surging population, Markham engaged in a Ward Boundary Review to redistribute its representation.

“On behalf of the community, taking this step wasn’t easy, but if you take a look at the implications for Thornhill, there really wasn’t too much of an option,” said Shore.

He claimed that the consultant hired to prepare a report for Markham failed to study increasing the number of city councillors. Markham’s Ward Boundary Review mandated that creating additional wards be studied, and he noted no such options were presented as alternatives.

Shore said he had consulted with his constituents prior to making the move. At least five ratepayers’ groups from both Thornhill wards supported his appeal.

“This step wasn’t easy, but there wasn’t too much of an option.”

Coun. Valerie Burke, who represents Thornhill’s Ward 1, said Shore notified her of his intent to appeal the day before it was submitted. She said that although she was disappointed with council’s boundary decision, her first question was: Who will pay “the big cost” for lawyers to represent either parties at the OMB?

Nonetheless, she sees the opportunity as a “second chance” for upset Thornhill constituents. Burke noted that Thornhill, one of Markham’s oldest communities, faces challenges uncommon to other wards, including heritage issues, outdated infrastructure and massive redevelopment.

With both councillors expected to run in Markham’s 2014 elections, they could find themselves competing for leadership of the same ward.

Markham has until a Dec. 31, 2013, deadline to finalize its new ward boundaries. No date has yet been scheduled for the OMB hearing.

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