Changes to St. John’s Council Wards: What You Need to Know
Contributed by Josh Smee.
The municipal election here in St. John’s is fast approaching. Election day is September 26th, but as we all know, lots of people mark their ballots as soon as they land in the mailbox, probably around the 11th-12th.
With less than 3 weeks to go until ballots arrive, do you know who you can vote for? Changes to the boundaries of council wards this year mean you might not! The biggest changes are coming to Wards 1 and 2.
The Big Picture: Where to find info on the new ward boundaries
The best place to go to see the overall changes to the wards is actually the City’s media release from 2016, when council voted on the new boundaries. The release includes links to a PDF showing comparative maps of each ward (pretty low-res, unfortunately), and a list of streets affected by these changes. As far as we can tell, these comparison documents are only linked from the old media release, not from anywhere in the elections section of the City website. That said, most of us just want to know what ward we’re in! For that, the elections section has a very useful “Ward Lookup” function – Googling “St. John’s Wards” or “St. John’s Council Wards” and taking the first link will get you there.
Confusing language alert: Until you actually complete a search, the ward lookup service is a bit confusing – it labels the old wards as “Pre 2017 Election” and the new wards as “Post 2017 Election” – but the new ones actually apply for 2017. This will clear up once you pop in a street number, and use the giant drop-down of street names to pick the one you want to look up. Your results will look like the picture below, listing the ward for the 2017 election – so you’re set!
Ward 1: What’s changing and what it might mean
Ward 1 is seeing some of the biggest changes this year. It used to include all the neighbourhoods east of Logy Bay Road, between that and the ocean, but those have now moved to Ward 2. On the other side of the ward, Airport Heights has now been moved into Ward 1. In practice, Ward 1 is losing some lower-income areas in the east and gaining some higher-income areas in the west. Will that affect politics there? Hard to tell, since the incumbent councilor is Danny Breen, who is running for Mayor instead of his old seat.
Ward 2: What’s changing and what it might mean
The changes in Ward 2 are also substantial. Everything north of Quidi Vidi Lake and east of Logy Bay Road has been added to it. On the west end, Ward 2 loses a big chunk of the old west end (anything west of Shaw St). These changes mean that Ward 2 is no longer just a centre city ward – and that could make it a bit trickier for candidates rooted in the downtown scene to make a go of getting elected there.
Ward 3: What’s changing and what it might mean
Ward 3’s changes are a mirror of Ward 2’s – it gains a chunk of the west end, with the Ward 3 boundary moving east to Shaw Street, roughly speaking. It’ll also be hard to tell whether this has much effect on the ward from a political standpoint, since the incumbent councilor, Bruce Tilley, isn’t running again.
Ward 4: What’s changing, and what it might mean
In 2017, Ward 4 is losing one neighbourhood, Airport Heights, which is being moved into Ward 1. (Also, Airport Heights is called “Penetanguishene” and “Rickett’s Bridge” on the maps, old school!). This is another ward where there’s no incumbent, since the ward councilor, Sheilagh O’Leary, is running for Deputy Mayor. That makes it hard to assess whether these changes have a political impact.
Ward 5: No changes!
This one’s easy. The Ward 5 boundaries aren’t changing at all. Here are the maps to prove it:
I know my ward. Now what?
First of all, you absolutely must check whether you’re registered to vote. It’s super easy – just follow this link. If you’re not registered, you won’t get a ballot in the mail, so get on it!
Now that you’re registered, and you know your ward, do your research! We have profiles for all the candidates and you can sort them by ward – so get reading!