To: Premier of Ontario Doug Ford, Attorney General Doug Downey, Rima Berns-McGown, MPP for Beaches-East York, Mayor of Toronto John Tory, Brad Bradford, City Councillor for Beaches-East York, Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, MP for Beaches-East York
Dear Premier Ford:
In Bill 218, Supporting Ontario’s Recovery and Municipal Elections Act, 2020, the following statement is made: Schedule 2Municipal Elections Act, 1996 Currently, the Municipal Elections Act, 1996 provides a framework for conducting ranked ballot elections for offices on a municipal council. Amendments are made to remove that framework. Ontario Regulation 310/16 (Ranked Ballot Elections) made under the Act is revoked.
I disagree with the reasons you have given publicly for cancelling Ranked Ballots for Municipal Elections.
First you say it is too expensive. The City of London, Ontario had a ranked ballot election in 2018 and it cost just $2.00 per elector more, mostly due to the changes that needed to be made for this type of election. It will not likely cost that much more in the future.
Secondly you say that it is too confusing for us especially during the pandemic. But you were elected leader of your Party by a ranked ballot election and we have watched many party leader elections by ranked ballots, including the latest Federal Green Party leader election. Please give more credit to our intelligence!
Thirdly you or some of your friends who oppose electoral reform say that if first past the post was good enough for our founders it is good enough for us. No it isn’t. Our electoral systems in Canada – at all levels of government are now ‘outliers’. Most western governments now use some form of proportional representation rather than the outdated first past the post system. Just look at new Zealand and Australia and almost all European electoral systems. The Ranked Ballot works best for municipalities because there is no obvious party system there.
Cancelling ranked ballots in municipal elections makes no sense since the City of London, Ontario used them in their 2018 election and now they would have to go to great expense to go back to the first past the post system. So much for money saving! And other municipalities are considering ranked ballots – Toronto in a subsequent election, Kingston, and more.
Some advantages of ranked ballots are:
1. less rancourous elections due to candidates wanting to be included by others’ supporters as second choices.
2. the person elected must get at least 50% (sometimes a bit less due to exhausted ballots) of the vote support, eliminating the embarrassing (at least to this elector) finding that a city councillor was elected with only 17% of the vote which has happened; often it is no more than 20%. What this means is that the majority of the electors did not want this person representing them!
3. It opens up city councillor positions to new faces and communities. With first past the post, a new non-incumbent candidate even with the same views, is often asked to not run because they are considered ’spoilers’. (This happened in my Ward 19 in the last municipal election – a woman candidate I supported was asked to drop out after Doug Ford reduced the number of wards by half. She rightfully refused, altering the election outcome which wouldn’t have happened with ranked ballots). And it is most often women and women of colour who are discouraged from running in the first place. In fact there is no research data on this since we don’t know the names of those who are discouraged from running. I strongly suspect that this is the major reason you are cancelling ranked ballots – because it would mean fewer career incumbents who are mostly old white men.
4. More citizens will vote if they see their candidate has a fair chance. I note that the recent Toronto Centre Federal By-election had a turnout of only one in eight possible electors in a First Past the Post election. This is catastrophic for electoral participation. We need electoral reform!
Here is a positive example of how the use of ranked ballots has opened up the system: “London (Ontario) elected its first Black female councillor in 2018, Arielle Kayabaga. She told the Star Wednesday she was motivated to run when she went to an information session and learned about ranked ballots. “I’d seen women get attacked because they were women or they were mothers,” said the single mother of one. She also noted the city’s history of racism. “I wasn’t sure that I wanted to run knowing that people were going to be attacking me based on my gender and my skin colour.” But when she learned a ranked ballot system may force people to focus on their own campaigns, she said it was the boost she needed. “Thinking that was going to be less of a barrier pushed me to want to run.” Kayabaga was in the lead with 29 per cent of the votes on the first round, according to official election results, and eventually secured the seat with 49 per cent of the vote on the eighth round.”
I see that today, October 27, Omnibus Bill 218 goes to second reading in the legislature. The media are focusing on this tiny section to the detriment of the economic statements in the rest of the bill. You still have the chance to remove this miniscule Schedule 2 from Bill 218. You must realize that your government is going counter to history and that we will eventually have proper electoral reform. Why not do it now. Please restore the framework for conducting ranked ballot elections for offices on a municipal council.
I would appreciate a reply regarding my request to keep the use of Ranked Ballots in Ontario Municipal Elections.