Look. I don’t think ranked ballots are the be all and end all. Yes, there are far more pressing problems this city faces than how we elect our local representatives. Problems ranked ballots won’t help solve, at least not directly. Hell, ranked ballots aren’t even going to cure our democratic deficit that keeps our city council from truly reflecting the demographics of this city.
But here’s why I’ve been harping on it for the better part of the past week since city council tried to trip up debate on the issue with Thursday’s successful vote on Councillor Justin Di Ciano’s motion, requesting the province not “proceed with amendments to the Municipal Elections Act to provide for Ranked Choice Voting”. It’s about our current state of governance and its glaringly apparent lack of resolve to even discuss, let alone embrace, change. Such paralytic aversion to new ideas and new ways of thinking adversely affects every aspect of our daily lives in this city, far and beyond than how we cast a ballot.
Yesterday, I highlighted the clown show that was the rookie councillor segment on ranked ballots on Sunday’s Mark Towhey 1010 radio program. I think it could be argued convincingly that the slate, featuring councillors Jon Burnside, Christin Carmichael Greb and Stephen Holyday, skewed rightward. So, you might infer from that that anti-ranked ballot sentiment is a conservative thing.
Not so fast.
A skim through the names of the 28 councillor voting along with the like of Justin Di Ciano, John Burnside, Christin Carmichael Greb, Stephen Holyday et al reveals that it isn’t simply a matter of right versus left. A handful of what would be considered variations of the colour pinko wound up on that list. Maria Augimeri. Glenn De Baeremaeker. Mary Fragedakis. Anthony Perruzza. They all helped give the motion a wider margin of victory than you might’ve expected, lending it a bipartisan feel to this assault on voting reform.
Joining in from the left side of the political spectrum, Councillor Paula Fletcher, addressing her constituents in a letter explaining her rational for giving thumbs down to ranked ballots, proved to all of us that left wing, progressive voices on council can be as equally dishonest and fatuous on the issue as any from the right.
Thanks so much for your email and your advocacy for voting reform. I want to assure you I also support electoral reform
I agree that ranked ballot voting is an exciting concept. So are other voting reform concepts like proportional representation. Meaningful reforms that get more people engaged and out to vote should be a priority for all governments.
I hope you agree that any transformation of our democratic electoral process should only take place after a rigorous democratic process. Unfortunately, when the motion regarding ranked ballots came up in 2013, City Council (then in the throes of the Rob Ford crisis) did not take the standard steps to bring the idea out for thorough, City-led public consultations. In comparison, the current Ward Boundary Review is undergoing a lengthy process with City staff, consultants, and public updates before any decision is made.
On a matter as important as voting reform, I rely on the same level of staff study and public consultation as I would when considering a major planning application like the 629 Eastern StudioCentre application coming to Council, a transit proposal like the Relief Line or an affordable housing renewal plan like Regent Park. This is the only way a Councillor can make a truly informed decision on your behalf.
I really appreciate that you have taken initiative to be very informed and active on this issue, however some residents were surprised to learn voting reform is being contemplated and have not had that chance.
When we change our voting system, I believe it has to be based on thoughtful, considered debate and best advice from City officials after broad City-wide public consultation.
As I have said previously and repeatedly, the June 2013 vote was a request from city council to the province to allow municipalities the option of using ranked ballots (among other initiatives like permanent resident voting) in future municipal elections. The option. All the other stuff – ‘considered debate’, ‘best advice from City officials’, ‘broad City-wide public consultation’, ‘a rigorous democratic process’ — would follow, presumably and if councillors like Paula Fletcher pushed for them, as the city council decided whether or not to implement ranked ballots.
In her letter, Councillor Fletcher delivers the impression that once the province gives us the go-ahead, ranked ballots are a done deal. By invoking the Ward Boundary Review currently underway, she suggests that ranked ballots are inevitable like the ward boundary changes that are indeed coming. Ranked ballots aren’t. At least not yet. And not at all if the likes of Councillor Fletcher has her way, apparently.
The ‘Rob Ford Made Us Do It’ claim is also as ridiculous as it is insulting. We was hyp-nah-tized! We had no control over what we was doing!
What’s even more embarrassing is Councillor Fletcher wasn’t in the room at the time. Her name is notably absent for this vote. Maybe she felt too traumatized by the ‘throes of the Rob Ford crisis’ to weigh in. Who knows?
I don’t know the councillor, so I can only guess at her motivation with all this. Maybe it’s personal. She had a squeaker of an election back in 2010. Perhaps had ranked ballots been in place the outcome would’ve been different. There’s this Labour Council letter from August, “Democracy and Civic Elections”, that full-throatedly denounces ranked ballots. Maybe Councillor Fletcher feels a greater allegiance to the Labour Council than she does residents of Toronto. It could just be that some progressives are as allergic to change as conservatives. I wouldn’t even dismiss the possibility the councillor simply doesn’t like ranked ballots for very legitimate reasons.
That’s fine. But as I said yesterday, be upfront about it. Don’t mask your opposition in misinformation and spin. If Toronto elects to proceed with ranked ballots, it will only happen after serious public consultations, staff input and considered debate. All of which Councillor Fletcher calls for in her letter. Supporting last week’s motion wasn’t necessary for any of that to happen.
All that motion served to do, with Councillor Paula Fletcher solidly behind it, was to fire an arrow across the bow. The option for ranked ballots appears to be coming, like it or not. Opponents of the issue just wanted to let everyone know, including activists who’ve been pushing the initiative with years of hard work, that it was still going to be a long, hard, uphill battle.
— sincerely submitted by Cityslikr