Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Problems With The General Vote

  1. Local Government is supposed to be the government closest to the people. Under the General Vote, the constituency of members of Oshawa Council would be significantly larger than our Provincial and Federal Members of Parliament. The politicians that are supposed to be closest to the people would become as remote as Federal and Provincial politicians.
  2. If the constituency of local politicians increased to the size of Federal and Provincial Ridings, politicians would start demanding salaries, status, and perks equal to those of The Ontario Legislature and the House of Commons and this extra cost would come from your local property tax bill.
  3. Because of the large size of General Vote constituencies, the politicians could not become expert in the finer details and smaller problems of your neighbourhood to properly represent the interests of your community. Politicians would only be interested in working on large problems affecting large numbers of potential voters leaving the small neighbourhood concerns untouched.
  4. Success under the General Vote depends upon high name recognition. Therefore developing high name recognition becomes the pre-dominant activity of General Vote politicians. They grandstand, bitch, and bicker in seeking media attention...and this is at the expense of real service to the community. Success in Ward Voting depends upon providing service to the constituents. To be elected, Ward Politicians must be effective workers for their community. Be clear that politicians will do what is required to get elected. Do you want city council members primarily working on increasing their "name profile" or do you want them working for you?
  5. The General Vote results in little politician turnover therefore politicians are not accountable to the people…under the general vote in Oshawa from the time of the formation of Durham Region to the introduction of ward voting only one incumbent had been defeated (John McLaughlin the perpetually lowest Regional vote getter to Cy Elsey, the perpetually highest Local Council politician, who was successful in moving up from Local to Regional Council). The principal reason for council turnover was the death or resignation of members. Politicians are only accountable to the extent that they can be defeated.
  6. With little council turnover under the General Vote, the average age of council members increases and few new ideas are introduced. As a result, Oshawa leadership becomes stale and less vibrant.
  7. Under the General Vote, politicians over time tend to come from only the wealthier sections of the city because these people have more money and are generally better known. Under Oshawa’s old general vote, no candidate living south of King Street had been elected in living memory. Ald. Margaret Shaw was the southernmost politician and she lived on the south side of King Street. The old ward 3 had 3 politicians (Ed Kolodzie, Pauline Beal, and Mike Armstrong) living in one polling subdivision of about 100 houses. The old ward 6 had half the council (John Aker, Mike Lisko, Ruth Bestwick, Jim Potticary, John DeHart, Jack Wiley, John McLaughlin, Bruce McArthur). While these politicians might have claimed to represent the whole city, human nature dictates that they would have been more interested in the immediate surroundings of their residence and the part of the city that they spent most of their time in.
  8. Under the general vote, large organizations like Trade Unions, GM, The Golf Club, Senior’s Organizations, Church Groups, and the Ethnic Clubs whose members live over the whole city had inordinate ability to influence voter choices through favouring candidates who would cater to the wishes of the large group…so council members become responsible to and representative of the wishes of the large groups because they want to insure the group support in delivering election votes. This is wrong! Council must continue to represent individual ratepayers and individual neighborhoods and not large organizations in the city.
  9. Under the general vote, all politicians are responsible for everything. In any system where everyone is responsible for everything, no one takes responsibility for anything. Therefore under a general vote, Oshawa would return to the sleepy “do-nothing” place that it once was rather then the vibrant place it is becoming. This would be similar to wiping out all responsibilities in your workplace. If you can imagine such a scenario, the workplace would quickly become non-productive...similar to a General Vote Council.
  10. Because people have little influence under the general vote, voter participation goes down.
  11. Under the General Vote campaigning takes place remote from the school gyms and church basements of local neighborhoods.
  12. Under the General Vote, voters cannot become familiar with the large number of candidates appearing on the ballot and thus vote only for the familiar names…the incumbents. The last General Vote had an 11X17 ballot with close to 100 names when all of the offices were included. How could you possibly make an informed choice. It is tough enough with the 3, 4 or 5 names appearing on the ward ballot.
  13. There is no jurisdiction the size of Oshawa in Ontario that has the General Vote. The General Vote in Oshawa would be similar to having all MP’s run on one ballot across the country and the makeup of the House of Commons being the top 308 vote getters from across the country on a giant ballot containing thousands of names. You would never get to know what the candidates stood for and you could well imagine that vast areas of the country would be unrepresented. Much vocal dissension, name calling, jumping up and down, and publicity campaigns would result so would-be politicians could promote their names to get re-elected. The result would be that the bulk of winning candidates would come from Ontario and Quebec, the populous Provinces, leaving most areas of the country unrepresented. That was what happened in Oshawa under the General Vote….dissension, dissension, and more dissension without any real progress with the council members residing in only a few sections of the city.
  14. In a General Vote Council, every member is an election competitor for votes with every other member. Therefore a General Vote Council can become very dysfunctional with each Councillor criticizing others and trying to outdo them for press.

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