Sunday, October 21, 2007

Request for Audit on City Council's Plebiscite Efforts

Mayor and Council,
c/o City Clerk,
Oshawa City Hall

Hon. D. McGuinty, Premier of Ontario
Hon J. Gerretsen, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
Members, Oshawa City Council
Local News Media

Canada’s Supreme Court says that information for voters is a basic right in a democracy, and Elections Ontario guarantees the democratic voting rights of all Ontarians.

John Hollins, Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Ontario, states in regard to the recent Provincial Electoral Reform Plebiscite, “Our mandate, as defined by law, is to ensure that Ontario voters receive clear and impartial information about the referendum process, the date of the referendum, the referendum question and the content of the choices in the referendum,” and, he continues, “Our focus over the remaining days leading up to the referendum is continuing to increase awareness of the referendum question and educating voters about their choices.

With the priorities placed on an informed voting public by both the Supreme Court and by Elections Ontario, I am requesting that Oshawa’s Auditor General be directed by City Council to perform an audit on how well the City of Oshawa measured up to these ideals.

The auditor general should include a comparison of Oshawa’s efforts with those of other civic and provincial jurisdictions that included recent plebiscites on their election ballots.

In addition, the auditor should commission a survey of Supreme Court cases having to do with the requirement for voter information leading up to elections and the Supreme Court rulings in this regard.

Further an independent polling service should be commissioned to establish the knowledge Oshawa voters had of the plebiscite question prior to voting.

The poll should have enough random respondents in all parts of the city to reach the 95% confidence level and should ask Oshawa residents:

1) If they agree with the removal of local ward representatives elected by their communities;

2) If they agree that they could become knowledgeable enough of up to 100 candidates for election on a general vote ballot in order to make an informed choice;

3) Whether citizens were aware prior to voting that a plebiscite question was to appear on the election ballot;

4) If citizens agree that they were fully and sufficiently aware of the details and ramifications of the what they were asked on the plebiscite;

5) Whether informing the voters of details and ramifications of a city plebiscite is the responsibility of the city or of private citizens who must personally finance an information campaign; (This question is especially important because Mayor Gray says it’s not the city responsibility to inform the public…it’s up to the public themselves to fundraise and organize an information campaign, and Councillor Kolodzie who states he’s never heard of a government providing information about a plebiscite question!—this film clip is under preparation!)

6) Any other questions a professional polling organization deems useful given their expertise in the area of political and public opinion polling.
I would ask that any audits commissioned on this issue be completely independent of city council, that reports and study design be completed without input or approvals of city politicians, and the results be distributed widely to the public.

I understand that I must first propose this audit to a committee of council and await details of when I can make this presentation.

Bill Longworth
Chair and Founder
VOTES (Vote To Eliminate Self-serving Politicians)

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