Saturday, November 24, 2007

Legislative Changes Required to Make General Vote Workable

Hon. J. Gerretsen,
Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing


Hon. D. McGuinty,
Premier of Ontario

Jerry Oullette,
MPP Oshawa

Christine Elliot
MPP Whitby/Oshawa

To the Mayor and Council
c/o Oshawa City Clerk

Local Press

Dear Hon. Minister:

Request changes to The Ontario Municipal Act and The Ontario Municipal Elections Act to allow for Municipal Political Parties to contest Municipal Elections

As you know, Bill 130 changes to the Municipal Act allowed Oshawa City Council to implement the general vote for the election of city council for the next municipal elections. While a plebiscite was held, the people were ill-informed as the Mayor stated that the city had no responsibility to inform them of the meaning of the question, its ramifications, or why the question was asked.

This has a number of negative repercussions for Oshawa ratepayers and potentially for voters throughout Ontario where local politicians choose to implement the general vote for municipal elections.

The huge number of candidates on the Oshawa Municipal Ballot will produce an enormous ballot listing up to 100 names for the various offices making it virtually impossible for voters to make informed choices.

Since informed voters are a basic requirement in a democracy, I am asking for legislative changes to The Ontario Municipal Act and The Ontario Municipal Elections Act to make the general vote “workable” and “democratic” for voters in Oshawa.

The only way to make the municipal general vote workable in a city the size of Oshawa is to allow for the organization of municipal political parties. While this would “Americanize” our municipal election systems mirroring their city elections which are largely organized around slates representing the Republican and Democratic Parties, there is no alternative for the Provincial Government if democracy is valued and the general vote is to be allowed or encouraged in Ontario Municipalities.

Such permissive legislation to allow for the formation of civic political parties exists in Sections 6, 7, & 8 of British Columbia's Local Governments Act to permit the use of the general vote in Vancouver, the only large city in the country, now along with Oshawa, to use the general vote.

The formation of civic political parties would simplify the process of informing voters as candidates associated with the party would all adhere to a common platform and party affiliation itself would be the predominant factor attracting votes rather than the individual or his/her name alphabetically positioned on the ballot.

As you know, barriers to the formation of civic political parties presently exist under The Ontario Municipal Act and Sections 29-39 and 66-82 of The Ontario Municipal Elections Act in regards to fundraising limitations, election expenses reporting, registering of candidates, etc., and no provision is given for civic parties to formally and officially approve their associated candidates or the identification of candidate party affiliation on the election ballot which the Supreme Court has held as an essential aspect of voter’s rights to make informed and rational ballot choices under the Charter of Rights.

Changes are necessary to allow for centralized party fundraising and spending at any time and not confined to election periods in order to allow for the development of public awareness of party objectives and platforms as well as for common election period expenses for party signage, brochures, advertising, etc. during election periods.

Should the Province be unwilling to introduce these legislative changes permitting and encouraging the development of Municipal Political Parties, I am asking that they declare Oshawa’s move to the general vote invalid as it severely jeopardizes the ideal of an “informed” vote necessary in a democracy.

You will understand, sir, that the basic premise of democratic politics is to serve the people…not the politicians. We cannot allow our city politicians to "Shanghai" the system for their own selfish purposes and benefits. We cannot allow our political system to become “self-serving” for the politicians.

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