Mr. A. Borovoy,
Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Good afternoon Sir:
I write you in regards to the first decree of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association which is the protection of rights and freedoms fundamental to our democratic system.
The City of Oshawa of population approximately 160,000 has recently passed a bylaw to bring the “at large” or the “general vote” to the city for the election of its city council.
This will make the city the largest in Canada to use the general vote without the “formal” use of municipal political parties which are at present prohibited by the Ontario Municipal Elections Act.
This irresponsible, undemocratic, and self-serving action of Oshawa City Council cannot at present be appealed for review by any outside independent and objective body and Oshawa City Council took specific action to insure this.
The general vote in a city the size of Oshawa is completely unworkable without political parties as it excludes the possibility of informed voters which the Supreme Court has said is a necessity in a democracy and a basic right of Canadians.
The resulting city council will be less accountable, less inclusive, less representative, and less democratic and will give all city politicians constituencies about twice the size of those of our Federal and Provincial Members which is untenable for a local government that is supposed to be closest to the people.
Oshawa did hold a “non-binding” plebiscite on the issue but designed an extremely flawed plebiscite process with a gerrymandered question designed to confuse the people and solicit a response favored by the majority of council.
Oshawa’s Mayor stated publicly that City Council had no duty to inform the public prior to the plebiscite and thus voters were confronted in the voting booth seeing a question for the first time that they didn’t understand and had not previously considered. Even the “technical” terminology used in the question was never defined for the public.
What is worst the action of Oshawa City Council can be duplicated unilaterally by any irresponsible city council in Ontario without rebuke given the Ontario Municipal Act as it stands today.
I am writing you with the hopes that your organization might consider taking action on this important issue.
You can find considerable background information about the issue at www.oshawaspeaks.ca and I am personally available at the pleasure of you or your staff at any time to discuss any aspect of this issue in depth or provide any details that you might require.
We ask that one of the following actions be taken:
1) Oshawa’s General Vote Bylaw should be repealed, or,The involvement of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association in this issue will apply influence and pressure on the powers that be to work to protect the basic premise of democracy--the “real” vote that allows the public to determine their political destiny. This is the basic “icon” of democracy and it is being undermined by Oshawa’s General Vote Bylaw and by the undemocratic process City Council followed in implementing it.
2) That this kind of governance question should be appealable to the OMB, or,
3) If Oshawa is allowed to implement the General Vote, that the Province institute appropriate legislation in terms of fundraising, election expenses reporting, formal party approval of its slate of candidates as a requirement of registering as a party candidate, and an indication of party affiliation on voting ballots, and,
4) Failing the introduction of legislation to allow the growth of municipal political parties, the Ontario Municipal Act be revised to ensure that Oshawa's irresponsible and undemocratic actions cannot be duplicated in any other Ontario Municipality without citizen appeal to an independent, uninvolved, and objective body like the OMB.
We believe that governments exist to serve the people and that it is a degradation of Canadian democratic ideals when politicians can shanghai the system for their own self-serving purposes.
I think we have to be ever-vigilant to protect against erosion of our democratic rights and freedoms.
We look forward to hearing from you soon regarding this important question and pray that your organization will provide assistance in the preservation of Canadian democracy and freedoms in Oshawa and potentially in the rest of Ontario.
as a new Canadian who is very proud of my adopted country, I don't understand the statement, "The action of Oshawa City Council can be duplicated unilaterally by any irresponsible city council in Ontario without rebuke given the Ontario Municipal Act as it stands today." How is this possible when we say we live in one of the best democracies in the world?
The Ontario Municipal Act was revised to give cities more responsibility in their governance and I'm sure that this loophole was unforseen that any council like Oshawa's would use the loophole to institute a self-serving and undemocratic system. The government trusted the integrity of politicians not realizing there were some in the province like those in Oshawa who would take advantage of the new freedoms to look after themselves first--be damned the benefits to the people they are supposed to serve. It is actions like those of Oshawa City Council that give all politicians a "black eye". Rest assured, though, I do believe that politicians like those in Oshawa are in the minority in Canada. I do believe that most politicians in Canada are honest and have integrity. Most have a strong feeling of serving the public rather than serving themselves.
Just a followup on this comment...we have been assured by the minister that the Ontario Municipal Elections Act will be reviewed between elections and we are hopeful that 1) Oshawa's move to the general vote will be overruled by legislation changes that will allow the minister to review the issue, or 2) that legislation will be introduced to allow for municipal political parties to make the Oshawa General Vote workable. I will ask the minister for an invitation to the review of the legislation so that I can provide input. A fuller story is being developed on this issue along with further correspondence with the minister. There is a new Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and in his last correspondence to me seems more "open", "understanding" and "conciliatory" than the last.
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