Saturday, October 24, 2009

Letter to Minister regarding Review of Ontario Municipal Election Law

Hon. J. Watson,
Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing

Hon. D. McGuinty
Premier of Ontario

Mayor and Council,
c/o Oshawa City Clerk

Dear Sir:


I write to you once again regarding the general vote that Oshawa City Politicians have implemented for the election of our next municipal council.

This change was made following a convoluted plebescite question on the 2006 ballot in which the public were poorly informed. In point of fact, the Mayor publicly acknowledged at a Council Meeting that it was not the city's responsibility to provide voter information on this question, saying this was up to private individuals who felt strongly about the issue. This, as you know, is contrary to Municipal Election Law which prohibits 3rd party campaigns. Oshawa Politician's lack of interest in communicating basic details as to what the question meant, what difference it would make to voters, why a change was needed, and why the question was asked, and their failure to ask a straight-forward question certainly demonstrated 1) they were not interested in an informed voter result, and 2) they manipulated the question and the voters to get a desired result.

City politicians were able to implement this change unilaterally without review to any external body like the OMB because they kept their ward structure even though these will not be used for election purposes. Only changes to ward boundaries are appealable and so Oshawa kept its ward boundaries to avoid any external objective review of the change.

Federal Members of Parliament have an average constituency size of 107000 and serious consideration is being given to reducing this significantly with the introduction of up to 36 more seats across the country. Does it make any sense then, that Oshawa's Municipal Politicians should have constituency sizes of about 165,000 or 50% larger than those of our Present Federal Members of Parliament. For a government that is supposed to be closest to the people, this makes no sense at all and simply takes our local government farther away from the people than our Provincial and Federal reps.

In fact, as I have communicated to you in the past, this large constituency will make our local government less accountable, less representative, less responsive, less inclusive, and less democratic. The huge ballot will produce an impossible task for voters in making informed ballot choices. Name recognition rather than service to the public will be the chief prerequisite for election success. This, of course, will present huge benefits to the incumbents...which is the reason why they favour it. The general vote serves the politicians---not the ratepayers.

In my communications with you, I suggested 1) that ward elections should be mandated for cities in excess of 50,000, or 2) that municipal election law should be updated to allow for municipal political parties including fundraising/reporting provisions, as well as ballot party identification for party approved slates. As you know, municipal political parties, similar to Vancouver's, are necessary to allow the general vote to work in large cities if they are being allowed to implement that form of election. Democracy requires an informed public and Municipal Political Parties present the only way for citizens to become properly informed under such a system.

In communications with you, you assured me that reviews of legislation governing municipal elections were underway and further assured me that serious consideration would be given to reviewing this issue.

The deadline for information to get to Municipal Clerks is rapidly approaching for any legislative changes to be implemented in respect of the 2010 Municipal Elections and I ask you to postpone Oshawa's proposed change in voting system to the 2012 Elections if your department is unable to meet the presently mandated timelines.

Your action NOW is vitally needed to ensure a fair and democratic 2010 election process for Oshawa City Council.

I would appreciate feedback on the current state of review of the legislation affecting this very important question.

Bill Longworth,

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Position of Local Councillor should be wiped out!

The following story has been reprinted from Oshawa This Week

Oct 08, 2009 - 04:30 AM

By David Conway
Former Oshawa Regional Councillor

As an Oshawa taxpayer and presumably a municipal voter, you may recall the referendum in the 2006 municipal election regarding the choice to continue with the ward system or change to the general vote system in electing our councillors. It was worded in such a way that if you wanted to retain the ward system you had to vote "no" to the question.

It was clever on the part of councillors who wanted the general vote system and it worked, mainly because most voters do not like to take a negative approach to the polls and therefore are inclined to vote "yes" even though they may not realize it may be detrimental to their best interests.

Now voters will be going to the polls in 2010 to elect seven regional councillors and three local councillors on a city-wide "general" vote.

This brings me to my topic question -- if local councillors were elected to serve two wards each in addition to the individual wards served by regional councillors, and those wards are no longer significant, then why do we still need local councillors?

With a city-wide vote in place all seven regional councillors will be elected to serve the entire city. What, then, is the purpose in electing three additional councillors to do the same thing?

I remember when Bill Longworth worked so hard to bring the ward system to Oshawa that there was considerable opposition but eventually it was approved. With Regional council in existence at the time it was apparent that a regional councillor's work would have to be considered a full-time position.

This precluded anyone with a full-time job in their own careers from offering their services as councillors. For this reason, and I am sure I am correct in this, five positions were made available for "local councillors" who did not sit on regional council and could therefore serve on a "part-time" basis as most meetings were held in the evening hours.

That has now changed to the extent that local councillors are now basically "full-time" councillors and some meetings are now being held during daytime working hours. The intent to have local councillors serving on a "part-time" basis has been abandoned. The significant increase in pay to local councillors substantiates that statement as well as their claim that it was twice as much work to look after two wards so the pay increase was merited.

It would seem to me that there is now no basis for electing seven regional councillors and three local councillors in a "general" vote system when all that is needed is seven regional councillors who collectively will be looking after the needs of all citizens of Oshawa.

This result would not only mean a more streamlined and efficient City council but would save the taxpayers approximately $200,000 per year.

Since it is less than three months before potential candidates begin registering for the 2010 election, it is rather important that City council give some consideration to this issue at an early date.
David Conway is a former Oshawa councillor.