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,

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