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Aurora is going to use a ward system in this municipal election. This sounds like it would give voters a choice at a more local level. What it does is reduce choice for the voter and make small town governments a group of local issue council members, instead of representatives with a town-wide purview.
The worst part is that not all council members will face the voter, they will be acclaimed. This is a weakening of our democracy. As an example, Newmarket had two acclaimed seats in the 2018 election. In the 2022 election, Newmarket has three acclaimed seats. That means those candidates will not be selected by the voters. Good for the candidates but bad for democracy.
The other problem with a ward system is that wards can be represented by a councillor with as little as 27.5 per cent (actual election number) of the voter’s support. Not what I would call a strong mandate.
How did this all come about? The Ford Conservatives started meddling in municipal affairs as soon as they were elected in 2018. Under the guise of COVID-19 restrictions, they slipped in a little clause that banned the use of ranked ballots that the previous government had allowed for municipalities to use if they wished.
Ford defended the decision to uphold the current system — first past the post (FPTP) — saying it would prevent voter confusion. "We don't need any more complications on ranked ballots, we're just going to do the same way we've been doing since 1867: first-past-the-post," I guess Premier Ford figures Ontarians aren’t as smart as citizens from many other countries in the world.
How could a ranked ballot be used in municipal elections? For single officer position, like the mayor, alternative vote (AV), could be used. The federal Conservatives used this system recently in selecting their leader.
For a council at large, single transferable vote (STV) could be used. This would also work for a ward system provided two or more candidates are required per ward.
The type of electoral system used in any election can enhance voter participation, and ensure candidates have the confidence of the people when standing for positions on local governments.
Dan Dessen, Newmarket