Ranked ballot option coming to Ontario municipalities

Ranked ballot option coming to Ontario municipalities

It won’t help defeat the Ford’s in the upcoming Toronto election but it could in 2018.

The Ontario Liberals are making good on a campaign promise to give municipalities some new tools to supposedly enhance local democracy.

A spokesperson for Municipal Affairs Minister Ted McMeekin confirms that the Kathleen Wynne government will amend current legislation to give city governments the option of ranked ballots in future elections.

"As the Premier indicated in our ministry’s mandate letter - In the course of reviewing the Municipal Elections Act, we will provide municipalities with the option of using ranked ballots in future elections as an alternative to the first-past-the-post system, starting in 2018," Mark Cripps told Yahoo Canada News.

"This work will get underway following the elections on October 27.”

[ Related: Poll finding Doug Ford in statistical tie in Toronto mayoral race may motivate undecided voters ]

A ranked ballot voting system — also known as Instant Run-off Voting (IRV) and preferential voting — allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference on their electoral ballots. If a candidate fails to earn at least 50 per cent of the vote after the first ballot, then voters’ second and third choices are tabulated until a candidate reaches a majority.

Last year, Toronto city council voted in favour of such a system and had asked Queen’s Park for its legislative blessing.

Dave Meslin who led the Ranked Ballot Initiative of Toronto says that the government’s announcement is good news.

"[Ranked ballot voting] means that no one has to vote strategically – you can vote with your heart each time. Runoff voting strongly discourages negative campaigning tactics, as candidates are trying to achieve ‘second choice’ status from all their opponents’ supporters," he wrote on his website.

"With ranked ballots, candidates aren’t forced to drop out of a race to prevent vote splitting."

In a telephone interview with Yahoo Canada News, Meslin adds that the new system can also lead to more civil election campaigns.

"Under our [first past the post] current system, negative attacks work. If your vote goes up someone else’s goes down. You want to make the other candidate seem really unattractive.

"But under a run-off system that completely backfires. The candidate who attacks everyone is guaranteed to lose because they won’t be anyone’s second choice."

There are over a dozen municipalities in the United States that do use ranked ballots but none in Canada. In terms of national elections — Australia has preferential voting while U.K. turned the option in a referendum in 2011.

Meslin, however, doesn’t want to see ranked ballots at the provincial or federal levels of government.

"I think there’s better options there that’s a party system.

"The best voting systems are the ones that give you some kind of proportional outcome. Which simply that if 10 per cent of the people vote for the Green Party, the Green Party should get 10 per cent of the seats."

[ Related: Ford struggles in transition from campaign strategist to campaign face ]

Not everyone sees the need for any reform at any level of government.

Maddie Di Muccio, a councillor in Newmarket, recently told Yahoo that she prefers our current first-past-the-post system, in part, because it requires political candidates to present bold ideas.

"In a ranked balloting system, the system actually favours someone who isn’t so bold and doesn’t alienate anyone else. This candidate demonstrates qualities that qualifies him to be everyone’s second-choice. It favours the ‘safe’ candidate," Di Muccio said.

"I don’t like a system that gives an advantage to whomever is the popular second choice. This waters down the qualities of the candidate and we end up with leaders who are congenial but typically lack strong principles and conviction – qualities that the public are demanding in the current political era.

"I think the present FPTP system breeds a better leader. The purpose to a long election campaign like we have in municipal politics is to have the endurance race. Side deals among candidates don’t happen. Everyone runs to win."

What do you think?

Would you like to see a ranked ballot for municipal elections?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments area below.

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