LONDON, ONT. -- A last ditch effort to continue using ranked ballots to elect council members in London will see the mayor reach out directly to Premier Doug Ford.

“Time is of the essence,” Mayor Ed Holder tells CTV News. He will ask to speak with the Premier and Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark on Wednesday.

“It is now a part of the legislative agenda for the province. It could be passed as early as the next several days.” Holder adds.

On Tuesday, London city council voted 14-1 to approve a motion by Deputy Mayor Jesse Helmer and Councillor Josh Morgan asking the province not to force London to switch back to a first-past-the-post (FPTP) election in 2022.

“Premier Ford has spoken very well about the province empowering municipalities to be able to make local decisions,” argued Councillor Morgan. “This doesn’t fit with those statements.”

Specifically, council decided to:

  • Request the mayor ask Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark ‘to exempt London from the proposed changes’
  • Communicate to the provincial government that London: does not support the proposed changes, supports the principle that municipalities should have a choice, and asks for meaningful consultation prior to changes of this magnitude
  • Direct civic administration provide an estimated cost to switch back to a FPTP election in 2022

In 2018, London was the first municipality in Ontario to use ranked ballots.

Ranked ballots allow voters to indicate their first, second, and third choices among the list of candidates.

Proponents argue they encourage greater diversity among candidates, better reflect voter sentiment and make it easier to defeat incumbents.

In 2018, almost 70 per cent of voters in London chose to rank more than one candidate.

Cambridge and Kingston held non-binding referendums that supported switching in 2022.

The proposed Bill 218, Supporting Ontario’s Recovery Act, however, would forbid municipalities from using ranked ballots to elect their council members.

Last week, the province explained it would require all municipalities to use a traditional FPTP electoral system to ensure “consistency” and prevent municipalities from incurring costs to switch to ranked ballots.

But Deputy Mayor Helmer rejects the urgency and took aim at the lack of consultation with municipalities.

“The system we have right now should be left alone,” he told council. “We have a lot of real problems that we do need to work on.”

London city hall spent $515,000 to implement ranked ballots, but Helmer points out that many of those expenses would not be repeated in 2022 and beyond.

During the council meeting, Councillor Shawn Lewis said the province’s decision will leave London taxpayers on the hook for those one-time costs, plus additional costs to switch back in 2022.