'Insulting': Councillors slam province’s compensation for ranked ballots
LONDON, ONT. -- They accepted the money, but they weren’t happy about it.
Several city councillors took aim at the provincial government for scrapping the option to use ranked ballots during municipal elections, and encouraged their colleagues to turn down $51,000 offered to compensate London city hall.
“Fifty-one thousand dollars, frankly, is insulting,” Councillor Stephen Turner said during Tuesday’s council meeting. “I’m really disappointed in the Province’s response to this.”
In 2018, London was the first municipality in Ontario to elect its council using ranked ballots following a change in the Municipal Elections Act.
Last year, however, the provincial government revoked the previous government’s decision to permit the use of ranked ballots.
The decision meant London taxpayers wasted $515,000 to switch electoral systems in 2018, and will spend an estimated $51,000 to return to first-past-the-post in 2022.
Councillor Elizabeth Peloza suggested the compensation offered by the province was woefully insufficient.
“It’s a great financial loss to the city, also what I think is a loss to democracy,” added Peloza. “I don’t think $51,000 is adequate.”
Deputy Mayor Josh Morgan reiterated his disappointment in the province’s decision, but argued against the political push to turn down the money.
“I would agree it is not reflective of the investments we made, but its better than nothing,” Morgan said.
Council voted 9-6 to accept the provincial funding, albeit begrudgingly.
Mayor Ed Holder admitted that he would have liked his negotiations with the province to have netted a larger amount.
“Look, I get the sentiment from colleagues, I get the heart (being shown),” said Holder. “But I’m not prepared to turn down the money that’s there.
Holder pointed out that London will soon be turning to the provincial and federal governments to cover another $20 million in pandemic-related costs.
Ranked ballots allow voters to rank their first, second, and third choices from the list of candidates.
Proponents argue ranked ballots better reflect voters sentiment, encourage greater diversity among candidates, and make it easier to defeat incumbents.
Almost 70 per cent of London voters chose to rank more than one candidate in 2018.
The provincial government previously argued that scrapping ranked ballots will ensure “consistency” across Ontario, and prevent other municipalities from incurring the cost of switching.