Province’s financial justification to end ranked ballots challenged
LONDON, ONT. -- The province’s intention to scrap ranked ballots, forcing Londoners to revert to a traditional first-past-the-post election in 2022, drew fire at Queen's Park and city hall.
During Question Period, London West MPP Peggy Sattler accused the Ford government of attacking democracy.
"Can the premier explain why he felt it was so urgent to undermine local democracy yet again and meddle in municipal politics?" asked Sattler.
"London was the only municipality in Ontario to use the ranked ballot,” responded parliamentary assistant for municipal affairs and housing, Gill Parm. "Their (London’s) municipal election cost taxpayers an additional $515,000."
London’s incoming deputy mayor is challenging that financial justification for stripping London of the right to conduct elections with a ranked ballot.
"A number of those costs are one-time costs to switch the election that we would not incur (again) if we were to continue with ranked ballots," says Coun. Josh Morgan.
Morgan agues the enhanced public education and audit services required in 2018 wouldn’t be necessary in 2022. In addition, London signed a three-election contract with its tabulator service to count ranked ballots in 2022 and 2026.
"We would lose the one time investments that we made that could have been leveraged for future elections, and we would incur additional costs to switch back," he warns.
In 2018, London was the first municipality in Ontario to use a ranked ballot, enabling voters to rank candidates as their first, second, and third choices for mayor and council. Proponents argue ranked ballots better represent voter sentiment, encourage a diverse field of candidates, and make it easier to defeat incumbents.
But on Tuesday the provincial government announced its intention to strip municipalities of the option to use ranked ballots in the future.
In 2018, Arielle Kayabaga became the first Black woman elected to serve on London city council.
Though she had enough first place votes to win a first-past-the-post election, ranked ballots were a factor in her decision to initially seek office.
"Ranked ballots provided me with opportunity to bring forward my policies, my ideas, and not be vilified for my gender or skin colour. It really did encourage me to run in the election," she explains.
At Queen's Park, Liberal MPP Mitzie Hunter cited the Ward 13 councillor as proof ranked ballots encourage diversity.
"London elected its first Black woman as a city councillor, Arielle Kayabaga, to this position. The system is having great success."
Ontario’s Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks Jeff Yurek, who represents voters in south London, was unavailable for an interview on Wednesday.