City to consider electoral reform

Published on February 13, 2017
Councillor Elaine MacDonald wants the City to look at the pros and cons of changing the way the municipality votes (Nick Seebruch/ TC Media).

CORNWALL, Ontario - The City of Cornwall started the process towards considering whether or not to reform the way the people of Cornwall elect their officials.

Council received a report from Administration on electoral reform at the City Council meeting on Monday, Feb. 13. The report specifically explained the differences between First Past the Post (the current voting system) and Ranked Ballot.

The reason for the report is that the Province has allowed municipalities to consider changing their voting process, as long as they make a decision before May 1, 2017, which would be in time for the 2018 municipal election.

If the process were started now it would include an education process to educate counillors and a public forum where the voters can give their input.

Councillor Elaine MacDonald wanted Council and the city to at least consider the idea of reviewing the voting process.

"Let us not fail to act and not even look at this opportunity without making a knowledgable decision without going to the public," she said.

Councillor Bernadette Clement agreed with the motion.

"By not following through with this its like us making a decision on how we elect ourselves without public consultation," she said.

Councillor Andre Rivette was opposed to starting the review process to learn about Electoral Reform.

"is the system we have, is it broke now," Counillor Rivette asked. "What's the cost involved? The machines we have now, are they any good? No? We'd have to throw that money away right away."

While Councillor David Murphy was in favour of public consultation, he did not buy the Ranked Ballot system as a viable option.

"Its always a good idea to go to the public, but its a convoluted complicated process," he said.

"I've been looking at this issue for over a year and I still don't have my head wrapped around it so how is Joe Public supposed to get it down in a month," added Councillor Claude McIntosh.

The Mayor however, proposed by-passing the May 1 deadline and look down the road to a referendum for more time to learn about the process and get input from the public.

Councillor Elaine MacDonald agreed with the possibility of a referendum, but in her closing remarks addressed the question as to whether the current First Past the Post system is broken.

"We hear tonight that in our last election we had 33 percent voter turnout, I think that's the answer for you," she said. "If I ever heard of a symptom of ill-health, that was it."

Ultimately, Council backed Councillor Elaine MacDonald's motion to start the process to review the voting system. All councillors voted in favour of the process except Councillors Denis Carr and Andre Rivette.

Under the First Past the Post system, the candidate with the most votes wins, even if they do not have a majority of the votes.

First Past the Post is criticized for not being representative. Those voters who do not vote for the winning party do not have their voices represented, even if the winning party is backed by a minority.

In a Ranked Ballot system, each voter is allowed to pick multiple candidates and "rank" them according to preference. Under this system, it becomes more likely that the winning party has more widespread support of the public, because they would have to be either the first, or second choice of the voter.