Municipal Elections in Ontario
This past Monday was election day in Ontario where cities and towns chose their mayors, councillors and school board trustees. It was the first election in many years that I did not vote in. Strangely, this municipal election did not seem to get much coverage through the media or even with the usual signs placed all over the city on lawns and other visible spots. I believe with the recent legalization of marijuana by the federal government, municipal elections just didn’t get the attention they usually see. I was actually caught off-guard when I heard on the radio Monday morning that it was election day, as I had thought it was to be the next day, Tuesday. I had to go out of town on Monday, so I wasn’t going to make special plans to get to the polls to vote.
I don’t condone the practice of not showing up to vote, but this was one of those times that I didn’t see much information on the candidates or the platforms they were running on. I had received a few phone calls that showed up on my phone as a political party, so I chose to let them go to voicemail. I’m not sure how it was for other voting areas, but here in Ottawa, there aren’t many issues that seem to stick out or are pressing problems that people are complaining about. We have our new light rail system that should be coming on line at some point in the future, but has been delayed time and again and will probably be delayed more times before it’s completed. I’m sure if there were costs associated with the constant delays, people would have held the current mayor and councillors accountable, but we have very little information so far on the numbers of this massive project.
We also have an issue in the Vanier community that has caused some controversy regarding the placement of a new Salvation Army location that will see the operation move from downtown to a new and much larger location. Many Vanier residents are upset with the decision the current mayor and councillors have made with this project and it is now being escalated to the provincial level to possibly have the project halted or moved to another location. The issue Vanier residents have is that the homeless shelter would move from the downtown core into Vanier and with it the associated problems of crime and associated drug use that is now occurring downtown, but in a substantially larger building.
Toronto to Lose Several Councillors
One of the larger controversies over this municipal election was the act of newly elected Ontario premiere Doug Ford who made one his first orders of business when taking office in the spring of this year was to cut the number of councillors by almost half to 25. At the time Doug Ford implemented this change, the election process had already begun which started some court challenges that such changes could not be made until after the pending election. In any case, Doug Ford was determined to cut the size of the current council and save taxpayers several million dollars in the process. His argument was that councillors really weren’t doing the work they were elected to do, and council just wasn’t getting anything done, but money was getting spent on office budgets including staff that was amounting to large sums of money.
Electronic Ballot Systems Fail
For some communities, they get to go back on Tuesday and try submitting their votes once again. For several ridings, the electronic ballot systems did not work and votes couldn’t be tabulated. I worked the last municipal election as a Deputy Returning Officer and the whole system was electronic, which was much easier than the system that was used in the previous federal election. The last federal election still had all the ballots counted manually by the Deputy Returning Officers and then submitted to the area Elections Canada office. The one thing that is consistent with the old system, is that it isn’t reliant on an Internet connection or special tabulating equipment, but is also prone to more issues that result from human error. That human error is often the reason for ballot recounts, but that often doesn’t take a large amount of time from getting the final results.
It was no surprise that here in Ottawa, our mayor Jim Watson once again received a mandate in this election. The same went for the mayor of Toronto, John Tory, who maintained his job for another four years. You can learn what the results are for your area by doing a quick Google search. I know there will be some who believe that there’s no excuse to not vote and some who would go even further by saying that voting should be mandatory. If voting was mandatory, would the results be any different? People would go in and just check off anyone or just spoil the ballot. At the end of the day, municipal elections generally don’t draw the highest turnout rates. In years that there is a provincial or federal election, I believe those rates are even lower. This election just wasn’t promoted very well for the Ottawa region and I don’t believe that there was even a debate amongst those running for mayor this time around. I will ensure that I make it to the polls for the next municipal election and cast my ballot, but upon looking at the results for Ottawa, my vote really wouldn’t have changed the outcome.