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Ontario will introduce changes today to the Municipal Elections Act that would, if passed, modernize municipal elections and provide the option of using ranked ballots in future municipal elections.
Between May and July 2015, Ontario consulted on potential changes to the Municipal Elections Act and received more than 3,400 submissions. Most submissions were from members of the public and supported giving municipalities the option of using ranked ballots in future elections, which would allow a voter to rank candidates in order of preference. The option to use ranked ballots would begin for the 2018 municipal elections.
Other proposed changes to the act would, if passed, increase transparency and accountability and make election rules clear and modern, by:
- Shortening the campaign calendar by opening nominations for candidates on May 1 instead of January 1
- Creating a framework to regulate third party advertising, including contribution and spending limits
- Making campaign finance rules clearer and easier to follow for voters, candidates and contributors, including giving all municipalities the option to ban corporate and union donations
- Removing barriers that could affect electors and candidates with disabilities
- Making it easier to add or change information on the voters’ list
Enhancing transparency and accountability and allowing more choice in municipal elections is part of the government’s economic plan to build Ontario up and deliver on its number-one priority – growing the economy and creating jobs. The four-part plan includes investing in talent and skills, including helping more people get and create the jobs of the future by expanding access to high-quality college and university education. The plan is also making the largest investment in public infrastructure in Ontario’s history and investing in a low-carbon economy driven by innovative, high-growth, export-oriented businesses. The plan is also helping working Ontarians achieve a more secure retirement.
“These proposals clarify the rules for voters and allow for more choice in how to run elections, including the option of using ranked ballots. Thank you to everyone who shared their feedback with us.”
— Ted McMeekin, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
No Canadian jurisdiction currently uses ranked ballots.
There are 444 municipalities in Ontario.
In 2006, the City of Toronto was given the authority to ban union and corporate contributions, and has prohibited these contributions for the past two elections. It is currently the only municipality with the ability to do so.
Proposed amendments to the Municipal Elections Act are listed below.
Summary of the Municipal Elections Act consultation
Proposed Amendments to the Municipal Elections Act
The government intends to introduce legislative amendments to the Municipal Elections Act that would, if passed, give municipalities the option of using ranked ballots in future municipal elections.
The Municipal Elections Act, 1996 sets out rules for electors and candidates, and roles for municipal clerks and councils in municipal and school board elections in Ontario. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing reviews the Municipal Elections Act after each Ontario municipal election to determine if it meets the needs of Ontario communities.
A public review of the Municipal Elections Act took place between May 2015 and July 2015. Through this review, the province received more than 3,400 submissions from the public, municipal councils and staff from across the province. The proposed changes respond to the concerns heard during the review.
A summary of the results of the public consultation can be read online.
Ranked Ballot Voting
The proposed changes to the Municipal Elections Act would, if passed, give municipalities the authority to pass a by-law to use ranked ballot voting, beginning in the 2018 municipal elections. Ranked ballots would allow a voter to rank candidates in order of preference.
The proposed legislation would address items such as consulting with the public before a municipality decides to implement ranked ballots, how votes in a ranked ballot election would be counted, and which offices on a municipal council may be elected using ranked ballots. The framework and details for ranked ballot elections would be set out in regulation.
The government is proposing to shorten the municipal election campaign period by 120 days. Candidates would be able to register between May 1 and the fourth Friday in July instead of January 1 to the second Friday in September in the year of the election. Shortening the length of the nomination period would give municipalities more time to prepare ahead of the election, should they choose to use ranked ballots. Ontario currently has the longest nomination period of any province. These changes respond to feedback heard during the review about the length of the campaign period and campaign fatigue.
Third Party Advertising
The government is proposing to introduce a framework to regulate third party advertising, which would include contribution and spending limits. Only contributors who are eligible under the act could register as a third party. Third parties would also have to identify themselves on signs and advertisements. Spending limits for third party advertising would be set out in a regulation.
The government is proposing changes to ensure that rules for municipal elections are consistent with transparent, accountable, fair and modern election finance practices. Some examples include giving all municipalities the option to ban corporate and union donations and setting clear spending limits on post-campaign spending on gifts and parties. Changes to spending limits for campaign finance would be set out in a regulation.
Compliance and Enforcement
Proposed changes to the act will help ensure the rules under the act are clearer and simpler for voters, candidates and contributors to follow. One proposed change is to encourage compliance by refunding nomination fees to candidates only if they file their financial statement by the deadline. In this way, candidates would be encouraged to file on time.
Proposed changes to the act would require clerks to prepare accessibility plans to identify, remove and prevent barriers that could affect electors and candidates with disabilities, and make the plan available to the public prior to voting day.
The province plans to introduce the proposed amendments now so that municipalities have the opportunity to consider ranked ballots before the 2018 municipal elections.
Supplemental: Is this move a recycling of an Ontario Green Party initiative? From March 10: https://www.thesilo.ca/ontario-greens-push-ban-political-donations-counties-province/