The province is reviewing the Municipal Elections Act, which is does after every municipal election, but this time it is exploring whether to allow ranked ballots in the next municipal election.
It is seeking feedback from citizens and organizations with a deadline of July 27. You can comment:
By email at MEA.email@example.com
By mail to: Municipal Elections Act Review, Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing Local Government Policy Branch, 777 Bay Street, 13th Floor, Toronto, ON M5G 2E5
The scope of the review will spread beyond ranked ballots however. I found this part of the press release particularly interesting in light of the audit of Glen Tolhurst's campaign expenses:
"The province is now reviewing the Municipal Elections Act. In addition to exploring how ranked ballots could be implemented by municipalities, the review will evaluate the effectiveness of rules about:
Campaign Finance – whether existing campaign finance rules are consistent with transparent, accountable, fair and modern election finance practices.
Third Party Advertising – whether third party advertising should be regulated, and if so, how.
Accessibility – whether there are currently challenges or barriers to making municipal elections more accessible, and how these could be overcome.
Enforcement – if there are appropriate systems in place to ensure municipal election rules are effectively enforced.
The government is also interested in hearing about other ways to modernize and improve municipal elections in Ontario, for example, by changing the length of municipal election campaigns."
Susan Watson, who initiated the audit process, has said this is not a personal grudge against Tolhurst but rather a test case for the province. She's hoping the Guelph case will catch the attention of the province, spark some changes in the legislation, and give clarity around campaign funding rules.
Given that the province is now looking at campaign financing and third party advertising, as part of this review, I wonder if the audit case still needs to go ahead and if there is a way to stop the process before any more money is spent.
Tolhurst is out of pocket for his lawyer and Watson for hers. The cost of the auditor is borne by the city unless the auditor decides the exercise is frivolous. Then city council can order Watson to cover the costs if it wants to.
The auditor quoted a fee of $7,500 plus $500 an hour for extra time.