In video you’ll only see on CTV News, Mayor Ed Holder mounted a last ditch effort to convince the provincial government not to scrap the use of ranked ballots in municipal elections.
Late Wednesday afternoon Holder spoke to a Queens Park committee arguing that money to switch London back to first-past-the-post would be better used to cover COVID-19 expenses.
“There is a question of respect for municipal autonomy and local decision making,” said Holder.
Mayor Ed Holder was the only delegation granted time to speak to the province’s Standing Committee on Justice Policy about the government’s unilateral decision to strip municipalities of the choice to elect councils using ranked ballots.
“It would have been logical to me, as the municipality most directly affected, that we would have been consulted,” he said.
London was the first municipality to implement ranked ballots that allow voters to select their first second and third choices among council candidates.
Bill 218 includes the provincial government’s intent to revoke permission to use ranked ballots in 2022, including Cambridge and Kingston which held successful non-binding referendums.
“Give second thought to this legislation to allow cities more time to work with the government to evaluate potential impacts and concerns,” said Holder.
London taxpayers would have wasted the $515,000 spent in 2018 to implement ranked ballots, and in 2022 it would cost an additional $51,000 dollars to switch back to first past the post.
Holder said that money could be better used for COVID relief programs.
“For some agencies and nonprofit organizations, that’s all the money in the world. If we have that money to spend, let me spend it on COVID related expenses.”
The fact that this meeting of the standing committee was not live-streamed or somehow made viewable by the public, drew harsh criticism on social media from several proponents of ranked ballots.
Dave Meslin from Unlock Democracy Canada tweeting:
“Ford Nation chose the one single committee room that doesn’t have cameras. Since no one is allowed in Queens Park, this in now a secret, in camera, public meeting.”
New Democrat and London-West MPP Peggy Sattler tweeting:
“In keeping with bill that removes democratic rights from local councils, and denies due process for grieving LTC (Long Term Care) families, “public” hearings for Bill 218 are being held with no way for the public to watch them.”
While the hearing wasn’t heard by the general public, Councillor Josh Morgan hopes London’s message was heard by the provincial government.
“I’m hopeful that the government will listen to the mayor’s testimony today and hopefully make adjustments to the bill,” said Morgan.
“It certainly affects municipalities right across the province, but London most directly, so I think we were well heard,” said Holder.
Time for amendments is short as Bill 218 has already received First and Second Reading by the Ontario Legislature.
It requires Third reading and Royal Ascent to become law.