Monthly Archives: November 2018

People get Ready

In a twist on the phrase “when one door closes another one opens”  I say “When one election finishes another one is around the corner”.  The Ontario Municipal elections are done, the Ontario election is way back in the rear-view mirror and in New Brunswick we finally have the party with the most seats in government.   So for those of us that are political, what’s next?  Where DO we focus our attentions?  

Checking the election calendar, in BC there’s a plebiscite on electoral reform.  Remember when Justin Trudeau said “2015 will be the last election using first past the post (FPTP)’?  Mail in voting on moving past FPTP to a proportional representation system in BC ends November 30thwith result anticipated shortly after that. The referendum was an election promise made in the 2017 election made the BC NDP and subsequently repeated in defeated throne speech by BC Liberal Premier Christie Clark in an effort to remain in power.

This is not the first referendum on the subject in BC and there have been other votes on the subject in other provinces.  The first vote on electoral change in BC in 2005 saw a majority of ballots cast for a change to a BC version of a Single Transferable Vote system (did you just say “huh” like me?) however the vote did not make the 60% threshold required, 57.7% vote in favour of change.  

Ontario had a ballot question on electoral reform in the 2007 election asking Ontarians to adopt a Mixed Member Proportional system. The vote for MMP failed dramatically as 63% of Ontarians voted to maintain FPTP.  The subject has not been brought up since in the province.

Two years ago, PEI held their referendum. Their vote was a five option ballot with Islanders voting on keeping FPTP, adopting a Dual Member Representation, moving to a MMP system, a FPTP plus Leaders system or going to Preferential Voting.  Too many options and having some of them being confusing caused a split in the results with FPTP finishing with 31% of the vote, second was MMP at 29%.  This vote demonstrates that too many options just muddy the water – a simple question of change, a yes or no vote makes for a simple and clear question.

Here we are today, with a referendum that asks a somewhat simple question – do you want FPTP or a Proportional Representation (PR) election system? If you vote for FPTP, that’s it you are done – seal the envelope and drop it in the mail and hope Canada Post rotating strikes don’t delay your ballot getting delivered.  If you say yes to PR you have to make a choice of what change you want.  Here it’s tricky; there’s Mixed Member Proportional representation, Dual-Member Proportional representation and the third option is Rural-Urban Proportional Representation.   To make this more complicated, the second question of the ballot will be ranked, a preferential ballot if you like.  The system that garners 50% plus one vote of the PR vote becomes the electoral reform in BC.  This entire exercise means nothing if a majority of voters say they want to keep FPTP.

All of this demonstrates that change is difficult; getting people to agree on change is another, it’s a greater challenge when what the change looks like needs to be chosen. 

At some point there will be a change in how we vote, and the change will start in a province before a change is made nationally. Whatever reason Trudeau gave to  “can” electoral reform, it was clear that the reform Canadians wanted was something other than what Justin Trudeau wanted.  

It may take several provinces to adopt electoral reform before this can be a national discussion.   In fact the push for electoral reform may have to start municipally. In Ontario, municipalities were given the right to decide what type of electoral reform to adopt; only one municipality really took a chance in 2018.  

London Ontario moved to a preferential ballot for all seats on their city council this fall.  In the end the only complaint about the preferential ballot was the length of time it took to decide the winners.  Candidates and voters waited almost 18 hours to have all the winners decided; and in the case of the Mayor’s race it was 13 rounds of counting before former Conservative MP Ed Holder was declared the winner and elected Mayor.  A faster computing system easily fixes the issue of time – something I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that London is looking into fixing for 2022. 

For the supporters of electoral reform, change rests on not only the outcome of the BC referendum but on which province(s) follow a successful challenge to FPTP on the west coast.  Nationally, can Justin Trudeau ever be trusted again to be sincere about electoral reform? Who will be the national catalyst for change nationally? 

Thank you for reading #RedHeartBlueSign, to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. I can be found Twitter @robertdekker@rdmediaottawaand on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

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In Remembrance

The Immortal Jukebox

In 1914 they came from the hamlets and the villages and the towns and the cities.

They came from the hills and the mountains and the valleys.

Farmers and miners.

Teachers and doctors.

White, Brown and Black.

They  marched away from Home with smiles on their faces.

They knew they would be Home again soon.

Today it is exactly 100 years since the guns fell silent ending World War One.

The emotional, spiritual, pyschic and cultural cost of such a war is beyond all human calculation.

A cataclysm shattering hearts and minds.

Shattering philosophies and faiths.

Shattering nations and societies.

Shattering hopes and dreams.

Shattering comfortable certainties..

The toll in terms of deaths and casualties we can, in awe, to some extent number.

From Australia : Lieutenant Joseph Balfe from Brunswick aged 25 and more than 62, 000 of his comrades.

From Canada : Private Percy Bark aged 18 and…

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Ottawa Election Primer: The New Council

Ottawa FlagThe new Ottawa City Council will be sworn in December 1st.   The 23 councillors that will sit around the table made promises, set priorities and declared a platform. After the counting was done I looked at the winning candidates websites and noted each of their top action items for their wards (and the city).

I was unable to get priorities from two councillors as their campaign websites were taken down.  One other councillor also had a campaign website did not promise anything – except more of the same.  No word on taxes, infrastructure transit – nothing – it was really a message of “you liked me for four years, vote for me for more”.  What follows are the key planks from 20 City Councillors.  These priorities will likely define how the next four years will go.  I purposely have left out any promises that were made by Mayor Watson.

To look at how it breaks down I tallied issues for Rural (3 Councillors), Urban (4 Councillors) and Suburban Wards (16 Councillors).  Of the 3 Rural Councillors I found priorities for 2/3 winning candidates and of the 16 Suburban Councillors 2 had taken campaign websites down.  Only 14 wards are represented in the suburb issues.

What I discovered is that Transit/LRT was the biggest election issue, more importantly extending LRT and avoiding the pitfalls that were/are part of LRT phase one.. From there the rest of the issues are among an urban/rural/suburban divide.   Number two in top issues was Roads and Transportation, meaning maintaining current road and building new roads.  Rural and Suburban Councillors will be advocating this issue over the next four years. – it was not mentioned at all by members of the urban caucus.  Third issue is community infrastructure, which includes, parks, greenspace, community buildings and trees.  Support for these issues came from suburban ward candidates.

Surprising to me were the issues coming in after the top 3.  Fourth was taxes/fiscal responsibility, fifth – Policing and Safe communities, sixth – Housing and even though it takes a lot of airtime when a controversial decision is made, development came in seventh.

An issue that was talked about but never campaigned on was election reform and the size of council.  A study on ward boundaries and a reduction or expansion on council  will take place this term.  The report will come before the next election but will its recommendations take effect in 2022?  This council could push the changes (if there are any to the 2024 municipal election.

Here’s a breakdown of how the issues are divided between Urban/Rural and Suburban Councillors ranked top to bottom.

Urban Issues Rural Issues Suburban Issues
Affordable Housing Roads and Infrastructure Community Infrastructure
Development/Planning Economic Development Transit
Transit Planning Taxes
Environment Youth Roads
Seniors Emergency Services Economy/Jobs
City Services Fiscal Responsibility Policing
Businesses Rural Broadband Development
Election Reform Safety on the Roads Safe Streets
Fiscal Responsibility Seniors Seniors
Pedestrians Youth
Poverty Support Services
Safe City Emergency Services
Traffic Housing
Youth Short Term Rental
Term Limits

This analysis is very unscientific, but as you can see no one region was short on issues that were talked about at the doors, but look at the differences and diversity of issues across the three regions.  Surprisingly, Transit does not come up as a priority from our rural councillors.  The difference in priorities demonstrates the difficulty that will pop up when councillors are looking for support for budget items, new infrastructure and projects that are important to the different wards.  I expect that their will be more discussion about issue across the urban/rural/suburban divide, especially with new councillors coming into key ward that represent growth in Ottawa. There’s going to be strength coming from suburban councillors with 16 around the table. The urban caucus with 4 councillors and the 3 rural caucuses will have their work cut out for them in getting projects that affect their constituents approved.

The Mayor will have to balance what is regionally needed to make everyone happy, especially when the budget is drafted.  He will need to start with the naming of committee chairs, there will be some juggling here.  I am sure the campaigning for these positions has already started.

The Mayor campaigned that he could go as high as a 3% tax increase in the budget. When the Mayor presents the budget (written of course with consultation of the councillors) it will leave some happier than others and will force councillors to start looking for trade-offs on individual items.

Thank you for reading #RedHeartBlueSign, to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawaand on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net