Critics call for reforms to Toronto's mayoral election: 'Worst possible system'

spaminator

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Critics call for reforms to Toronto's mayoral election: 'Worst possible system'
The next mayor of Canada's most populous city could be elected with less than a third of the popular vote

Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Jordan Omstead
Published Jun 12, 2023 • 4 minute read

When Torontonians enter the polling booth on June 26 to elect a new mayor, they will stare down a ballot with 102 candidates before marking a single vote.


Whoever gets the most votes wins, regardless of their share of the overall ballots cast.


With more than half a dozen high profile candidates in the packed field, city hall watchers say the next mayor of Canada’s most populous city could be elected with less than a third of the popular vote.

“That’s not good for democracy,” said John Beebe, founder of the Democratic Engagement Exchange at Toronto Metropolitan University.

The next mayor could be handed the weakest democratic mandate in Toronto’s history while inheriting largely untested “strong mayor” powers, allowing them to pass budgets with just one-third council support, veto bylaws and unilaterally shape the city’s top-level administration.

Electoral reform advocates have long argued Toronto’s use of a first-past-the-post system is outdated, saying it fuels polarized campaigns and unrepresentative results. But the record number of candidates this election has exposed glaring issues, advocates say.


“It’s the worst possible system to choose a mayor. And this is definitely a case study in why we need to change our election procedures,” Beebe said.

Under a ranked ballot mayoral election, like one used in San Francisco, candidates need a majority of votes to win.

If a first round does not produce a winner there is an instant run-off where the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. Their supporters’ next ranked choice gets those votes. The process repeats until someone gets a majority.

Skeptics, from city council to the House of Commons, have suggested the system could confuse voters, favour centrists and come with costs to replace an imperfect but nonetheless familiar first-past-the-post process.

Proponents, meanwhile, say a ranked ballot would eliminate vote splitting and garner a more diverse slate of candidates.


Lower-profile candidates would face less pressure to drop out and endorse bigger names. Advocates say it could curb polarization at a time of collapsing democratic trust. Candidates, the argument goes, are incentivized to limit attacks on rivals to avoid alienating that person’s supporters.

And importantly, especially with 102 candidates, it ensures the winner has broad support, said Coun. Shelley Carroll, one of the ranked ballot system’s most vocal supporters at Toronto City Hall.

“That can only be healthy for the city. Because now the person knows they have a real mandate,” she said.

Toronto looked ready to move beyond first-past-the-post when council voted in September 2020 to hold public consultations with an eye to bringing in ranked ballots for the 2026 election.


It was part of a wave of electoral reform sweeping Ontario after the provincial government, the rule-setter for municipal elections, changed the law in 2016 to allow for ranked ballots. London, Ont., held a ranked ballot election in 2018, while other Ontario municipalities, including Cambridge and Kingston, supported referendums endorsing the switch for the 2022 vote.

But in October 2020, the Progressive Conservatives under Premier Doug Ford reversed the changes made by the previous government and blocked municipalities from holding ranked ballot elections.

“They don’t see it as in their interest,” said Dennis Pilon, an associate professor in York University’s department of politics.

“(First-past-the-post) allows them to drill down into their base of support and exploit divisions across the rest of the political spectrum.”


A spokesperson for Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark said the government “believed it was important that the way Ontarians elect their municipal representatives is the same as how they elect their provincial and federal ones.”

Toronto Elections, meanwhile, said the city clerk took no position on ranked ballots and any changes to the Municipal Elections Act were the purview of the province.

Pilon, of York University, said Toronto would benefit most from a form of proportional representation. It would require broader reforms at city hall, and would see the mayor folded back into council, which would run on a type of parliamentary model.

“We would get a much more representative council,” said Pilon, a member of the national advisory board for Fair Vote Canada, a non-profit advocating for proportional electoral systems.


Advocates say there are other reforms that could make Toronto elections better, including a requirement for candidates to make some campaign finance disclosures ahead of election day as well as extending the vote to permanent residents.

Introducing political parties has also been floated, with supporters saying it could help voters make more informed choices and detractors fearing it could undermine consensus building at city hall, Beebe, of Toronto Metropolitan University, said.

A more straightforward fix, said Beebe, could begin with raising the current 25-signature threshold required to get on the mayoral ballot. With nearly two million eligible voters in the last election, advocates say a higher threshold would cut down on vanity candidates and ensure mayoral hopefuls start with proven grassroots support.

“If we have only one takeaway from the elections, let’s just update that,” Beebe said.
 

Taxslave2

House Member
Aug 13, 2022
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Have you people ever had a politician who got 50+ percent?
I believe there has been the odd provincial election that generated over 50%. It would take some digging. 2001 BC election probably. Probably some in Alberta too. We reduced the NDP to two seats. Can’t recall if there was an independent at that time. All the rest were BC Liberals.
 

harrylee

Man of Memes
Mar 22, 2019
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Ontario
On BT this morning they had an email poll as what should be changed. One was to elimate the neer do well candidates. Another was to have a runnoff by the two top vote getters.
 

spaminator

Hall of Fame Member
Oct 26, 2009
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What’s the deal with mayoral candidate Edward Gong and all his signs?
Author of the article:Denette Wilford
Published Jun 12, 2023 • Last updated 1 day ago • 3 minute read

In two weeks, Torontonians will have their say and vote for who they want as the mayor.


While top contenders such as Olivia Chow, Mark Saunders and Anthony Furey are making some headway with their campaigns, another candidate, Edward Gong, is making a name for himself for another reason: his signs.


It’s not so much the message but, rather, the sheer volume of them, which were hammered into the ground as early as June 1, when election advertising was legally allowed.

Aside from his name and picture, “VOTE #44” is also on the signs, signifying his number on the jam-packed mayoral ballot, along with his slogan, “Here to rescue Toronto.”

The businessman who also goes by the name Gong Xiao Hua has garnered criticism for his “excessive” sign placement, according to one Reddit poster.

“This feels excessive (there ended up being about 10-12 in this short stretch of road and then more further up the road),” the Redditor wrote. “I understand campaigning but this feels excessive and does the opposite than the intended purpose for me personally.”


Many of the comments referred to it as a “gong show” and a turn-off, along with all kinds of memes mocking the obstruction.

Neither Gong nor his campaign manager Polly Miller responded to the Toronto Sun’s requests for an interview.

Recommended video
One concerned Reddit user asked, “What if Gong Xiao Hua against all odds wins the election?”

What if he does?

According to Gong’s campaign website, the “Canadian entrepreneur, director, artist, journalist and corporate strategic planner” who is also a recipient of the Queen’s Medal has lofty goals if he is elected Toronto’s next mayor.

His “rescue plan” for the city includes cutting $1,000 per household from property taxes, forming a special TTC and school police unit comprised of 1,000 new police officers, providing elementary and secondary school students with a $6-a-day lunch subsidy, letting those over the age of 55 and under the age of 18 to ride the TTC for free, and accelerating construction of affordable housing for seniors and low-income families.


The businessman also wants to “turn Toronto into the next Manhattan” by making it a world centre for finance and culture, as well as build and expand the city’s tech sector to create a “new Silicon Valley.”

Gong was charged years ago by the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) with fraud and other related offences through his company Edward Enterprise International Group Inc. following a lengthy investigation.

The probe focused on allegations of suspicious funds being deposited in New Zealand bank accounts between 2009 and 2016, which were identified as being profits from a pyramid scheme in China and Canada.

In 2021, the company was convicted, fined about $1 million and ordered to forfeit $15 million to the Canada Revenue Agency, the Globe and Mail reported.


Gong agreed to forfeit more than $60 million to the New Zealand government, which also included a property in Auckland, according to New Zealand authorities.

Charges against Gong himself were withdrawn, and he was never convicted of any offence.

Gong’s lawyer, Joel Etienne, said at the time that the withdrawal of charges against his client “means that Mr. Gong is an innocent man who remains innocent of any personal criminal wrongdoing,” and the charges being dropped was “the best vindication any citizen who is charged could ever receive in court.”

Advance voting runs until 7 p.m. on June 13. Election day is June 26.
 

spaminator

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Mayoral candidate ‘happy to face consequences’ in risky campaign video
Author of the article:Denette Wilford
Published Jun 13, 2023 • Last updated 1 day ago • 2 minute read
Man in suit roller-blading on traffic-filled highway
Toronto mayoral candidate Toby Heaps roller-blading on Gardiner Expressway. PHOTO BY TOBY HEAPS /Twitter
Toby Heaps, who declared himself the “human candidate” in a shared ticket with his rescue dog, Molly, went to drastic measures for his Toronto mayoral race campaign video.


With under two weeks left until Torontonians decide who will be their next mayor, Heaps – sans Molly – strapped on his trusty rollerblades and jumped on the Gardiner Expressway, where he shared what he plans to do if elected the city’s new leader.


“This shouldn’t be safe, but the traffic’s stuck, like so many things in this city,” Heaps says as he rolls along beside the bumper-to-bumper traffic in the westbound Gardiner lanes as vehicles inch along with him.

He mentions the city’s lack of affordable housing, and mental health issues and climate anxiety.

“I am the #underdog candidate with a track record for making big things happen,” read his tweet, accompanying the video.

“I have a fair and fully funded plan for real change on affordable housing, climate, and infrastructure,” he explained, before touting his “different approach.”



He added: “Let’s get our city moving.”

Many on Twitter were shocked by the lengths Heaps went to for his video – but not in a good way.

“This is insane,” tweeted one user, while another countered, “This is Toronto.”

One person griped, “Another candidate that thinks they’re above the law!”

Another suggested, “You should be charged.”

In a follow-up tweet, Heaps wrote, “I did this to make a point and I am happy to face the consequences (which is a minor fine), but the real crime is the city’s mismanagement of critical infrastructure (that has left the Gardiner crumbling) and the failure to provide affordable housing for people to live in our city rather than be forced to make long commutes.”

He further explained that he was “on the merge nose, which is not in the path of traffic” and he had “two spotters watching out for me and traffic.”


On Heaps’ campaign website, which features the video, he explained that he wants to “build a kinder Toronto where everyone can thrive.”

Heaps, who has worked with large corporations to make their operations more sustainable, called Toronto a “vibrant city where we have well-being, security and opportunities to take care of ourselves and those we love.”

As for Molly, if Heaps is elected, he plans to make her the city’s first honorary dog mayor because “I have always fought for the underdog and I believe we make more compassionate decisions with animals in the room.”
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Jinentonix

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Sep 6, 2015
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"Skeptics, from city council to the House of Commons, have suggested the system could favour centrists"

Oh noes, what a fucking disaster that would be. Common sense politics.
 
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Taxslave2

House Member
Aug 13, 2022
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Nice to see people doing their civic duty, but I think with that many contenders too many people will not even bother to vote and the outcome will be decided by less than 30% of eligible voters.