Thoughts on electoral reform

This is an interesting article – thanks for writing it.

I would like to offer the following thoughts:

1. Democracy is not a spectator sport. It requires participation and requires the electorate to assume the responsibility of voting. We have the City Council that we do because of low voter turnout. Nobody should complain about City Council if they didn’t bother to vote.

2. No candidate should be elected because of his or her: gender, race, religion, or ethnic origin. If people of a certain characteristic want their City Councillor to have that (be of a certain age, etc.) characteristic – then they should encourage a candidate of that characteristic to run. They must then take the time to vote for that candidate. Democracy includes the responsibility to participate. Martin Luther King in his “I have a dream” speech said:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

3. There should be no quotas on City Council for members of specific groups. There is not a single “white male” perspective. There is not a single “under 25” perspective, etc. Within in any group you will find a number of perspectives.

4. It is NOT important that Toronto be “recognized as world-class”. What matters is what Toronto actually is. The test is NOT whether Toronto is “world class” (whatever that means). The test is whether Toronto “works” for its residents.

5. The “first past the post system” (where the candidate with the largest number of votes wins) is not effective. It allows for candidates to win with less than a majority of the votes. I suggest that there be “run-offs” until a candidate with the majority of the actual votes wins. For example, the current councillor in Ward 29 won with only about 20% of the votes from eligible voters. (Only about 1/3 of eligible voters voted. Of this 1/3 he received less than 50% of those votes.) We do need electoral reform. That reform must have the effect of encouraging people to vote. is raising many of these issues in a thoughtful and effective way.

6. Political parties must be kept out of municipal politics. It is essential that our elected politicians have their allegiance to the people and not to the parties. Obviously individual candidates will have their bias to the “right” or to the “left”. That’s reality. But, once parties become part of the political process, candidates are required to satisfy the party first and their constituents second. As Scott Brown said in his recent campaign for the Massachusetts Senate seat vacated by the death of Ted Kennedy:

“It’s not the Democrats’ seat – It’s the “peoples’ seat.”

7. Contributions from unions and corporations are no longer allowed. It’s time to end the practice of political parties endorsing municipal candidates. The NDP has been very active in endorsing candidates for City Council and for Mayor (Jack Layton in 1991). An endorsement from the “NDP machine” is worth far more than monetary contributions from unions and corporations. The “machine” is able to bring volunteers and lots of manpower to their cause. In 2006 the NDP endorsed and campaigned for an otherwise unknown candidate in Ward 29. This candidate came within 20 votes of defeating Case Ootes (the current Ward 29) councillor. If we are going to ban donations from corporations and unions then we should also ban the involvement of political parties in Toronto elections. For an interesting article on this point see an article written by Jeff Cowan in the National Post on November 18, 2006. It’s called: “Province urged to allow municipal political parties”
8. There should be term limits for Councillors. There are at least three reasons:

First, it is very difficult to “unseat” an incumbent. City Councillors are able to campaign “at the taxpayers expense” from the moment that their term begins. They are constantly in the news and distribute flyers (and other “sacred instruments of publicity”) to their constituents on a continual basis.

Second, a vibrant democracy requires new blood and new ideas. This can happen only with turnover in the composition of City Council

Third, people cannot be encouraged to view serving on City Council as an “annuity for life”. Their pay is decent (the fact that Toronto Councillors earn less than Mississauga Councillors is irrelevant) and their pensions are better than most. The residents of Toronto cannot be expected to provide “lifetime” employment for City Councillors.

John Richardson – Candidate for City Council – Ward 29

Posted by: John Richardson | 04/13/2010 at 05:55 AM

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