Tyler Anderson, National Post
Rocco Rossi lays out his plans for electoral reform at Queen’s Park yesterday.
Natalie Alcoba, National Post · Friday, Sept. 3, 2010
Rocco Rossi took a big Sharpie to a giant poster and signed his name under a pledge to pursue electoral reforms he suggests could improve voter turnout. He promised to impose term limits at City Hall, introduce online and telephone voting and give voters the power to recall the mayor or councillors, although all initiatives require council to sign off, and in the case of recall, the province to make it law. About 40% of eligible voters cast ballots in 2006, compared to 52% in provincial elections and 58% across Canada. The Post’s Natalie Alcoba looks at electoral reform, those for it and those against.
MORE POWER OR JUST MORE POLITICS?
“When Toronto voters get respect and results, recall is a tool that will sit on the shelf, unwrapped and unused,” said Mr. Rossi. When they don’t, it’s a “tool for them to take back control of City Hall.” So far the province is showing no signs of being on board. George Smitherman, a mayoral rival, blasts the idea, saying bitter candidates who finish second will work to get the winners recalled and thereby hamstring city government. “This is exactly how it’s going to work and anybody that thinks that that’s going to be beneficial doesn’t understand that it’s just about more politics.”
“Voting online should be as convenient as shopping or banking online,” says Mr. Rossi. Markham started using online voting in 2003 for its advance polls. To vote online, electors receive a PIN number in a first-class envelope in the mail. They have a period of time to register using their date of birth and select a “secure passcode” only they know. Then a second letter with a second PIN number is sent out, and each person must use that and the secure passcode to register their vote. Frank Edwards, the city’s elections coordinator, said overall turnout has not increased substantially, but it has made voting more accessible.
WHAT THE PEOPLE WANT
A poll by Forum Research, headquartered in Toronto and with offices around the world, found that 73% of voters were supportive of instituting voter recall in Toronto. The polling company asked: “In between elections if politicians are not living up to expectations and aren’t getting the job done, the taxpayers in some cities across North America have the power to recall their politicians or remove them from office if they are not happy with them. Do you believe this is a power that Toronto taxpayers should have or not?” Of 400 people surveyed, 23% went with No.
If Mr. Rossi becomes mayor, he will work to impose limits of two consecutive terms for Mayor and three terms for a councillor. Just how he plans to convince councillors to vote themselves out of a job is unclear. Of the current crop of councillors, 24 would not be able to run in this election under term limits, including five who have decided to retire, and two who are seeking the mayor’s chair. Frances Nunziata, who has been a councillor since 1988, said a councillor’s longevity in office is better determined by performance. “I think if a councillor is doing a good job and the constituents are happy with him, we don’t really think there should be a limit.” Peter Milczyn, below, who has represented Etobicoke-Lakeshore for 10 years, pointed out it takes a long time to get certain things done in this city, and term limits could jeopardize that. He said voter recall and term limits “speak to the frustration of voters, the anger of voters, but they never explain how it necessarily will yield better results.”
BANKROLLING A POLL
Victor Pappalardo, a Toronto business executive who founded Trans Capital Air, says he decided to commission the Forum Research poll after he heard Rocco Rossi propose voter recall. “Instead of waiting four years, blowing millions of dollars down the street, you have an opportunity to interfere and salvage certain inequities that may be happening in the city,” he said yesterday. He reasons that a politician “who does their job right” doesn’t have to worry about being recalled. Mr. Pappalardo said he spent about $3,000 to commission the poll. He says he “is not affiliated with any campaign per se,” but he has attended a Mr. Rossi event at the Board of Trade, and plans to hear Mr. Smitherman and Mr. Ford speak at the board as well in the coming weeks. “I haven’t made up my mind fully but anybody who pushes along the idea of accountability, they could have my vote.”