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What We Heard

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Summary of Input:  2014 Municipal Elections Act Review

Introduction

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing reviews the Municipal Elections Act after each Ontario municipal election to determine if it meets the needs of Ontario communities. Over 3,400 submissions were received from the public, municipal councils and staff from across the province as part of the 60-day consultation period between May 28, 2015 and July 27, 2015.

As part of the consultation the ministry held a number of meetings with our partners, including the City of Toronto, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) and municipal clerks across the province. Two working groups were formed to provide advice on technical issues:

  • a ranked ballot working group, involving municipal clerks, ranked ballot experts and advocates and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario
  • a municipal voters’ list working group, involving the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation, the Association of Municipal Managers, Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario, government ministries and Elections Ontario.

This paper summarizes input received during the consultation process and is meant not to be comprehensive or reflect all submissions received. The input will be used to help ensure the Municipal Elections Act is able to meet the needs of Ontario communities while maintaining a fair election process. This report reflects the views expressed by those who participated in the review, and may not reflect the policies of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Ranked Ballots

Most public input favoured allowing municipalities the option of using ranked ballots for future municipal elections. Many submissions stressed the importance of including a public consultation component in the ranked ballot framework.

Not all submissions from municipal councils addressed ranked ballots.  Those that did were divided in support or opposition. Several council resolutions also took a neutral position and expressed interest in revisiting the issue once more information on ranked ballot processes and a framework are available for review.

Some common concerns raised about ranked ballot implementation were: ballot design and complexity, logistical challenges related to changing voting systems and challenges around voter education and understanding. Some submissions suggested a range of educational materials be produced, including tools for municipalities considering ranked ballots for future elections.  

Some input identified the importance of balancing clear, consistent provincial direction in the way ranked ballots are used across Ontario with a sufficient level of local flexibility. For example, several respondents recommended local decisions on whether to use ranked ballot technology and how to design the ballot.

Campaign Finance

Many submissions cited the need for greater clarity of campaign finance provisions, and suggested more definitions and simpler, clearer rules and prescribed forms.

Third Party Advertising

Input regarding third party advertising was varied. Some submissions asked for third party advertising to be banned and some supported the development of a framework to regulate third party advertising. Both the provincial and federal frameworks were cited as possible models upon which to build a municipal regulatory framework.

Accessibility

The most consistent recommendation for greater accessibility in municipal elections was to increase the use of alternative voting methods, including telephone and internet voting. Submissions also recommended further considerations for making campaign communications, events, and materials more accessible to continue to reduce barriers to participation in municipal elections.

Enforcement

Input emphasized the need to strengthen compliance with the Municipal Elections Act, including consistency in the way in which rules are interpreted (by candidates and compliance audit committees) and enforced by the courts.

Voters’ List

The accuracy of the municipal voters’ list was a common concern. Many submissions noted that an inaccurate voters’ list causes significant challenges for voters, municipal staff and election administrators both leading up to and on voting day.

The most common suggestion was to look for new approaches to developing the municipal voters’ list. A working group was formed to examine the voters’ list as part of this review and will continue to evaluate and identify solutions for longer-term improvements.

Other Ideas

General recommendations received from the public, councils and municipal staff from across the province raised a number of other suggestions, including:

  • shortening the municipal election campaign and nomination periods
  • examining the requirements to become a candidate in order to help reduce the number of candidates who are not serious about running for election.

Next Steps

The ministry is assessing the input received during the consultation and is developing policy options to improve the Municipal Elections Act.  The intention is to bring recommendations for amendments to the Municipal Elections Act forward for the government’s consideration in the near future.