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Toronto council reversal on ranked ballots

Proponents of ranked ballots note the public was not given a chance for input before city council
reversed its support.

There was no chance for public input before rookie Councillor Justin Di Ciano proposed that Toronto reverse its stand on ranked balloting on Thursday. (DAVID COOPER /

The current city council reversed a decision by the previous one to ask the province to allow ranked ballots in the next municipal election. Of those who returned after last fall's
election, seven flipped their votes. Critics say the current system unfairly advantages incumbents who may win even with a majority of votes against them. (CITY OF

By DAVID RIDER City Hall Bureau Chief

Fri., Oct. 2, 2015

Torontonians were shut out of city councillors surprise rejection of

electoral reforms that aimed to increase diversity and reduce incumbents
advantage in being re-elected, say proponents of ranked ballots.
Thursday nights council vote, urging the province not to allow
municipalities to use ranked ballots, was very different than one in 2013,
where the previous council embraced the change, said Dave Meslin, co-ordinator of 123Ontario.
Two years ago, he noted, councillors had seen Torontonians give presentations and submit written input at two
committees before they voted 26-15 to ask the province to let the city use a system whereby voters rank candidates in
order of preference, and nobody wins without support from more than half of voters.
This time, there was no chance for public input before rookie Councillor Justin Di Ciano proposed that Toronto
reverse its stand. The motion, part of debate on proposed changes to the City of Toronto Act, passed 25-18, with the
support of seven councillors who reversed their earlier support for ranked ballots.
It was out of the blue, and there was no chance for any consultation whatsoever, Meslin said.
Theres no doubt that self-preservation is a motivation for a lot of councillors to not support ranked ballots... Theres
a lot of unpopular councillors who are winning their seats because of the current system where the majority of their
constituents are voting against them.
Under ranked ballots, a candidate with a majority of first-place votes 50 per cent plus one wins, just as in the
current system. If nobody meets that threshold, the candidate with the fewest first-place votes is knocked out. The
second-place choices of that candidates supporters are added to the totals of the remaining hopefuls, and so on,
until somebody has a majority.
The way it happened was entirely undemocratic it really feels underhanded, said Katherine Skene, of Ranked
Ballot Initiative. But were hopeful that there is still the possibility for change.
In an interview, Di Ciano rejected the criticism, saying his motion just reflected the views of a duly elected city
council that had not yet had its say on ranked ballots.
He proposed the motion, he said, because city staff who canvassed councillors for a committee told him most
councillors are no longer keen on a major shakeup.
My understanding is this whole initiative was brought forward because weve got problems in this city, were not
happy with the performance of our government, Di Ciano said. That has nothing to do with who is in the (council)

In fact, he argued that ranked ballots would boost incumbents re-election chances. Youre going to vote for your
friend, and youve got to put a second choice and the name you know is the (sitting) councillor, he said.
Asked why he changed his mind on ranked ballots, Councillor Gary Crawford, the budget chief, said: I guess Ive
reconsidered when Im looking at, you know, whether or not ranked balloting is something I just felt it was better
to stick with the status quo.
Councillor Jaye Robinson, the public works chair, told the Star she thought she was just voting for a review of ranked
ballots, rather than outright rejection of it.
The motion states the province should not proceed with amendments to provide for ranked choice voting and that,
if it does, it be optional for Toronto and permitted only after public consultations and a referendum.
Mayor John Tory voted against that motion. He still supports the use of ranked ballots, a spokeswoman said.
Last falls Toronto election saw only one sitting councillor defeated, with split votes helping to pave the way for the
return of many veterans. Sixteen council members, including Tory, were chosen by fewer than half the voters.
The overwhelmingly white and male 45-member council with 14 women and seven members of visible minority
communities looks little like Toronto.
Despite Toronto councils vote, the provincial government is forging ahead with plans to give Ontario municipalities
the option of using ranked ballots, said Mark Cripps, senior communications adviser to Municipal Affairs Minister
Ted McMeekin.
With files from Betsy Powell and Jennifer Pagliaro

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