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Council punches out ranked ballot

Thunder Bay's 2018 municipal election will be decided through the traditional first-past-the-post system, rather than by a ranked ballot.
John Hannam
City clerk John Hannam was not surprised city council rejected the opportunity to make 2018 the first municipal election decided by ranked ballot.

THUNDER BAY -- Those elected to lead the city in the 2018 municipal election will not be selected through a ranked ballot.

City council voted 6-4 on Monday to reject a motion that would have begun public outreach on changing the voting system for the next election. The province has allowed municipalities to pass on the traditional method of selecting one candidate on a ballot to one based on selecting several candidates in order of preference. Mayor Keith Hobbs abstained. 

City clerk John Hannam gave a similar presentation to one he made at non-business meeting in October, explaining changes the province made to the Municipal Elections Act in the spring. 

"The response from council then, it didn't look like there were many in favour of moving to ranked ballot at this time, so I'm not surprised," Hannam said.

Prior to that October meeting, Hannam expressed doubt that enough time remained to conduct public outreach regarding a change to ranked ballots before the province's May 1, 2017 deadline.

Councilors spent most of the debate maligning other changes the province made to municipal elections, particularly new rules that will outlaw corporations and unions from donating to candidates. 

Those types of contributors can be formally registered as "third parties," which will financially support advertising for -- or against -- an issue or candidate. 

McKellar Coun. Paul Pugh requested the Intergovernmental Affairs Committee lobby the province to make changes to the law. He suspects the third party system of being a trojan horse that will bring party politics into municipal elections.  

"Third party advertisements bring very undemocratic aspect into the elections because the third party, whatever it is, can actually outpsend the candidate. That's absurd," Pugh said.  

"Those limits are there to make sure there's fairness to the candidates and then you introduce this other entity that can walk in and upset everything so that one candidate is favoured by the third party or opposed by the third party."  

McIntyre Coun. Trevor Giertuga opposed new rules that will end Thunder Bay's tradition of requiring anyone running for a ward councilor position to live in that ward. Traditionally, only candidates owning property in the neighbourhood can run to represent its interests on council. Thunder Bay's mayoral race has never had a residency requirement. 

"Someone living in Neebing can run in McIntyre. That's the big change here, the significant change," Giertuga said. "If that's the case, someone can run in any ward." 

"We are the only muncipality in Ontario that had that rule," Hannam replied. "So in some ways, it was aimed directly at us." 

Current River Coun. Andrew Foulds asked Hannam if the city had any recourse but Hannam answered the only way would be for the province to amend the law.

"I find it very difficult when Toronto tells us we don't have that autonomy," Foulds said. "I'm interested in pushing back."

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