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Time may be running out for ranked ballots in 2018

City clerk will meet with city council on Tuesday over potential changes to the 2018 municipal election, including the possibility of replacing the first-past-the-post electoral system with a ranked ballot system.
John Hannam
City clerk John Hannam

THUNDER BAY -- It's too early to say whether Thunder Bay will adopt ranked ballots for the 2018 election but some other communities are already saying it's too late for them.

City clerk John Hannam will host city council for a non-business meeting on Tuesday where he will present changes to the Municipal Elections Act.

The Municipal Elections Modernization Act changes the role of union and corporate donations, moves the nomination opening from Jan. 1 of an election year to May 1, and allows municipalities to change the first-past-the-post voting system to a ranked ballot system.

The bill received royal assent in June and the provincial government released its corresponding regulation in early October. Hannam said other municipalities are advising their respective councils they can't change the democratic process in time for the 2018 ballot.   

"The one big, limiting factor here is the decision of whether or not to adopt a ranked ballot approach to voting needs to be made by May 1 in the year prior to the election," he said. 

"That means council has to make the decision by May 1, 2017. That's a pretty tight timeline given where we are, in late 2016. I'm not sure why such a long lead time ahead of an election that decision needs to be made but it is what it is. That's part of what's driving other municipalities not to make a decision right now."

Hannam said many of his colleagues are taking a "wait and see approach" to ranked ballot voting.

While changes to the act mandate civic engagement and consultation, the province offers no guidance on what consultation might look like. Hannam said that leaves designing and implementing consultation up to the city.  

"Where it gets confusing is where we have both ward elections at at large elections," he said. 

"In our at large elections, we're electing five people. The calculation on how you select those five is a little more complicated than it is how you elect your ward races or the mayoral race."




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