Ontario moves to scrap ranked ballots in municipal elections

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TORONTO — The Ontario government has introduced a bill that would prevent municipalities from using ranked ballots in the next civic election.

A spokesman for Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark says municipalities should not “experiment” with changes to municipal votes during the pandemic.

The government says this measure will keep the electoral process consistent across municipal, provincial and federal elections.

Toronto had contemplated introducing a ranked ballot system.

Mayor John Tory says he supports the idea but city council recently decided not to pursue it for the 2022 election.

Council instead directed staff to begin preparations for the system in 2026.

“I believe they will lead to fairer elections and encourage more diverse candidates to run, so the decision by the province is disappointing,” Tory said in a statement Tuesday.

The change was part of a bill introduced in the Ontario legislature which largely focuses on measures to provide liability protection from COVID-19 exposure to workers, businesses and charities.

Clark’s spokesman, Adam Wilson, said the bill, which must still be passed by the Ford government, would only affect one of the province’s 444 municipalities.

“Our new proposed changes would bring predictability to municipal elections at a time when Ontarians are focused on their health and safety,” he said in a statement Tuesday.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath slammed the government for once again interfering in a Toronto municipal election.

Ford’s newly elected government cut the size of Toronto city council during the 2018 vote, a move that sparked controversy and set off a court challenge.

“This is a classic Doug Ford move,” Horwath said. “On one hand he says he respects municipalities and now he’s turning around and doing something that shows the opposite.”