Keys for Improved Elections and Better City Governance

I will work toward the following SIX KEY ELECTION REFORMS that will result in better city governanc, more public interest and participation in our city governance and higher voter turnout.

ONEFor increased government accountability, municipal political parties (distinct from Provincial and Federal Parties) should be allowed. They are already legal in British Columbia and Quebec and should be here.

Oshawa’s general vote, for example, is impossible for voters without the use of local municipal parties that would simplify the huge ballot into various “teams” with the platform they promise to deliver.

Each political party would then go to the people with a platform. The platform itself would provide the key choice for voters rather than the individuals involved.

The members of the party would be expected to implement the platform or run the risk of losing support in the next election.

At present, municipal politicians run as individuals and cannot make promises or be held accountable for council decisions as they have only one vote independent of all others on council.

Municipal parties would provide some obligation on the part of their associated politicians to support the group platform or risk losing group endorsement in the next election.

It is a more accountable process if you know what you are going to get before the vote and hold politicians to account to deliver on their promises.

Voting for a party with a platform would provide voters with a real sense of having a “say” in their governance and a crucial role in setting the direction for their municipality on all the key issues. It would also provide politicians with voter support for implementing the initiatives, especially big ticket initiatives, they had promised.

TWO—Campaign costs are “out of line” and eliminate many worthy candidates from participating. Michael Bloomberg, Former Mayor of New York City, for example, spent $100 million on his campaign. Costs are escalating in Oshawa, as well, where the upper limits for a Mayoral Campaign are $110,000, for a Regional Campaign about $90,000, and for a City Councillor Campaign about $80,000. These costs are outrageous and eliminate most citizens from considering political office.

I believe all political campaigns should be publicly funded. This would eliminate the risk of development industry control of council members and their votes, and also allow for inclusion of a broader spectrum of citizens to the political process in recognition that different constituent groups bring different interests, skills and backgrounds to the council table.

All campaign variables such as print advertising, signs, political forums etc. would be highly regulated and publicly funded and supplied by the municipality using its tendering and bulk purchasing powers.

Many candidate forums would be organized and funded by the municipality, as would flyer production and delivery as responsibility to insure an informed electorate would rest with the city.

Every candidate would have identical opportunity to present themselves to the voting public thus presenting a level playing field to all.

Candidates would be required to post bonds of approximately $2000-$3000 to insure serious campaigns, and this would be refunded if they secured 25% of the winner’s vote tally.

This process would allow all serious candidates to run and would not put rich candidates at an advantage because of money or incumbents at an advantage because of their ability to raise donor funds from the development industry.

All city election costs would be recouped by the city through a reduction in the present excessive political salaries and expense budgets.

THREE—Voting is not only a right, but a responsibility that many people of the world would give their right arm for.

Therefore I would introduce incentives to vote. I would assess a minor voting incentive “tax” as part of the property tax bill for every homeowner in the city. This would provide a monetary “reward” of perhaps $20 for every citizen casting a municipal vote.

The total payout would be totaled and recouped by way of tax assessments over the following four year council term.

A heightened obligation to vote would also encourage responsible citizens to get to know the candidates and hopefully select a stronger council.

FOURCouncil salaries and expenses are getting out of hand. Sitting as a municipal councilor is not a job but a privilege.

Therefore I would support fixing council salaries at those of the average worker in Ontario as assessed by Revenue Canada data and not the executive salaries and perks city politicians are commanding today. The Ontario Provincial Legislature put a ceiling on the salaries of School Trustees a few years ago and they should extend salary limiting legislation to city politicians.

FIVEOver the long haul, I would favour working with Durham Regional Councillors and the Ontario Provincial Legislature to eliminate Oshawa City Administration and Council as well as those of all of the local city municipalities within Durham Region.

This was done by the Mike Harris Gov’t in Toronto and the City of Toronto now has the lowest taxes in the GTA. A $350,000 Oshawa house, for example, is taxed at the same rate as an $880,000 Toronto house.

Oshawa City Council costs about a third of your property tax bill and yet has very few important responsibilities as all of the major responsibilities were given to Durham Regional Government when it was formed in 1973.

Region wide planning of our Fire Protection Services and our Parks and Rec Services would result in far more strategic placement of these facilities.

Eliminating Oshawa City Council and Administration would cut out significant overlaps and duplications of service to result in huge tax savings.

At the same time, you would still live in Oshawa, just as residents of North York, Scarborough, or Etobicoke still live in those places, despite the fact that their local governments were eliminated many years ago.

SIXI would support petitioning the Provincial Government to mandate the publication of detailed itemized political expense reports on city web pages. Citizens have a right to know where every one of their tax dollars are being spent and publication of this information would insure careful consideration by politicians of all of their expense spending. This is a current issue at all government levels but disclosure has been denied by Oshawa City Council.

At the Federal Level, the $503,500,000 spent annually by our 308 MP’s, an average of $1.634 million per member, is coming under closer scrutiny and MP’s feel mounting pressures to allow for an audit by Sheila Fraser, the Federal Auditor General, but this has so far beendenied by parliament

If all these changes were implemented, I guarantee Municipal Governments across the Province would be more vibrant and voter interest and participation would increase exponentially.

A Final Thought!
Every political system is broken and needs to be fixed. Movements such as the Occupy Wall Street Movement and a recent grassroots movement to amend the USA Presidential Election System are proof positive of the need to bring fairness and the ordinary citizen’s participation into the process.