Elections for municipal councillors should be scrapped

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Pradip Rodrigues

On Monday, October 22, 2018, Ontario will hold municipal elections and it is safe to say that an overwhelming majority of these sitting councillors will easily win their re-elections. Sitting incumbents are way too powerful and the system is designed to favor them over anyone daring to challenge them. This is why most potential candidates who could bring new blood and scintillating ideas never run against these councillors and make a move only if and when one of them die in office or retire.

Mississauga’s last Mayor Hazel McCallion held the record as the longest-serving mayor in the city’s history, having served for 36 years at the time of her retirement in 2014.

Over the years she had a few people who were brave enough to challenge her but needless to say they lost horribly.

Likewise Mississauga Mayor who was the outgoing Mayor McCallion’s preferred choice is likely on her way to serving multiple terms.

Over the years there have been a few calls to impose term-limits for municipal councillors but those calls were promptly rejected by the majority of them who tend to believe that being councillor is a job for life, much like US Supreme Court Justices who typically die in office or retire due to age or failing health. So if this is the situation across the province, why not have councillors elections through acclamation and hold elections only in wards where the incumbent is vacating his or her seat? By scrapping elections where sitting incumbents are going to re-run after more than two-terms, cities will save millions of dollars.

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A while ago Toronto city councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon councillor for Ward 32, Beaches-East York, first won her seat in 2010 on the promise she’d serve just two terms reiterated that her name would not be on the ballot in the 2018 municipal election. Her pleas to other incumbent councillors to step aside have been rebuffed.

A majority of councillors in the GTA have held those positions for decades like Toronto’s Ward 9 Coun. Maria Augimeri, Toronto’s most senior councillor with 32 years of continuous service.
John Filion has served on the former North York and Toronto councils for the past 26 years says he keeps running only because he believes he believes in voters getting to determine if he and others in his position deserve another chance. Many other councillors have no plans to step down even after the birth of their tenth grandchild. Yes, many of our city fathers are actually grandfathers!

Recently a motion to get the ball rolling on setting a 12-year term limit for Calgary city council members and to give voters the power of recall was defeated by a 9-6 vote at a meeting.

The late Toronto Mayor Rob Ford had announced from his hospital bed that he was too sick to run for mayor, but healthy enough to run for his old councillor job, he underlined this point.

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It appears that once a sitting councillor gets a foot in the door, there is a 90 per cent of staying there, in many instances ‘campaigning’ is a mere formality.

This is a classic case of incumbent’s advantage.

Over the past three municipal elections in Toronto, sitting councillors who ran for reelection lost only 10 per cent of the time. The average time in office among the current batch is 12 years. In other municipalities in the GTA, the situation is much the same.

So although the demographics in the region has changed so much over the past few decades, most councillors in the GTA and even Surrey, BC tend to reflect a population composition that existed roughly 30 years ago.

Now contrast that with the ethnic composition of MPPs and MPs representing GTA ridings and one will find that the representatives happen to belong to the dominant ethnic group. White MPs and MPPs have disappeared from the region.

I don’t necessarily believe that is a good thing because the selection system is in my opinion flawed and needs to changed if more talented individuals are to seek public office.

When it comes to municipal councillors they hold the advantage because every public event they attend is almost like a campaign stop all through their term. They remain highly visible, send out tax-funded newsletters and other material that gives them name recognition. So when elections roll around, anyone who seriously expects to challenge them is a virtual unknown because in order to gain visibility the challenger has to spend a lot of cash and time and even then that is often not enough to make a difference. This explains why election after election you have the same faces.

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One in 20 Torontonians can’t speak English or French

A report this week found that one in 20 Torontonians can’t speak the official language and that hinders their participation in the broader society. It limits their involvement in the community and they often find themselves unable to engage meaningfully with Torontonians.

I would say that our politicians should really be encouraging their constituents to converse in one of the two national languages. Unfortunately it is considered politically incorrect to make such a suggestion. This is really unfortunate because we now have a large and growing number of individuals living in the city who either cannot communicate in English or refuse to do so because their spoken English language skills are poor and very rudimentary.

It is not enough for new Canadians to only be expected to pay taxes and follow the rules, it should also be an expectation to participate and be part of the community. And in order to do so, being able to speak either English or French is a good starting point. -CINEWS

Comments: 1

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  1. Scrapped for what? Other than stating the obvious and regurgitating what has been said many times before about the advantages of incumbency, you do not offer an alternative to a democratic election. Appointment by province? Benevolent dictatorship kept honest by the occasional assassination? Lottery? IQ and EQ tests?