As the dust settles over yesterday’s election (27 October) in Newmarket, I find myself wondering if the result would have been much different if we had used the ranked ballot rather than first-past-the-post.
This is not an academic exercise. Ranked ballots could be a reality at the next election.
In Kathleen Wynne’s so called “mandate letter” of 25 September 2014 to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Ted McMeekin, she told him to start work on a review of the Municipal Elections Act as soon as the 27 October election was out of the way.
“You will ensure that the act meets the needs of communities, and that it provides municipalities with the option of using ranked ballots in future elections, starting in 2018, as an alternative to first-past-the-post.”
I support ranked ballots (or preferential voting) and I hope Newmarket goes for it but the details of the process to get us there are still unclear. Would councillors simply need to carry a motion at full council? Would there be a threshold, say two thirds? Would the council have to consult? What about the possibility of a local referendum? Could the decision be subsequently reversed?
On the evidence of yesterday’s voting, ranked ballots wouldn’t have made much of a difference in Newmarket. With ranked ballots, candidates are elected as soon as they get 50% plus 1 of the votes cast. If no-one gets 50% the candidate with the fewest votes drops out and his or her second preferences are redistributed to those still in the running.
The Mayor, Tony Van Bynen, Regional Councillor John Taylor and five out of the seven Ward councillors were elected with more than 50% of the vote – in some cases well over.
By any measure the results for the successful incumbents were impressive.
The most popular boy in the school is Ward 4 councillor, Tom Hempen, who scooped a jaw dropping, North Korean style, 87.9% of the vote. Mind you, he only had one challenger, the hugely unappealing Ray Luff. In 2010, there were five candidates in the Ward and Hempen took (a still impressive) 53.9%.
John Taylor took an astonishing 73.8% of the vote. His opponent on the right, Darryl Wolk, trailed well behind with 26.1%.
Wolk invested two years in his campaign and deserves credit for his stamina if nothing else. He stood on a comprehensive platform (and that’s a good thing) but major planks of his policy were deeply unattractive to me and, clearly, to many others.
Van Bynen’s share of the vote dropped from 81% last time to 54% yesterday but in 2010 he was up against a single challenger. Chris Campbell put in a very creditable performance coming from absolutely nowhere and ending up with 38.9% of the vote.
Personally, I think he found himself on the wrong side of the line on a few issues.
He told supporters at his campaign launch that the controversial Newmarket Soccer Club deal was “stinking” and, in an instant, alienated thousands of Newmarket soccer fans. This was a humungous mistake. Van Bynen is a retired banker – a Canadian banker – and there was never any question in my mind of the Mayor being party to a dodgy deal. He is secretive, true, but that’s in his banker’s DNA. We shall have to work on that.
Rewarded in Heaven
Dorian Baxter, who adds to the gaiety of the nation, limps home with 7% of the vote. His rewards are destined to be celestial rather than earthly.
Under the ranked ballot system there would have been a run-off in Wards 3 and 5 and, of course, we have no way of knowing how the second preferences would have fallen.
Jane Twinney was re-elected on 45.9% and Joe Sponga on 46.7%.
There are only two newcomers to the council. In Ward 7, Christina Bisanz, taking over from retiring councillor Chris Emanuel, breezed in with 68.6% of the vote. This is a huge endorsement for the person who spoke so impressively for Glenway at the OMB Hearing earlier this year. She is now in a pivotal position to shape the Town’s response to the Glenway “lessons learned” meeting.
One term limit
In Ward 6, Kelly Broome-Plumley crushed the one-term incumbent, Maddie Di Muccio.
In Ward 2 a re-elected Dave Kerwin, a councillor since Confederation, enters the Guinness book of records for staying power. He has now being doing the job for a staggering 35 years (plus 4 years early on in Germany).
Turnout in 2010 was 32.6% and yesterday 36.7%.
Still pitiful but definitely a move in the right direction.
Update on 30 October 2014. Of the 37 Councillors seeking re-election in Toronto only one lost. The Toronto Star backs the ranked ballot as a way of getting new blood into City Hall.