The Provincial Government’s announcement allowing municipalities to move away from first-past-the-post and opt for ranked ballots is to be welcomed.

The new Municipal Elections Modernisation Bill which had its first reading yesterday at Queen’s Park, would allow municipalities to pass a by-law to bring in ranked ballot voting for the 2018 municipal elections. But we shall have to wait for important details on how it will all work.

Regulations to be brought in under the Bill are likely to provide for some form of public consultation before any change can be implemented. The Bill says:

The Lieutenant Governor in Council may, by regulation, impose conditions and limitations on the authority of a municipality to pass a by-law, including establishing standards and procedures for public consultation about a proposed by-law.

It goes on:

Regulations may authorize municipalities to conduct ranked ballot elections, and may provide that ranked ballot elections are authorized for only specified offices on a municipal council.

Importantly, the Bill also allows municipalities the option to ban corporate and union donations.

88.15 (1) A municipality may by by-law prohibit corporations that carry on business in Ontario and trade unions that hold bargaining rights for employees in Ontario from making a contribution to or for any candidate for an office on the council of the municipality.

If Newmarket bites the bullet on this one it could blow a hole in the campaign finances of some prominent candidates. Our Mayor, who sups at the corporate table, is one who immediately springs to mind.

At the last election in 2014, the “Committee to Elect Tony Van Bynen” received: $12,350 in corporate donations from Newmarket Honda, Magna International Inc, Pellacon Properties Ltd, Stronach Consulting Corp, Tim Hortons (Davies Drive), Reinrichmar Holdings Limited, Pitway Holdings Ltd (Cardinal Golf Club), Best Western Voyageur Place Hotel, P G Miller Enterprises (McDonalds), Armitage Animal Clinic, Charles Maria Holdings Inc, Tavco Realty Holdings Inc, Charles Maria Holdings Ltd, Pfaff Motors, Budget Propane Corporation, Dave Wood Holdings Limited (Dave Wood Mazda), Lloyd and Purcell Ltd, Miller Paving Limited, Lilcris Industries Limited, Cole Engineering Group Ltd and Multimatic Inc.

Other key changes include cutting the overly-long and debilitating campaign period by 120 days, opening nominations for candidates on 1 May in election year instead of 1 January as at present. The Bill also proposes a framework to regulate third party advertising along with contribution and spending limits which, again, would be set out in regulations.

All-in-all it amounts to a far reaching package of reforms which will help clean up our politics.

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