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Pickering pushes for direct election of regional chairman
February 23, 2010
By Kristen Calis
(newsdurhamregion.com)

PICKERING -- Pickering has officially added itself to the list of municipalities promoting the direct election of the regional chairman.

Currently, regional councillors vote on the Region's top job at the first meeting following a municipal election.  Regional Chairman Roger Anderson has held the position since 1997.

In the 2006 municipal election, 89 per cent of Pickering residents voted in favour of direct election in a referendum on the topic that was held in Pickering, Ajax and Oshawa.  Pickering council, however, didn't address the issue with the provincial government until now.

At its latest meeting, Pickering council passed two motions in support of direct election, and endorsed another one from the regional level.

Council approved a motion brought forward by Ward 3 City Councillor David Pickles that Pickering council officially request the Province to enact a regulation requiring the direct election of the regional chair.

“Tonight the passing of my motion made it formal and official Pickering supports the election of the Regional Chair,” Coun. Pickles said after the meeting.  “Passing this motion addressed this important unfinished business of council.”

Council also passed a motion introduced by Ward 1 City Councillor Jennifer O'Connell that Pickering officially reaffirm its position in support of direct election of the regional chairman.

Coun. Littley also brought forward a motion to council that she and Ajax Regional Councillor Colleen Jordan have filed with the Region.  The motion asks Regional council to pass a bylaw that would put the question of direct election on all ballots throughout Durham's municipalities in the October municipal election.

Former Clarington Mayor John Mutton has been making rounds to various councils promoting direct election.  He's made two stops at Pickering council.  At his last visit he supported the first two motions, but was apprehensive of Coun. Littley's.  He found it would force municipalities to put the question on the ballot, rather than have individual councils do it themselves.

Coun. Littley disagreed, saying the motion is completely democratic as it will put the question out to all residents of Durham.

“You can't make this go forward without asking them,” she said.

In the end, council supported Coun. Littley's motion.

The earliest an election could be held for chairman would be 2014.

Pickering councillor wants regional chairman elected
February 10, 2010
(newsdurhamregion.com)

PICKERING -- A motion regarding direct election of Durham's regional chairman will come to Pickering council next week.

In 2006, referendums were held in Pickering, Ajax and Oshawa regarding the question of whether the regional chairman should be voted in by the general public via direct election, rather than the current method, which is through a vote by regional councillors.

Pickering residents voted an overwhelming “yes” when 89 per cent agreed the provincial government should enforce direct election on the matter.

However, council never actually did put in the request to the province after the referendum was held, Ward 3 City Councillor David Pickles said after looking into the matter.

Therefore, Coun. Pickles and Ward 1 Regional Councillor Bonnie Littley are bringing forward a motion requesting the government to change the rules.

The matter will come to the council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 16.

Elections changes 'baby steps' in the right direction, says Ajax mayor
Thursday October 29th, 2009
By Jennifer Stone
(newsdurhamregion.com)

A number of rules to tighten up financing situation

DURHAM -- Proposed municipal election reform announced by the Province this week is “baby steps in the right direction,” but still doesn't deal with the real “cancer on our municipal election process” -- developer and union campaign contributions, says Ajax Mayor Steve Parish.

In fact, neither he nor a York University professor who has long argued the need to ban corporate, developer and union contributions feel the Provincial proposal goes far enough.

“It's a start,” Professor Robert MacDermid, a longtime critic of allowing such contributions to election campaigns.  “I think there's still work to be done ... We need to do what the federal politicians have done and ban those contribution sources.”

Proposed changes include moving election day up by two weeks to the fourth Monday in October; barring councillors from using campaign fundraising surpluses in future elections; requiring councils to appoint compliance and audit committees to oversee any public complaints about campaign violations; raising penalties for violating the Elections Act to $25,000 for individuals and $50,000 for corporations and trade unions; requiring electronic filing with election expense records having to be posted online; increasing the identification requirements for voters; and closing loopholes in fundraising rules that allow for almost unbridled spending if it's in the name of fundraising.

That's an issue, Mr. MacDermid said, pointing to one Ontario municipal politician who spent more than twice on fundraisers than what he reported he raised for his campaign.

“That's just using other people's money to host other people at an event where they're told how great the candidate is,” he said.

But, the major issue remains the ability of developers and trade unions to contribute to campaigns.  The proposed changes do limit total donations from any single source to $5,000 in any municipality.  It leaves the maximum donation from any source to any one candidate at $750.

“We don't want to even have the perception that one company can, in essence, go off and purchase favour with the whole council,” Municipal Affairs Minister Jim Watson said.  “It forces those companies and individuals to think long and hard about who they want to give the money, as opposed to spreading it out to anyone and everyone.”

But that's not necessarily so, Mayor Parish said, noting the smaller size of many Durham and other GTA councils.  In places like Ajax and Clarington, where there are only seven councillors, developers can still contribute the maximum to most of the front-runners, even under the new rules.

“In the 905, it really is a very limited reform,” Mr. Parish said. In terms of developer contributions, “there is too much of it in the system and it's having a negative impact on how we plan municipalities.”

Mr. MacDermid agrees.

“It really isn't a limit at all because it means that a single contributor could give $750 to six candidates, which would be a majority on most councils outside Toronto,” he said.

“More importantly, it doesn't stop them from giving $5,000 in 10 municipalities or more.”

In so doing, it allows developers to potentially "ensure there are candidates favourable to development interests on council," he said.

In February, Pickering Ward 3 City Councillor David Pickles introduced a motion requesting the Province to undertake a review of the Municipal Elections Act to ensure rules regarding election expenses and financing are appropriate and transparent across all municipalities.  It was passed unanimously by council and forwarded to the Province.

He was glad to hear that eight months later, something was done about it.

“I'm pleased,” he said after hearing the news.  “I think a number of things they're looking at are going to help level the playing field.”

Oshawa Mayor John Gray said he supports most of the proposed reform, but worries about the earlier date, if the Province doesn't also move up the date of swearing in ceremonies for councils, which traditionally have taken place the first week of December, not long after the November election.

On many points, moving the election date to late October is positive, he said, pointing to the likelihood of better weather for voting and the possibility local snowbirds might still be at home.

But, unless the swearing in date is moved up accordingly, “the lame duck phase (for councils) is extended,” Mayor Gray said.  “That means that for an extended period of time, there's really no ability to make simple decisions that need council approval.”

Overall, the proposed reforms are “a start,” Mr. MacDermid said.

-- with files from the Torstar network

Pickering motion a good one
Friday February 27th, 2009
(newsdurhamregion.com)

By Kristen Calis

It's tough to say whether corporate funding should be banned from municipal election campaigns.

That's why Ward 3 City Councillor David Pickles' motion requesting the Province to undertake a full review of the Municipal Elections Act was the right one for Council to pass.

Ajax passed a motion asking the Province to allow it to ban corporate and union electoral financing. But shouldn't the same rules apply across the board?

Pickering's motion asks the Province to look at all elements of running a campaign in municipalities.  For example, items such as what are eligible expenses and just how candidates can raise funds would be looked at.  The motion also emphasized public input on the topic.

It's true that councillors being able to successfully run a campaign based mostly on developer funding can give the perception that they vote in favour of certain developments.  But I doubt it's that simple.

As Coun. Pickles said in an interview, City staff assesses applications for development around the City.  Any outlandish ones that come to City planners that would somehow negatively impact Pickering are weeded out early.  Council rarely has to make major changes to the applications because staff work closely with developers in order to ensure good planning before it makes its way to Council.

Plus, who is to say that a resident giving a donation has any less sway on decisions?  It could be a resident who's seeking a bylaw amendment to go against the City's Official Plan on their own property, for example.  Or it could be a number of residents against a condominium going up in their neighbourhood giving money to a councillor.

Another reason that banning corporate funding could be tough is quite simple: developers are the ones with the cash.  Running an election campaign is no cheap task.  It would be unfortunate for someone to be unable to run if they simply didn't have the personal funds to finance their campaign.

However, it would, as York University Professor Robert MacDermid pointed out, force the candidates to get out knocking on more doors and, hopefully, strengthen the ties between the politician and resident, rather than politician and developer.

The political sciences professor recently conducted a study on corporate funding, calling for a municipal ban.

To the naked eye, it seems Pickering councillors were elected on too many development dollars.  In Prof. MacDermid's study, he found Pickering councillors combined received the highest percentage of corporate dollars in running their campaigns out of 10 GTA municipalities.

But hats off to Ward 1 Regional Councillor Bonnie Littley for running her campaign successfully without one penny in corporate funding.  She shows that banning corporate donations is possible.

This is why Pickering's request is fitting.  There are so many elements to the equation that the Act really has to be looked at, and whatever the rules are, they should be applied equally across the board.



NOTICE OF MOTION
Ensuring Fair and Appropriate Municipal Election Financing
Tuesday February 17th, 2009
 
City of Pickering

NOTICE OF MOTION

Ensuring Fair and Appropriate Municipal Election Financing

DATE February 17, 2009
MOVED BY Councillor David Pickles
SECONDED BY Councillor Bonnie Littley

WHEREAS the Government of Ontario regulates municipal election finances through the Municipal Elections Act, 1996 for municipalities in Ontario; and

WHEREAS a number of persons have suggested that municipal election finances should be reviewed with a view to tighten rules and procedures regarding campaign donations and expenditures and provide greater transparency; and

WHEREAS the rules for municipalities should be consistent for all municipalities across Ontario.

NOW THEREFORE the City of Pickering requests the Province of Ontario to undertake a review of the Municipal Elections Act, 1996 to ensure the rules regarding election financing and expenses are appropriate and transparent;

AND FURTHER that input is sought from all Ontario municipalities and the public;

AND FURTHER that this resolution be forward to the Premier, Minister of Municipal Affairs and the MPPs of Pickering, and AMO.

 CARRIED


Voting Day Change

Further to the Third Reading of the Good Government Act, 2009 on December 3, 2009, please be advised of the following changes to the Municipal Elections Act, 1996.

Voting Day

- (New) Voting Day - Monday, October 25, 2010 - 10:00 am to 8:00 pm.

Voting day moved from the second Monday in November to the fourth Monday in October.  This change was adopted due to many requests stating daylight savings time would still be in effect, the weather would be better, Halloween vandalism to Election signs would be eliminated and the Snowbirds Association requested an earlier date so most of them wouldn't have to vote by proxy.  Please also note that the fourth Monday in October will never coincide with Halloween.


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