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 -- 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.
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
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.
- (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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