Toronto city council took a significant step on Tuesday towards dramatically changing how the city elects its leaders — and who gets to cast a ballot. By a vote of 26 to 15, the governing body asked the provincial government to allow it to use the ranked choice voting system, which demands that the winning candidate accumulate at least 50% of votes cast. It also asked, by a margin of 21 to 20, the minister of municipal affairs and housing to grant permanent residents the right to vote in municipal elections. Both initiatives require Queen’s Park to amend legislation. Yanni Dagonas, a spokesperson for Minister Linda Jeffrey, said the government will give Toronto’s requests “careful consideration” and said it appreciated the city’s efforts to “increase voter engagement.” City staff have already indicated it would be impossible to implement such reforms by the 2014 election. Ranked choice voting would also have to come back to city council for further approvals.
Mayor Rob Ford voted against both proposals, arguing the current system works well.
“It just doesn’t make sense. How can someone who is not a Canadian citizen vote?” Mayor Ford asked reporters following the decision. He suggested the hours-long debate on the matter was a waste of time and doubted the province will heed any of the requests. “They’re going to go into the circular filing cabinet,” he predicted.
But if he is wrong, the proposals would have important implications for politics in this city.