On April 4, 2016, the Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and
Housing, the Hon. Ted McMeeken introduced Bill 181, the
Municipal Elections Modernization Act, 2016 ("Bill
181") which proposes changes to the Municipal Elections
Act, 1996, S.O. 1996, c. 32, Sched. (the "Act").
While the Act remains subject to revision as it moves through
the legislative process, it includes changes to how municipal
elections are run in Ontario, including establishing a framework to
allow ranked ballots in all of Ontario's 444
Minister McMeeken stated in the Legislature in support of Bill
181 that the proposed package of reforms, would, if passed:
"help ensure that the rules governing how municipal leaders
are elected are clear and reflect how to run modern campaigns and
elections. This package of reforms responds to the real and
evolving needs of our communities, including providing
municipalities with the option to introduce ranked-ballot voting
for the 2018 municipal elections."
Key proposed changes are:
To date, no municipality in Canada uses a ranked ballot election
system and currently only the City of Toronto has the existing
legal authority to implement a ranked ballot system. The proposed
changes would give all municipal councils in Ontario the option to
pass a by-law to use ranked ballot elections, once the government
passes a regulation authorizing these elections.
A definition of "Ranked Ballot" is proposed to be
added to the definition Section of the Act:
"ranked ballot election" means, with respect to an
office on the council of a municipality, an election authorized
under subsection 41.1 (1);
The new proposed Section 41.1 sets out a framework for ranked
41.1 (1) The Lieutenant Governor in Council may, by regulation,
authorize elections for offices on a municipal council to be
conducted in accordance with the following rules:
Electors vote by ranking candidates
for an office in order of the elector's preference.
Votes are distributed to candidates
based on the rankings marked on the ballots.
The counting of votes is carried out
in one or more rounds, with at least one candidate being elected or
eliminated in each round.
As per new provisions 41.1(2),(3) and (4); 41.2, many of the
details setting out how the ranked ballot system will work in
practice are to be contained in the regulations, which the Ministry
will release after the Act is passed; this includes authorization
of using ranked ballots, requirements for public consultation
before implementing a ranked ballot by-law, which offices on
municipal council will be determined by ranked ballot, the
standards and procedures, delegation to municipal clerks and
counting of votes.
Thus far, there are no proposed changes to school board trustee
elections to allow for ranked ballots.
Bill 181 proposes to shorten the nomination calendar. Currently,
for a regular election, nominations run from January 1 and end on
the second Friday in September; this is proposed to be changed to
run from May 1 to the fourth Friday in July.
Bill 181 introduces a new Section 88.3 of the Act that requires
candidates to identify themselves on their election campaign
advertisements and under Section 88.7, municipalities are entitled
to remove offending signs.
New provisions are also proposed regarding third party
advertisements (Sections 88.4; 88.5; 88.6) including changes
regarding expenses, spending limits and identification
Campaign Finance/Contribution Reform
Currently only the City of Toronto has the authority to ban
corporate and union donations in municipal elections. The City of
Toronto has prohibited these contributions for the past two
elections. Bill 181 extends that option to all of Ontario's
municipalities by the proposed addition of Section 88.15.
There are also proposed amendments made regarding campaign
contributions to candidates, financial reporting requirements,
expenses and registered third-party fundraising.
Administration of Elections
Bill 181 also proposes changes that are intended to remove
barriers that could affect electors and candidates with
disabilities and making it easier to make changes to the voters
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