Municipal Madness

We have Municipal Elections coming up in Ontario in 2018, and there’s a new sheriff in town.  That sheriff comes in the form of the recent Modernizing Ontario’s Municipal Elections Act 2017. The Act took a particularly close look at Accountability and Transparency, at least according to their website where they claim:

“Ontario aims to make rules clearer, more effective and responsive to local needs. These changes will:

  • Require municipalities to establish codes of conduct for members of municipal council and certain local boards, which could include rules that guide the ethical conduct of those members. This requirement would help ensure that every municipality in Ontario has a code of conduct for council members, as well as for members of certain local boards.
  • Give the public and municipal councillors access to an integrity commissioner, with broadened powers to investigate conflict of interest complaints and provide advice to councillors.
  • Enhance justice by providing a wider range of penalties for contraventions of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.
  • Update the definition of “meeting” in the legislation to help ensure that rules would be clearer for municipal officials, local board members and the public.
  • Set out how municipalities may allow for electronic participation by council, local board and committee members at meetings that are open to the public. Participants would not be counted towards quorum and members would not be able to participate electronically in meetings that are closed to the public.”

These fine tuning adjustments would be wonderful except for one thing. The qualifications to become a candidate are so minimalistic as to be laughable.

To be a candidate, say in my hometown of Caledon, you must be eligible to vote (18, Canadian, breathing) in a municipality in order to run for a position on council. Specifically, on the day you file your nomination, you must be a Canadian citizen aged 18 or older, and qualify as a resident or non-resident elector. You must also be eligible to hold office on the day you file your nomination. For example, a person who is 17 years old but will turn 18 before voting day must wait until he or she has turned 18 to file.

There are also some new rules. In 2018 a candidate must provide signatures of 25 eligible Caledon electors supporting the nomination.

It is important to note that a candidate does not have to live in the Ward i which they run for office. If your municipality has wards, you can run in any ward – you do not have to live in a particular ward in order to be its councillor. However, if you run in a ward where you do not live, you will not be able to vote for yourself. Having a campaign office or a business in a ward where you would not be otherwise eligible to vote does not make you eligible to vote in that ward.

Who is NOT eligible to be candidate for Municipal Council? The following people are disqualified from being elected to municipal office:

  • any person who is not eligible to vote in the municipality
  • an employee of a municipality who has not taken an unpaid leave of absence and resigned
  • a judge of any court
  • an MP, an MPP or a Senator
  • an inmate serving a sentence in a penal or correctional institution

You can, however, be a scientific illiterate who believes that the Earth is flat or only 6000 years old, and humans walked with the dinosaurs. That will truly help your municipality to drive at high speed into the accelerating climate change of the 21st century looking in the rear view mirror.

I propose a new set of rules and qualifications.

First, candidates have to submit three letters of reference from qualified citizens, and a personal letter of application as to why they want the position of responsibility for which they are applying, along with a current, fact-checked Résumé for Councillors and Curriculum Vitae (CV) for Mayors.

The résumé/CV must include educational, employment, and service experience, along with any awards and special skills, and be accompanied by a current police background check. Note: lack of formal education should not be a barrier, but lack of literacy should. Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, Dave Thomas, and our own Ryan Gosling seemed to do just fine. On the other hand, University degrees can be bought – just ask the current President of the United States.

Secondly, the candidates must be able to demonstrate competent literacy skills in reading, writing and speaking.

Thirdly, the candidate must sign an Agreement to Participate, indicating that they have read, comprehended, and agreed to the Code of Conduct, and that they will have chosen to remove themselves from Council immediately should they violate the Code of Conduct.

Fourthly, any Candidate found to be in collusion with development interests contrary to the Town’s majority interests will have chosen to remove themselves from Council and Regional Council immediately.

Lastly, the Candidates agree to submit themselves to a public shaming should they be found to be guilty of deliberately or accidentally (without correction) giving misinformation to their constituents, or of being found guilty by the Integrity Commissioner of violating their Code of Conduct, or of having colluded with hostile development interests. This same public shaming will be applied to any members of the Press who enable the spread of innuendo, gossip and misinformation among the citizens of Caledon.

The public shaming will be carried out at a central location in their Ward, as well as running the gauntlet along the Great Trail behind the Town Hall. And “NO”, I’m not kidding.

Follow these simple new qualification guidelines and consequences for the 2018 slate of candidates, and we’ll be sure to have the most accountable local Government and media coverage in the country.

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Skid Crease, Caledon

Next Political Humour Blog: The dangers of a “Family Compact” on Council.

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