Municipal politics may be mundane, but it really matters. From snowclearing and garbage collection to planning where parks, sidewalks and bus routes will be, municipal governments have a tremendous impact on the way we live day to day. Despite the immediate and tangible impacts of council decisions, fewer people vote or run in municipal elections than any other level of government. This has to change. We have to change.
Our rural culture is knitted into the fabric of Newfoundland and Labrador. But in communities all across this great province, municipal councils are acclaimed and some don’t have a full complement of councillors. No new fresh-faced candidates stepping boldly into the fray. In town, social media was alight with tales of too-many ballots or none at all.
It’s against this backdrop that a ragtag group of political junkies assembled to find solutions to our democratic woes. From these discussions was born the Citizens’ Assembly for Stronger Elections (CASE), a non-partisan organization with the aim of improving democratic participation, representation and transparency.
We need you, the reader, to put down this paper (or open a new tab in your web browser) and tell the province that you want municipal election reform. The last day for public comment on municipal legislative reform is Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018.
We’re calling on the Provincial and Municipal governments to make voting more accessible by extending the right to vote to permanent residents, and moving the election to October. Newfoundland and Labrador is the only province or territory that votes in September. The September election is square in the middle of back-to-school season, which prevents parents of school age children from getting informed, engaged or running as candidates. When residents of all ages and backgrounds vote, get involved and run for office, they help our communities thrive (look at Branch)! That’s democratic participation!
We’re calling on governments to promote a diversity of candidates by adopting a ranked ballot. Ranked ballots are a simple way to make a big difference. Recently, all the federal political parties have used ranked ballots to select their leaders. Instead of marking an X, voters rank their preferences 1, 2, 3 and so on. Voters have no need to vote strategically. And candidates must have at least 50 per cent of the vote to win, which means they have a strong mandate from the voters. Now that’s democratic representation!
We’re calling on governments to create transparent and accountable elections by reducing campaign spending limits and banning corporate and union donations. Elected officials are answerable to their constituents, and they should be funded by them. Restricting campaign donations to private residents improves public confidence in the impartiality of their representatives. Publicizing campaign expenditures and reducing the amount candidates can spend will make running a campaign accessible to greater cross-section of residents. That’s transparency and accountability!
If you agree with us, please don’t wait, tell your MHA and municipal council today.
You can find out more about us and our recommendations on our website casenl.ca
Caitlin Urquhart, chairperson
Citizens’ Assembly for Stronger Elections — NL