Bill 181 Municipal Elections Modernization Act

Presentation to Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs

Thursday May 5, 2016

From:  Mike Cluett Local & Regional Councillor

Town of Milton / Halton Region

Good afternoon and thank you for allowing me to speak on Bill 181, the Municipal Elections Modernization Act, 2016.

I first off want to acknowledge that I am not speaking on behalf of the Town of Milton or Halton Region, but I am speaking to you based on my own opinions and experience as a municipal councillor since 2010.  I understand our counterparts in the Town of Oakville have already endorsed the potential changes and ranked balloting, but Milton Town Council hasn’t predetermined what the best choice is without first consulting the public.

This is an important discussion. A discussion worthy of debate and engagement with Ontarians as we look for opportunities and evaluate our current systems and processes. Given the limited time that I have available I want to focus the committees attention a number of concerns that I have with the proposed legislation.

My main concern with Bill 181 is that it allows individual municipal councils in the province of Ontario to make changes to the way we elect our representatives with little or no public input from the voters.

The fact that these decisions can be made without holding a binding referendum at the bare minimum is concerning.

I can’t stress enough of the importance of seeking comprehensive public input and holding a referendum before any changes are made. Direct voter input about how we vote in elections is critical and I personally can’t support a bill that takes democracy away by allowing a government to change the way they are elected without appropriate consultation. As elected officials we have a responsibility to consult the voters in the province of Ontario.

Elections belong to the people, not members of the government in Canada, the province of Ontario or members of municipal councils.

The electorate must have a say on how that system is determined.

Ensuring that we protect the democratic process from being manipulated by the political process is non-negotiable.

Through this legislation, the provincial government has already decided that there are two choices and two choices only. We are aware that there are more than two electoral methods available, but they are not up for discussion apparently.

Ontarians must have the choice via a referendum before we embark on changing our voting system. Failure to do so is a slap in the face of voters and is counter to everything we stand for as a democracy.

Back in 2007, a referendum was held with the decision by voters to stay with the first past the post system.

While I agree that times do change and that governments should evolve, I do not agree with the government’s proposal to punt the issue to local municipalities.  This circumvents the voters and does not take into account their desire, or lack thereof, for change.

This legislation does not mandate any public consultation whatsoever, including a referendum, before making changes. Municipal councils as small as 7 can quietly change the voting system in their municipality.

During the last municipal election campaign in 2014, I can not recall one area or municipality or candidate speaking on the issue of electoral reform and changes to the voting systems we now know.

So how can this legislation propose that municipal councils as small as 7 decide how people elect them without a mandate from voters?

Even the most recent polls after the last federal election listed electoral reform at or near the bottom of voter’s issues of concern. Electoral reform is also being discussed at the federal level of government where there continue to be loud calls for a referendum on the issue.

Another concern that I would like to raise with you is that by allowing municipal councils the ability to make these changes, you open the risk of self-serving decision making for personal and political survival.

Allow me to give you a brief history of my political career in Milton. I first ran for Milton Town Council in 2006 and came 92 votes short of being elected. Now, if ranked ballots were the desired voting system at the time, chances are that I probably would have been elected.

In 2010 I ran again and was successful. There were only 2 candidates in my ward and I garnered 80% of the vote, so ranked balloting wouldn’t have been an issue. Then again recently in 2014, out of field of 4 candidates I won with roughly 46% of the vote with my two closest opponents 20% behind me so in a ranked balloting system, chances are I would have still been successful.

So given my own personal experiences, I could chose ranked ballots and have no issues.

Conversely, I could also look at other members of my council and point to a councillor who was elected out of field of 7 or 8 candidates with 25% of the vote. This person could look at this opportunity and realize if there was ranked ballots, they probably wouldn’t be there so they’ll choose to stay with the first past the post system.

I bring this up to illustrate a point. By giving the authority to municipal councils to change their electoral system opens it up to self interest and self preservation over the merits of each individual system.

We have seen in recent by elections in the City of Hamilton and Town of Oakville, there can be a high number of candidates running for these positions…over 20 in Hamilton and 11 in Oakville vying for a spot around the council table.

Municipal councillors can now sit back and say I wouldn’t have been here if this particular voting system was in place so they make their decision based on their own self interests. That is a conflict of interest. Period.

Should any changes be made I the voting systems we have, those changes should be made across the board: federally, provincially and municipally.

The intent of this bill has been described as attempting at making it easer for people to vote.  In many areas in this legislation, the opposite can happen and could lead to further confusion and voter fatigue.

Voting systems should be uniform instead of peace meal with one system for one level of government and another system for the other.

I can draw an example from my own area, the Region of Halton. Halton is an upper tier municipality comprised of four municipalities, the City of Burlington, the Town of Oakville, The Town of Halton Hills and the Town of Milton.

In Halton we elect our regional chair as opposed to other jurisdictions who appoint their regional chair. If the changes are made through this legislation, we could have the following scenario.

Out of the four municipalities we could have two choosing the route of ranked ballots and the other two staying with first past the post. That means residents in the ranked balloted municipalities can choose their local and regional councillors through ranking their choices and having to vote for the regional chair via first past the post.

This can and will lead to confusion with how we vote and can result with voters giving up and the opposite effect happening, declining voter turnout.

In summary, I feel that if the provincial government wants to go down the route to changing the way we elect our politicians in Ontario we must first start by getting a mandate from voters via a referendum. The group Defend Democracy has stated that our electoral system is the “basis of our democracy” and that no government or political party has the authority to alter our democratic system as “it is up to the people of Canada to decide directly through a referendum.”

No method of voting is the perfect and there are many views on which system is more representative of the people. But a government shouldn’t make these decisions. That decision belongs to the people themselves.

As an elected municipal official, I do support giving municipalities the authority to make decisions. Whether or not to allow wind mills within their jurisdiction, more flexibility on making planning decisions for high growth municipalities like Milton and Halton Region would be welcome changes, but those powers aren’t on the table today with Bill 181.

If we are going to look at making changes to our voting systems we need to start at the top…with the voters in the province of Ontario…as it should be.

Thank you for your time.

Milton Car Break-Ins

I have been a victim of this a few years ago. The best advice is to have all valuables hidden from view and better yet not in the vehicle at all. Make sure your windows are rolled up and all doors locked. This wont guarantee that you wont have your car broken into, but it will make it very difficult for thieves to take advantage of you.

Make sure you also keep an eye out in your neighbourhoods for suspicious behaviour and report it immediately to the police department.

Here is the link to the story from the Milton Canadian Champion.

Derry Road Closure Aug 21-22nd

Please note that there will be a temporary road closure of Derry Road at the CN Rail lines beginning Friday August 21 at 5am to Saturday August 22nd at 5am

The following is a detour route for this short period of time. This looks to be the last road closure before the completion of this project which was scheduled for completion in Summer 2015.

Thank in advance for your patience. If you have any questions please call or email me mike.cluett@milton.ca

CN Officially Announces Plans for Milton Intermodal Facility

downloadEarlier this morning the  Milton Chamber of Commerce hosted a breakfast sponsored by CN for the announcement of their plans to construct a 400 acre $250 million intermodal facility in Milton.

The news broke earlier this week and over the last 48 hours, I along with other Milton and Regional Councillors have heard from Milton residents on both sides of the issue.  There is a long history with these lands, CN and previous attempts at locating an intermodal and many respond with “here we go again”

The announcement was brief and all the details of their proposal as well as ways of contacting CN directly are located at a website www.cnmilton.ca  This website is run by CN.

They will also be opening an office in Milton that will be open Saturdays where Milton residents can take their questions and concerns directly to their staff.  The office will be at 61 James Snow Parkway and opening March 28th from 9am to 2pm.

The presentation made by CN mainly focused on the benefits of intermodal transport as opposed to trucks and other forms of goods transit and what they perceive will be the benefits brought to Milton.  There were a few questions afterwards, even one by a CN employee in attendance.

There will be more to come as information becomes available so stay tuned to @Mike_Cluett and as always, please send me your comments, questions and concerns to mike.cluett@milton.ca

CN to Announce 24 / 7 – 400 Acre Intermodal in Milton

12pm Tuesday March 17th – Update

There will be more information coming out regarding the CN proposal in the coming days but I wanted to give people an idea about the possible truck traffic that can be expected at a CN Intermodal.

I grew up in Brampton roughly about 10kms from the Brampton CN Intermodal (Airport Road and 407 area).  Earlier this morning I took a trip by the facility to observe the area, the amount of traffic that is around the area and the types of businesses an intermodal attracts.

At one entrance to the facility – in a 15 minute time period – I observed 14 long bed trucks coming out of the facility and 23 going in.  This was one entrance to the CN Intermodal and there are a few more for trucks to enter to and from.

Doing the math it looked like at least 1 truck going in and out per minute.  Another item to keep in mind is that this will be a 24 hr 7 day a week operation.  Lights and noise will be seen and heard from for km’s around the facility and residential development is now underway just north of the proposed facility.

CN will be making a presentation Thursday morning and I will be in attendance.  I will have more information for you then so please stay tuned.

Feel free to pass along any comments you might have in the comment section as well.

Canadian National Railway Company to Announce Plans for Proposed Intermodal Facility in Milton

Posted on Monday March 16, 2015
News release
The Town of Milton and Halton Region have learned that the Canadian National Railway Company (CN) intends to announce that it will move forward with a proposal to build an intermodal facility in Milton. The company plans to make the announcement at a Milton Chamber of Commerce event on Thursday, March 19. CN will then proceed with a Federal Environmental Assessment for the proposed facility and will file an official project description on Monday, March 23.
The proposed intermodal terminal would be built on a 400-acre plot of CN-owned land, located between Britannia Road and Lower Base Line. It would be designed to transfer cargo containers between rail cars and trucks to move goods eastward cross the Greater Toronto Area and throughout North America. The facility would be approximately 2900 metres in length and have the capacity to handle four trains per day. Once completed, the terminal would operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

CN has not provided the Town or Halton Region with a formal site plan for the project or other important details, but both governments have serious concerns that this location is not appropriate.

“As it stands, CN’s proposal is contrary to our vision for the Town of Milton,” said Mayor Gordon Krantz. “Their plan lacks detail and does not recognize the needs of our residents or that the integrity of our community is protected.”

Town and Regional staff noted that the expanded railway operations and services proposed by CN are not consistent with existing zoning or the Official Plans of the Town and the Region, and could have significant environmental, transportation, social and land use planning implications.

The Town and the Region have made CN aware of these issues, but the company still plans to proceed with the project, claiming that neither Milton, the Region, nor the provincial or federal government, has a say in determining whether the project moves forward.

Town and Regional staff will work to ensure that the proposed facility follows a full regulatory approval process.

This proposal marks CN’s second attempt to establish an intermodal facility in Milton. In 2001, CN proposed a similar project. Both the Town and the Region identified several major issues with that plan, including an increase in traffic, noise and air pollution, a loss of agricultural land, and negative impacts on wildlife, habitats and other environmental resources. The proposal also prompted outcry from members of the community and opposition groups before it was withdrawn The present project is also at odds with CN’s commitment to Regional Council that it would not build the intermodal facility, and would pursue a rail-served industrial development on the lands instead.

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For further information, please contact:

Brett Kelly
Communications Specialist
905-878-7252, ext. 2154