Monday, June 14, 2010

Who does our council serve?

I was at an interesting presentation last week by the Executive Director of Fair Vote Canada, Larry Gordon, put on by the good people at CEDNA (Citizens Engaging Democracy Newmarket-Aurora)

In case you are unaware of the Fair Vote Canada I’ve included this excerpt from their Statement of Purpose.

Fair Vote Canada seeks broad multi-partisan support to embody in new legislation the basic principle of democratic representative government and ultimate safeguard of a free society: the right of each citizen to equal treatment under election laws and equal representation in legislatures.

We campaign for equal effective votes and fair representation at every level of government and throughout civil society by various means including lobbying legislators for electoral law reform, litigation, public education, citizens’ assemblies, and referenda.

To create an equal voice for every citizen and give democratic legitimacy to our laws we must reform our electoral institutions, political parties, public political funding mechanisms and governing processes to achieve these interdependent goals:

If you have any feeling that our current election system is flawed I'd recommend you investigate the work Fair Vote is doing. Even if you're satisfied its worth knowing why others feel the system is neither fair nor fully democratic.

Most of the evening dealt with voting systems and the right of all voters to be treated fairly under our electoral system. It was an engaging presentation and I think the participants came away with a new understanding of our system and the need to improve it.

There is however another campaign being run by Fair Vote which I thought was very relevant in this municipal election year calling for the banning of union and corporate funding in municipal elections.

The heart of the issue is simple;

Should businesses and unions be funding municipal campaigns?

Is there a real or perceived expectation of favouritism when a business funds a politician?

Does this funding give the incumbents who have better access to this corporate money an inordinate advantage in subsequent elections?

As a voter I feel the power of businesses and lobby groups over politicians is already too strong and believe it wrong for town vendors, contractors and developers who have an inherent financial stake in who runs council to fund municipal campaigns.

If you believe as I do that this is an important issue in municipal politics I’d ask you to contact you local representatives and ask them to complete and submit the survey which Fair Vote Canada has sent to 474 Ontario mayors and city councillors in the 42 largest cities and towns.

The survey is short, sweet and too the point and I believe most people would agree that voters have the right to know which campaigns are taking money from who so that we may better judge their actions when it comes to council votes.

1. Do you support banning corporate and union campaign contributions in all Ontario municipal elections?

2. If so, which option do you prefer? That the Government of Ontario: a) implement the ban that would be applied to all municipal elections in the province,
or b) that the government of Ontario empower individual municipalities to adopt such a ban?

3. If you support the ban, would you add your name to a public list of councillors who support it?

4. If you support the ban, would you add your name to a public list of councillors who pledge not to solicit or accept any corporate or union donations in the next municipal election?

Here is the contact information for Newmarket council; please let them know that ethical and transparent election financing is an issue to you and make sure you mention the Fair Vote Canada campaign

Don't just ask the incumbents either, each and every candidate should be disclosing if they take corporate money or if they will pledge not to.