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Two things wrong with at-large council

Everyone recognizes that democracy is imperfect and there are a lot of reasons why our municipal council is messed up, but Mayor Doug Martin’s suggestion that eliminating wards to elect councillors-at-large has two large flaws.

One is the former tradition of plunking.

When given a list of names from which a voter chooses multiple candidates, a plunker only votes for one. This dilutes the vote of an elector who picks an entire slate.

It occurred extensively in the old Ward 1 and Ward 2 which had three representatives each on council and two other wards had one each.

Ward 1 was the old Town of Fort Erie — approximately everything everything east of Concession Road. Ward 2 was the old Bertie Township to the west and mostly south of the Garrison. It included Lakeshore, Crescent Park, Thunder Bay, Ridgeway.

Ward 3 was Crystal Beach out towards the Point and Sherkston. Ward 4 was north of Garrison and the northern Boulevard, including Stevensville and Black Creek.

Ward 1 and 2 elections were plunked. Instead of choosing three candidates from the alphabetically listed slate of candidates, plunkers only picked one — their favourite — giving that ballot more statistical punch over ballots in which three candidates were selected.

Unless we truly have a one-person, one-vote election in which everyone must only choose one candidate, plunkers will prevail when given a six-name option. Also with a multiple choice ballot, votes will be skewed toward the names at the top of the list.

My solution for that is voters only pick one candidate and the best vote getter is automatically the mayor — but I don’t think the Municipal Elections Act allows that. I think there must be a separate election for head of council, but I’m not sure. Let’s take a lesson from some of our current councillors and just go with it.

The second big problem is the cost. It is much more expensive to canvass the entire town. It will take a whole Super PAC to fund the election of the next anti-issue candidate.

Here’s what’s really wrong: four-year terms are too long; not enough people voted; too few good candidates stepped forward; councillors are not acting as responsible and competent administrators and policy setters.

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