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Private members’ bills would open door to major electoral reform in Toronto

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford talks to the media after a City Council special meeting, January 10 2014.

Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail

Two different private members' bills before the Ontario legislature would give Toronto the right to switch to ranked ballot voting, bringing a major electoral reform a step closer to reality.

New Democrat MPP Jonah Schein, who represents inner-city Davenport in Toronto's west end, was first out of the gate on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Scarborough-Guildwood Liberal Mitzie Hunter tabled her bill.

Both bills would grant only Toronto the power to ditch the current first-past-the-post system. No other municipality in Ontario would be allowed this choice. The Liberals had been mulling giving all Ontario municipalities the right to use ranked ballots, sources with knowledge of the talks have told the Globe. But Ms. Hunter's final bill focuses only on Toronto.

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The two bills differ on some details. Mr. Schein's gives Toronto far more latitude, allowing council to adopt any voting system it wishes. Ms. Hunter's proposal, however, only allows the city to change to a ranked ballot. Her bill also requires that any ranked ballot laws passed by the city go back to the province for approval, and that council hold public consultations on the matter.

How quickly either bill will move forward is an open question, and it is possible neither will come to a final vote before the end of the session. If the opposition parties vote down the upcoming budget, the province will be plunged into a spring election.

Ms. Hunter's bill will be debated next week.

Toronto council voted last year to ask the province for the power to adopt a ranked ballot.

It is not clear how the two MPPs will work together to see the matter moved forward, but both sounded open to it.

"I think it's very positive that we have two parties responding to this issue. It's fantastic," Mr. Schein said in an interview. "I think there's a very important opportunity to meet the request of Toronto city council."

At a press conference unveiling her bill, Ms. Hunter said: "I certainly welcome Jonah [Schein] in his bill that he tabled."

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About the Author
Washington correspondent

Adrian Morrow covers U.S. politics from Washington, D.C. Previously he was The Globe's Ontario politics reporter. He's covered news, crime and sports for The Globe since 2010. He won the National Newspaper Award for politics reporting in 2016. More

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