Saturday, December 4, 2021

We’re Just a Year Away From the Next Municipal Election

Meaford’s Council received a general update regarding the next municipal election, scheduled to be held on Monday, October 24, 2022.

The current term of Council is set to expire on November 14, 2022. While the Clerk is responsible to conduct municipal elections, Council is the approval authority where decisions are authorized by by-law. Legislative Services has begun preparation for the 2022 municipal and school board election, which will be conducted by a hybrid method of vote-by-mail and in-person as authorized by by-law 2020-73,” staff advised in their report to Council.

While Meafordites were able to vote online during the last municipal election held in 2018, that won’t be an option in 2022. After technical issues caused an extension of the voting period in 2018, resulting in frustrations among voters and candidates alike, in October 2020 Council voted in favour of returning to in-person and mail-in ballots for 2022.

The update report provides some good information related to the next municipal election, now in the early stages of preparation, but it also provides an opportunity for discussion and debate about elections beyond 2022.

First, I might suggest that Council was too easily scared away from online voting. Personally I am most comfortable with the old-fashioned and difficult to tamper with paper and pencil voting method, however many, particularly younger voters, continue to push for the ability to vote online. If municipalities hope to maintain voter participation in the coming years, many suggest that online voting must be an option for voters. I suspect we will see significant debate on this issue in the years to come as technology continues to advance, though the fears of many related to online voting might not be easy to set aside. The debate should however take place no matter where you stand on the issue.

Another discussion perhaps worth having in the coming years is the potential for a ward system in the Municipality of Meaford. Though Meaford has three distinct communities, amalgamated more than 20 years ago, the municipality has resisted suggestions to implement a ward system. Though I hear regularly from residents who desire a ward system, it never seems to gain any traction.

Meaford is the first community in which I have lived that does not have a ward system. All of my municipal votes cast prior to moving to Meaford were for a candidate in the ward in which I lived, so I am both familiar with and comfortable with a ward system. I can see both benefits and a pitfall or two by going the ward route, but I do think it is a topic worthy of some in-depth discussion and debate at council, if only to put the issue to rest, at least for the short term.

Council has not directed the establishment of any wards in the Municipality of Meaford. A ward boundary review would likely take approximately 12-18 months to undertake, therefore it could not be done prior to the 2022 election. Should Council wish a ward boundary review to be completed prior to the 2026 municipal election, a resolution requesting a staff report would be required to begin the process,” staff advised Council in their election update report.

Though there are many discussion points in the report to Council, one other topic should, in my opinion, be opened up for debate, and that is the election sign bylaw. Every election I hear complaints about signs, and I am certain the municipal office hears the same complaints. Some complain about the placement of signs resulting in obstructed views for traffic, others complain about candidate signs being placed on public property. With election signs the grievances can be many, and we live in an era when many, myself included, question the value of election signs at all.

I have always dislike election signs. In fact when my youthful 24-year-old self ran for council in another municipality in 1994, I did not use election signs though my five opponents in the ward in which I was running did. As a young long-shot, I still managed to finish third of seven candidates without having signs plastered everywhere as my opponents did. That was nearly 30 years ago, and today we have so many ways to communicate instantly to large audiences, I often wonder if we really need to clutter up our neighbourhoods with those ugly signs any longer.

The next municipal election is just a year away, but I feel there are some discussions to be had before the 2026 election, and now is as good a time as any to test the waters of some ideas that are raised with some level of regularity.


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