In fight for ‘progressive majority,’ progressive council candidates take aim at plan for reforming leader voting system

The progressive policymaker council members are taking aim at the plan for how Toronto city council will elect its leader. The proposal, by centre-left independent rookie Julie Burnside, would make her the first Green Party Councillor elected to Toronto city council in decades.

She has a real shot because according to some Vision Zero group members, there’s no excuse for council to change the voting rules in favour of the Progressive Conservatives. In September 2018, it was revealed that the Conservative-held seven-member executive, majority Liberal and one independent, had approached city staff about bumping up the number of ballots, which Toronto city council could vote on, to six.

By doing so, the executive would replace the ranking of candidates at the end of the Oct. 22 vote with those listed first and second.

When the Progressive Conservatives form the next council, council’s majority member, C.C. Dong, says the new rules would allow the Tory-held Progressive Conservative executive to change the rules as they see fit. “This is about the democratic process,” said Mr. Dong, who as city councillor representing Scarborough-Agincourt is the only progressive representing the party in Toronto’s all-blue group. “It’s totally a way to manipulate people’s vote.”

Ms. Burnside, who beat out the leader of the Progressive Conservative group in a by-election last summer, took the official proposals out for public debate during a meeting of the city’s Commission on Alternatives to Vote Rulings (CARR) on Tuesday. As part of the 30-day public input period, which was opened in September and will close on March 30,CARR will hold a public forum, open to the public, on March 25.

The discussion is set to include a motion from C.C. Dong calling for Ms. Burnside’s nomination to be challenged, on the grounds that the “carrot of extra votes is so important that the electoral rules of the game should be changed for this in particular election.” Mr. Dong has even floated a proposal to make Ms. Burnside’s nomination a special case in that she is at “significant risk” of being bumped down a final line, to add more candidates down the ballot.

Ms. Burnside, meanwhile, believes it’s important for all eligible Toronto voters to cast a ballot in order to retain the progressive council that is holding up the path to fighting climate change.

“If you vote, maybe it will be for a Green candidate, maybe it will be a liberal, but I just don’t see the sense in having an election where we know very quickly which candidate is going to be elected and very quickly have the decisions set by whomever gets there,” she told The Globe and Mail.

Last year, Ms. Burnside was among several progressive councillors who put together a social justice agenda in Toronto, which detailed progressive priorities, including: renaming everything from Queen’s Park to Don Mills Mill to Dieppe park; no metered parking on busy roads and major transit lines; and stronger protections for LGBTQ2-safe housing and supports for people with mental illness.

In her conversation with The Globe on Wednesday, Ms. Burnside talked more about the politics behind her proposal to change election rules. “I’m looking at an opportunity to do the right thing to build a progressive majority in Toronto city council.”

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