Just a few minutes ago, near the end of a marathon three-day city council meeting, we won a critical victory. We won’t be getting ranked ballots as quickly as we had hoped, but thanks to you, we successfully defeated a last ditch attempt to stop moving ranked ballots forward.
To understand what happened and where we go from here, please see below.
But before you do, let us say that the outpouring of support from you, the supporters of ranked ballots, in the past 10 days, was simply amazing. We have never seen anything like it. Without you, those who oppose ranked ballots were looking like they would be able to use the pandemic to cancel our victory from last year and send us back to square one.
Instead, while we have been delayed, our movement has shown itself to be more solid and powerful than was previously believed. In the past week, we put council on notice that ranked ballots really are coming and will not be stopped. In that sense, we believe that the likelihood that a ranked ballot election in Toronto will happen has actually increased, even if it has been delayed.
Back in November 2019, after years of trying, we managed to get City Council to pass a motion directing city staff to begin the public consultations that are legally required before the city can switch to ranked ballots. Then the pandemic hit and, in late March, for a variety of understandable COVID-related reasons, staff suspended work on these consultations.
Six months later, the City Clerk provided city council with an update on its election preparedness ahead of the 2022 elections. In this update, they detailed how the pandemic had delayed their work on advancing ranked ballots and recommended that all future work on ranked ballots cease. Staff provided a number of reasons for this recommendation. We outlined our response to this recommendation, and why we disagreed with it, here. Nevertheless, last week, City Council’s Executive Committee considered staff’s recommendation, and by a margin of 7-1, voted to accept it.
This was a setback, but we knew that the real decision would be taken at the city council meeting a week later. So we focused all our energy on mobilizing support for ranked ballots around this council meeting. We have never seen such a strong response with hundreds of supporters contacting the mayor and their councillors asking them to support ranked ballots.
This mobilization obviously caught Council’s attention because when Councillor Shelley Carroll introduced a motion earlier today to cancel the Clerk's recommendation and continue consultations, it gained wide support and passed on a vote of 18 in favour to 6 opposed.
Unfortunately, we were not able to convince enough members of council that a ranked ballot election in 2022 was still viable. But, Councillor Carroll’s successful motion enables city staff to begin consultations once they have determined that they have sufficiently resolved the obstacles identified in the Clerk’s report to allow them to begin consultations. It also requires them to conclude these consultations by 2023 at the latest, well in advance of the 2026 election.
This was not our best case scenario. It means we will have one more election with our current system and delays our progress on consultations.
But, in addition to the fact that consultations will continue, this motion provides us with other opportunities. The increase in strength demonstrated by our movement is one of these. Indeed, many opponents to ranked ballots on city council now seem almost resigned to the fact that they will be implemented eventually.
Another is the fact that the Clerk will now have all the time they need - indeed much more time than they had pre-pandemic - to do a thorough and comprehensive public education and consultation process. This will provide us with an incredible opportunity to further educate the public, really mobilize around these consultations, and show city council just how strong support for this move is ahead of the final decisive vote.
RaBIT’s board of directors will be meeting in the coming days to begin developing our plans for how to move forward. In addition to the support already mentioned, we have also seen a new upsurge in supporters wanting to volunteer and so these plans will include new opportunities for members of our community to help push our movement forward. Please watch this space and we will be back in touch soon.
Thank you again for your support. While not the best possible result, we have managed to defend the consultations we fought hard for and to ensure that Council is still only 1 vote away from moving to a ranked ballot election. We remain committed to our objective and hope we can continue to rely on your steadfast support. It is clearer now than ever, that eventually, we will win.