Toronto should reform its municipal elections to improve accountability and participation by adopting proportional representation, advocating the province to extend voting rights to permanent residents, and putting specific infrastructure referendums on ballots.
Pros: Increases accountability of local government, improve representation across the city, ensures the continuation of programs and policies, and increased political consensus
Cons: Possible costs of implementing new ward boundaries and accommodating expanded city council chambers, may not be legally be able to grant municipal voting rights to permanent residents,
The current municipal governance structure is not effectively serving the city. Political gridlock, a weak mayoral system, and disproportionate representation of suburban interests have constrained the development and implementation of city building polices and programs. Adopting proportional representation and political parties at city council, extending voting rights to permanent residents, and placing certain infrastructure elements directly on the ballot could ameliorate the endemic dysfunction at city hall.
If politicians were elected by proportional voting, every member of council was an ‘at large’ member, voters could choose candidates who best represented their self-identified community’s interests rather than their geographically situated interests., The city could also advocate to extend the right to vote to permanent residents as another strategy to improve the responsiveness of municipal governance Immigrants play an extensive role in the city’s economy and cultural milieu, but until they complete the long path to citizenship, these members of society lack a say in municipal governance despite paying taxes. Similar movements are underway in other major North American cities with high concentrations of non-citizen, permanent residents. In addition to allowing permanent residents the right to vote in municipal elections, there are smaller simple opportunities to empower non-citizens, such as the right to vote in local and school board elections, run for office, and weigh in on local ballot initiatives.
Political turn over and waffling has set back major infrastructure and social programs in recent years. By placing major city-building initiatives on the ballot, voters can have a direct say that make binding decisions. This model is already in place in several US states, particularly California’s proposition system, and may be applicable for the municipal level in Canada as well.