City clerk has the final word when it comes to local election rules and their interpretation - but she has to comply with the Municipal election Act.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

October 17, 2014



The only thing I am worried about” said city Clerk Angela Morgan “is possible line ups at the polling stations on election day”.


City Clerk Angela Morgan

City Clerk Angela Morgan signing the 2010 election returns.

Morgan is the staff member who oversees the running of the election. She has an experienced staff but when push comes to shove it is Morgan who calls the shots. She has had a couple of awkward calls to make but because her role is close to judicial – her word is the last word.

In 2010 there were five or six places where the line ups were far too long and people had to wait’ said Morgan. We found that a poll should not have more than 3500 people in it – 4000 tops.

In 2010 the voter turn out was 35.6% of those eligible to vote – one of the highest Burlington has had for a municipal election. If that turnout were to reach the 50% + level there would be line-ups

“So we revised many of the polling boundaries and added polling clerks at several of the polling stations – so I am pretty sure we are OK” said Morgan.

Advance polls opened yesterday and will close on Saturday.

Internet voting has been open for a few days – that too closes on Saturday.

Two interesting piece of information. Internet voting is up substantially over last year. Advance polls are up as well.

Internet voting is up substantially over last year. Why, many people have asked, does internet voting and advance polls end on the 18th? Because the city then has to prepare the voters list for the election on the 27th. All those people who voted at the Advance poll and on-line have their names taken out of the list that the polling clerks work from.

Could the amount of time be shorter so that more people get to vote on line; perhaps and there are a number of work arounds that can be put in place but on-line voting is new to Burlington and the one thing about what the Clerk’s office does is this – they are cautious because when they rush things and things go wrong – they go really wrong.

Angela Morgan is a cautious woman who gets a lot of complaints about what candidates are doing. “The election starts far too early: said Morgan “but there is nothing we can do about that – the Municipal Act sets out when a person can file papers to be a candidate” and for those who want to create a profile and name recognition – they have close to a year to do that



Will these seven become lame ducks on October 27th? If just one of them loses their seat – we have a lame duck council.

As city Clerk everything Council does has to be signed by her before it is legal. Morgan plays a critical role in the administration of the work council does. On the morning of October 28th she will know what kind of a Council she has for the month of November. Six of the seven members of the current council have to be returned to office or the Clerk is faced with a “lame duck” council that cannot spend more than $50,000 that is not already budgeted for nor can Council hire or fire any of the senior staff.

That lame duck status holds for just a month – when the new Council is sworn in. Is it reasonable to assume that the significant seven will not all be returned? There are two council members who are at risk and a third that is in trouble.

Determining what a candidate can do with what are known as city resources is a problem the clerk has to contend with. “Some are more decent than others” Morgan explained. Some see the rules as something that have to be strictly adhered to – others will stretch the rules as far as they can.

During the campaign a Save the Planet event took place with more than 2,500 cities around the world holding demonstrations. New York city had more than 175,000 people out on the streets. Burlington had about 40 people waving their signs and placards.

The organization that held the event invited the Mayor, a known environmentalist to speak. The original intention was to start the event at the Gazebo in Spencer Smith Park but that is city owned property and Mayor Goldring was not going to speak at that location during an election.

Flood Goldring with chain of office

Mayor Goldring has taken to wearing his chain of office outside the Council chamber recently.

That we think was making too literal an interpretation of the rules. Goldring should have put on his chain of office – talked about the environment and what global warming means to all of us and not say a word about the election and the city’s Energy Management Plan.

Ward 2 Councillor Marie Anne Meed Ward rented the Shoreline Room at the Art Gallery of Burlington for her campaign kick-off. The AGB is an arm’s length operation with its own board and while the city owns the building it is run by the AGB board.

BAC aerial

No photo ops for election candidates on this site.

Morgan had a conversation with then AGB president Ian Ross but as Morgan put it “I always struggle with situations like this.” Another candidate running against Meed Ward wanted to film some footage at the entrance to the AGB and was told they could not do that; where does one draw the line?

For Angela Morgan – it is all about both enforcing and interpreting the rules – she seems to get it right most of the time.

Morgan, who lives in Hamilton has voted – online

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4 comments to City clerk has the final word when it comes to local election rules and their interpretation – but she has to comply with the Municipal election Act.

  • Jim

    I would like to know how the mayor cannot make a non election related speech on city owned property, another candidate cannot make a video outside of AGB but Katherine Henshell, candidate for Ward 1 city councillor, can use the city owned Aldershot arena for her campaign kick off party. This appears to be a violation of the municipal election act. I would have to ask how this situation came about. Since the forms that needed to be filled out to rent the facility ask for the purpose of the rental, were not those in charge of renting the faculty aware of the rules. Also as a lawyer who also had ample time to read the act, one would think that Katherine Henshall would be aware of the rules. This situation needs to be investigated by the city clerk, Angela Morgan. I know she has received a letter regarding this situation.

  • Sue


    I was interested in what you said about Goldring and Lancaster and the use of their current titles on their campaign signs. I had a look at the elections act online and didn’t see anything that states a candidate can’t use these on their signage. Can you please tell us where you got the idea that using it was illegal? Since the Clerk is governed by the elections act I am trying to figure out why you think there is something amiss? Perhaps you Sir, are the master of none.


  • Barnabee Johnson

    The one comment made about the elections starting too early was uneducated. There are a number of candidates who need to sign up early in order to fundraise for the campaign. There should be a follow up to that, asking the Clerk why she thinks that? And is she prepared to go to war with the province to change that? I think not.

    Another correction – there was no internet voting ‘last year” but “last election”.

    If someone doesn’t agree with what the Clerk has to say, which many people don’t agree with the way this election, or the last election, has been handled, she can and will be taken to task. There have been a number of questions raised over Rick Goldring’s use of “Mayor” for his campaign – which is illegal, and Blair Lancaster’s use of “Councillor” on her signs. Maybe being challenged, the Clerk will realize she’s not a jack of all trades, but a master of none.

  • Stacie dunlop

    You’ve been misinformed. She’s there to ensure elections act is administered. She doesn’t interpret the law. She isn’t a lawyer. She is not a one person compliance audit committee. She’s not the judge and jury.