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Council meets for three hours on an item about election rules - with no public participation

By Pepper Parr

March 2nd, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

They spent something more than two hours going through, in detail, what the rules were gong to be for anyone who planned to run in the October municipal election.

The Staff report, which didn’t appear to be part of the information package that was on the agenda, had a number of amendments.  Some were staff reported – others were not.

The documents that appeared on the screen certainly weren’t in the information package.

One of nine amendments that Mayor Meed Ward brought forward suggesting changes to municipal election rules Burlington has in place.

The item was not in the original agenda – it was described as a “walk on report” which meant that there was basically no notice to the public.

Quite how the seven members of council can decide to devote close to three hours of their time and not permit any delegations, is unknown.

Every member of council mouthed the words that they wanted to ensure there was a level playing field for people running for office who were not members of Council.

They are still at it – once they finished this item, they go into a Closed Session – yes another one!

We will provide a link to the item – disgraceful, shameful – the elected determining what the rules will be with no opportunity for new candidates to delegate.

There could have been delegations – if people had known about the meeting.  But they didn’t know – because they were not informed.

Walk on items are usually done to cover exceptional situations.

The office of the Clerk has known for a couple of years that there was going to be an election and that some changes needed to be made in the rules.

Anne Marsden has announced her plans to run for Mayor – she would have wanted to be aware of this meeting. Did she even know about it?

Anyone out there who is thinking about running for public office wants to howl with real anger over the meeting taking place.

Throughout the meeting changes were being made to the rules – line by line.  For the average person – it is of little importance – for those that want to run for office – they have a major complaint.

Can’t wait to hear what Anne Marsden has to say on this one.

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14 comments to Council meets for three hours on an item about election rules – with no public participation

  • The following apology was issued by Mary Hill to Anne Marsden:

    The Editor of the Burlington Gazette has brought to my attention that by way of an adjective I used to describe Anne Marsden in a comment I made published by the Gazette, I may have implied Anne Marsden suffers from a mental illness. Let me categorically and unreservedly apologize to Anne Marsden for that sleight and any offence caused.

  • Joe Gaetan

    Our City under the auspices of “engagement” have a number of advisory committees. From what I can glean from the article, this matter could have been handled a lot better. If we really believe in democracy then perhaps the matter of election campaigns and whether there should be signs or no signs, should be dealt with in a more transparent manner via the Clerks office and perhaps an advisory panel made up of members such as the late Walter Mulkewich (r.i.p.). As to weighing-in on democracy via, 5 or 10 minute delegations to council, not a fan.

  • Fred Untermeyer

    I think the point here is what amendments and revisions to the existing guidelines in Burlington were made? It is a largely unavoidable result of incumbency that face and name recognition come with the territory. To create a more level playing field, and obviously excluding their campaign material/paid media ads/social media communications, only critical, business-related City communications from incumbents should be allowed during the election period. This does not remove the inherent advantage that an incumbent has but it limits it somewhat. It would be interesting to see the net effect of the changes suggested by staff (the Clerk) and revised by Council. To Maggie’s point, we do indeed “elect officials to make decisions on our behalf” but not those with which there is an implicit vested (if not conflict of) interest and not without the prior knowledge of affected individuals – which in this case is the electorate.

    • Maggie Riley

      So Fred. What’s your solution? Have a referendum ? Not very practical.

      If I’m reading the example correctly that is shown in the Gazette’s report the amendments suggested further restrict incumbents. The Gazette does a great job of stirring the pot without providing any examples of where Council, the incumbents, have suggested amendments that would tilt the floor in their favour. Not really fair and balanced reporting in my view.

      • Fred Untermeyer

        Maggie – I would never suggest a referendum and didn’t. Municipalities are the creatures of the Province. As such, the Ontario Municipalities Act, 2001 establishes their powers and duties for the purpose of providing good local government. The Municipal Elections Act 1996 and The Municipal Elections Modernization Act, 2016 establish the rules for municipal and school board elections within each jurisdiction. I believe that these rules, and only these rules, should apply and that if changes are required that they should be through regulations established under these acts. This would provide a consistent and fair framework and avoid either the fact or the perception of ‘bylaw tinkering’ by incumbents.

        I believe that you will find that the revisions made by Council do, in fact, benefit the sitting Council members, including the rather confused example contained in the article. I am looking forward to further and hopefully in-depth reporting in a subsequent piece. Finally, I congratulate the Gazette for “stirring the pot”. I love sleepy small towns but apathetic big cities are something that none of us can afford.

  • A leopard cannot change its spots. Nothing surprises us with this Council. From the very first month in office Meedward was allowed by Sharman to introduce a letter from the Region that was not on agenda at Planning and Davelopment that “paused” official plan. Heather MacDonald talked about it the behest of Meedward.. It never went to Council so no delegations. The only place this letter could be accessed was A Better Burlington. They will end this term as they started operating like they want not, as they should. Apathy can return them all. Burlington taxpayers deserve better, much better so lets roll up our sleeves and get on with the task of removing them all, and then getting a better Clerk. We don’t deserve this self centred bunch calling the shots on how to run our city.

  • Joe Gaetan

    If it looks and smells like a dead fish it probably is. Very strange given how we should be more open and “Zelensky” about democracy. So, I guess no one declared a conflict of interest?

    • Mary Hill

      John Gaetan

      “conflict of interest” as applied under the Municipal Act is limited to pecuniary interests only.

      Excerpt of Section 5 from the Act reads:-

      “5 (1) Where a member, either on his or her own behalf or while acting for, by, with or through another, has any pecuniary interest, direct or indirect, in any matter and is present at a meeting of the council or local board at which the matter is the subject of consideration”.

      Should discussing and making decisions concerning election rules be considered by you and others a conflict of interest then the entire council would have to recuse itself. So who, what body, should discuss and make decisions on the municipalities election rules? If a committee or body was comprised, in whole or in part, of residents, then each resident would have the same conflict. Would they not?

      Anne Marsden.

      You bleet on and on about the past, some of which is almost prehistoric, calling out Council members for acting unethically. And yet you seem to think it ok for you to publish a completely misleading, deceitful propaganda piece of your past election vote count compared completely out of context against the vote counts of MMW and Carr.

      You still have not had the decency to offer an apology for that huge error in judgement.

      It’s easy to criticize, way more difficult to be constructive. With that in mind, as to this specific topic please do express how in Marsden World these changes to the election rules should have been discussed and determined.

      BTW I don’t hold out any hope for a response from Marsden directly addressing these items.

      • Joe Gaetan

        Mary Hill: Good to know “pecuniary interest” does not apply? When members receive no remuneration and only run for office for altruistic reasons I will agree.

        • Mary Hill

          Hey Joe (memories of Hendrix)

          I was just pointing out that according to the rules set by the Province there was no conflict of interest to be declared by any of the Council members.

          • Joe Gaetan

            Hey Mary: (Hey Joe Hendrix reprised) Incumbent advantage has always been a concern. It’s more of an optics issue, even if the intentions and the result of the deliberations were above board. Many of these council members are there because we had had enough. Timing is everything. Namaste

          • Mary Hill

            Hey, Hey Joe.

            Incumbents just by being incumbents have an advantage. That cannot be undone or made to go away. Lawn signs are an example of that fact. An incumbent can usevthe word “re-elect” whereas a contender must use “elect”.

            But my point about this report in the Gazette is that innuendo is made that something untoward took place at the Council meeting, tilting the floor in favour of incumbents. Can someone please tell me what outcome from the Council meeting enhanced their own positions to the detriment of any challengers, and might support the Gazette’s innuendo.

            Editor’s note. Not quite sure what you meant bu innuendo. My point was that because it was a “walk on” item the public had no idea that elections rules were going to be discussed and were not able to delegate – throughout the lengthy conversation – I hesitate to call it a debate, the members of council kept bleating about making sure it was a “level playing field”: the other players didn’t even know a game was being played.

          • Mary Hill

            Editor, “bleating on”. You make it sound like a bad thing that each Councilor had concerns to make sure the playing field was level for whomever might be playing. I thought “innuendo” was pretty self-explanatory. In reading your report I take a clear inference that you suggest the changes being discussed were such that they favoured the incumbents. But you give no examples of that. Just innuendo. OK it was discussed without public input. I understand that concern, especially if Council took the opportunity to skew things in their favour. But again I ask of the reporter was anything discussed or approved which was to the advantage of an incumbent. If there was nothing passed that benefited incumbents who would have a problem with that? Again it’s mountains out of molehills. Please, Editor, provide a more in depth report on what was discussed and approved.

            Editor’s note: We would loved to have been able to do just that – report. The document that Council was discussing was not included in the Agenda – making it close to impossible to report on what it said. All we had to go on was what was on the screen; the type was very small and screen grabs just didn’t work.

            I’m stunned at how unconcerned this reader is that there was no opportunity for the public to comment. The date of the next municipal election has been known for four years – what was the rush to slip something into the agenda at the last minute.

            There were nine changes put forward by the Mayor. some were supported by Staff others were not.

            What was clear during the discussion was that the contents of the document had been worked over and discussed by the Mayor and the Clerk. There didn’t appear to be all that much input from the other members of Council.

            It does have to be noted that all Council did was come out with a recommendations. The issue goes to Council on the 22nd.

  • Maggie Riley

    OMG, Editor. You’re sounding like Marsden. The example of changes being discussed shown in the article seems perfectly acceptable. So what is the whining about. Are you whining about the suggested changes being put forward, or the fact that changes are bring discussed without delegations being possible, or both?

    I truly appreciate the delegation process and have made delegations myself on a number of occasions. But we elect officials to make decisions on our behalf, not to come back to us at every opportunity seeking our approval. Compared to Provincial and Federal governments we are spoiled at municipal level as respects the level of engagement.