Civic elections in Toronto are not meeting our expectations.

Voter turnout is lower than provincial or federal elections. New faces on City Council are uncommon. Candidates can 'win' a seat with as low as 20% of the vote. And perhaps most importantly, our City Council does not reflect the evolving demographic of Toronto’s diverse population. The challenge is to determine whether our current voting system plays a role in these outcomes and whether amendments to our system could produce more effective results for Toronto.

Better Ballots is a non-partisan dialogue, exploring options that could make municipal elections more relevant, effective, fair and participatory.

We've put forward fourteen options for municipal voting reform. Better Ballots is not endorsing any particular model, but rather is facilitating a dialogue that explores all the options, with the goal of increasing public awareness of alternatives.

In April 2010, we hosted four Town Hall meetings, exploring the fourteen options for voting reform (Download: Town Hall Survey Results). Two months later, we hosted a mayoral forum, including all front-runner candidates, on the topic of voting reform. Finally, in August, we hosted a public Volunteer Meeting to get more people involved.


Better Ballots believes in electoral choice. Municipalities should have the ability to choose the voting model that works best for their particular situation. While one city may wish to explore term limits or parties, another city may wish to try a proportional model or a ranked ballot.

We are advocating for an amendment to the Municipal Elections Act that would give cities more choice, while proving clear regulations on how these reforms should be implemented.

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There are many successful models of municipal elections we could look at:

Vancouver has a vibrant local party system (independent from provincial or federal parties).

Cincinnati, Philadelphia and New York City all have municipal term limits, designed to increase turnover.

Cambridge (MA) uses a system called single transferable vote (STV) to make sure that its Councilors are elected based on proportional representation.

San Francisco and Minneapolis use a simple ranked ballot system (also called instant runoff), to eliminate vote-splitting and strategic voting.

Montreal voters elect local Borough Councils, giving more power to neighbourhoods.

All these ideas, and others, would be worth exploring. Some changes could be made by a simple Toronto bylaw (such as multi-member wards) while others would need the cooperation of Queens Park (such as boroughs). Some systems would require significant change to our current system (such as parties or STV) while other systems would be easier to implement (such as a ranked ballot or term limits).

In addition, we'll explore other options for reform such as finance rules, extending voting rights, etc.

Let's raise our expectations, and work towards a voting system that meets them.





Toronto is a diverse city.
Why isn't our Council?

It's time to look at voting reform.