Elections and democracy

Elected Capital Ward councillor and school board trustees were invited to use the pages of the Glebe Report to introduce themselves to the neighbourhood and indicate their priorities for the coming four years. Shawn Menard and Marielle Godbout have taken up the invitation.

Marielle Godbout

I would like to thank all the voters in Zone 9 of the Conseil des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario (CEPEO) who have once again entrusted me with the responsibility of representing their interests and concerns on the school board.

As I have done in my previous mandates, I will continue to advocate for an education system that creates a welcoming environment for all members of Ontario’s Francophonie, promotes the development of its diversity and ensures its rights are respected within a spirit of justice and equity for everyone.

In the next mandate, I particularly want to work towards obtaining a new elementary school in the Somerset Ward area north of the Queensway so that students in this area can attend a school in their neighbourhood. I will also be encouraging the CEPEO to start planning for a new secondary school in Alta Vista Ward, as our only downtown secondary school, De La Salle, is bursting at the seams.

I am looking forward to the continuing growth of our Francophone student population over the next four years as well as welcoming to our school community an ever-increasing number of new members from across Canada and elsewhere in the world who will enrich our diversity while finding a safe and welcoming harbour in our community.


Shawn Menard, Councillor-Elect, Capital Ward
Shawn Menard, Councillor-Elect, Capital Ward

Thank you Capital Ward

I was humbled to receive the support of this ward on October 22 to move us forward over the next four years. I do not take this position lightly and recognize the amount of dedication and privilege that comes with it. Thank you for putting your trust in me.

I want to recognize and thank Councillor David Chernushenko for his work over the past eight years. It is not an easy job, and meaningful progress was made. We need to not only continue this work but expand our efforts to improve quality of life for residents. Christine McAllister, Jide Afolabi and Anthony Carricato all ran spectacular campaigns. They and their teams knocked on doors, handed out leaflets and put up signs in an effort to get their ideas out there. These ideas will not be forgotten. As your new representative, I will be doing my utmost to foster relationships with other leaders as we advocate for our shared goals at City Hall.

Capital Ward had the highest voter turnout of any ward in the city. It is a testament both to the campaigns for engaging residents and to the residents for responding. That said, only about half of eligible voters made it to the polls. One thing that is clear, now more than ever, is that we need to look at new models of voting that are more reflective of residents’ wishes and that ensure every vote counts. During the campaign I promised to be a supporter of ranked ballots at the local level (as the city of London has just accomplished for the first time in Ontario). With a ranked ballot system, voters would mark their first, second and third choice of candidates. If no candidate wins a majority, the person with the fewest first-place votes is eliminated. The second-place choices of those who voted for that candidate are then counted – and so on – until one candidate wins a majority. I believe this should be implemented in Ottawa.

Our team ran a campaign that highlighted the disparities that exist when it comes to supporting the development industry in Ottawa over the public services we all rely on. We talked about how Ottawans live with one of the highest transit fares in North America, a lack of purpose-built affordable housing, inaction when it comes to the threat of climate change, wasteful spending on road expansions and a lack of the community amenities that we deserve. We offered solutions to these problems, backed up by action on the ground; we engaged in grassroots democracy. This will continue at City Hall. In early 2019 I will be establishing a Ward Council that will bring together all neighbourhoods in Capital Ward to talk about issues of mutual interest and serve to advance a popular agenda at City Hall. I hope you will consider joining us.

I have greatly appreciated the opportunity to make a difference for students in K-12 during the past four years as the public school board trustee for Capital/Rideau-Vanier Wards. I was heartened to see that Lyra Evans will be assuming this responsibility on December 1, 2018, and wish her great success. There is a transition period that takes place followed by an official swearing in ceremony for the new City Council on December 3.

I look forward to working with all residents over the next several years to advance the interests of the people of our ward and of our city.

Shawn Menard OCDSB Trustee, Zone 9


Is this democracy? by Ian McKercher

Winston Churchill once said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others. This should not make us complacent about accepting a failed system.

A democratic deficit is defined as “an insufficient level of democracy in political institutes and procedures in comparison with a theoretical ideal.” If rule by the will of the majority is considered a democratic ideal, Canada’s electoral system is in serious default.

For example, in the October 22 municipal elections, Shawn Menard was chosen councillor for Capital Ward with 28 per cent of votes cast. As 52 per cent of eligible voters turned out, Mr. Menard was selected by 14 per cent of ward electors. A 14 per cent endorsement falls far short of demonstrating the will of the majority.

I do not blame Mr. Menard for this. He played by the rules and was elected fair and square. The fault lies not in our candidates but in ourselves for allowing this travesty in what pretends to be a democratic country. The current rules are undemocratic and need to be changed.

Here are two suggestions to make the ballot deeper and encourage a broader pool of electors to take part.

Introduce ranked ballots

The current “first-past-the-post” system is adequate for determining the winner of a horse race, but it fails completely to reflect the will of the majority when there are more than two candidates for the same office. A ranked ballot entitles each elector a deeper response.

Various ranked ballot systems in use around the world share a common philosophy: each voter gets to indicate at least second and third preferences in elections with multiple candidates.

Should no candidate receive a majority of votes cast after first choices are tabulated, candidates with the fewest votes are dropped from consideration, and the second and third choices on those ballots are ascribed to the remaining candidates. Eventually, one candidate accrues enough second and third choice votes to achieve an overall majority.

Christine McAllister and David Chernushenko were just a few percentage points behind Mr. Menard in the recent election. Anthony Carricato and Jide Afolabi placed fourth and fifth. It’s interesting to consider where second and third choice votes on these latter candidate’s ballots would have gone.

Compromise is an established principle in democratic decision-making. It is counter-intuitive that there is no compromise option like a ranked ballot in our current electoral process.

Candidates seeking second or third choice support could not afford to run on a single-issue platform. In door-to-door canvassing, they would not skip the house displaying a lawn sign for an opponent. Instead they would knock on the door and say something like: “I respect your first preference for my opponent in this election. I’m here to ask for your support as second choice on the ballot.”

Lower the voting age to 16

I have not heard the breakdown of voters by age in the October civic election. However, in the last provincial and federal elections, the 18-to-30-yearold demographic did not participate in the electoral process at the same rate as older citizens. Why not? Perhaps they lacked training and engagement.

There are two main arguments against lowering the voting age. Sixteen-year-olds are deemed not mature enough to exercise the franchise wisely. Debatable. And, they usually are not taxpayers so shouldn’t have input on how tax dollars are spent.

Strangely, society has agreed to license 16-year-olds to drive motor vehicles and seems willing to live with the consequences of a youthful judgement error behind the wheel. Surely the consequence of a possible judgement error at the ballot box pales in comparison.

Most citizens at 16 are not taxpayers, but they will be soon, and will live with the after-effect of older voters’ choices for a long time to come. Why not invite their input as taxpayers-in-training? Most 16-year-olds still live at home and attend school. These are excellent environments to instill civic responsibilities and encourage discussion of political issues with parents and teachers. If a habit is instilled early, it is much more likely to continue. It sure works for toilet training. Let’s invite 16-yearolds to enter into dialogue about politics and to take part in a training election.

Ian McKercher is a long-time Glebe resident and Glebe Report deliverer and contributor, and a former chair of the Glebe Report Association board. After a career teaching English at Glebe Collegiate, he is the author of two novels, The Underling and The Incrementalist, and is working on a third.

Share this