The curious switcharoo by city council to prevent Internet voting in 2018

By Gerry Barker

April 6, 2017

In 2013, city council agreed to allow Internet voting for the 2014 civic election. Former Mayor Karen Farbridge extolled the virtues of electronic voting claiming it would allow more people to vote.

Well, as it turned out, more people did vote in one of the highest voter participation in recent years. City Clerk Stephen O’Brien, the city’s chief electoral officer, reported that 33 per cent of all ballots cast were completed electronically. He reported that 45 per cent of the total eligible electors cast their ballots.

So why are the six leftists, members of council, now voting against Internet voting? Only progressive Councillors Cathy Downer and left -leaning Mark MacKinnon voted for the voting system along with Mayor Guthrie, Councillors Christine Billings, Dan Gibson and Andy Van Hellemond.

Coun. Bob Bell voted against allowing Internet voting and that provided the winning outcome for the progressive’s rejection of the system most voted for in 2013. Three of those councillors, James Gordon, Phil Allt and Mike Salisbury were not on the council that approved Internet voting in the 2014 election. But all three obviously benefited as they were elected.

A councillor replies

Citizen Rena Akerman asked Coun. Phil Allt why he voted against it.

His unctuous reply included reference to a U.S. anti-Internet website known as the Daily Dot. It is larded with anti-Internet blather that has absolutely no application to the 2014 civic election outcome that boosted public participation by more than 12,000 votes filed on the Internet and no evidence of voter fraud, hacking or misrepresentation.

The big question is why are the six progressive plus Bob Bell, voting to dump the system? Did Mr. Bell vote aginst Iternet voting in 2013?

I get sweaty palms when that doyen of the left, Susan Watson, addresses council. You remember her. She was the author of a vexious and frivolous accusation against a defeated candidate in Ward Six for accepting a donation of $400 from the civic action group, GrassRoots Guelph (GRG). She was successful in causing an audit of the candidate’s election financial report.

The independent auditor, William Molson of Toronto, found that GRG was legally entitled to donate the money. The upshot was that the City Clerk said she did not have to pay for the two-month investigation in 2015: Taxpayers $11,500, Watson 0. To rub salt in the wound was the Candidate, Glen Tolhurst, had to pay his own legal expenses.

But the lady has been busy chairing the Guelph Chapter of Fair Tax Canada. It advocates voting reform to include proportional ballots in which each voter has to grade each candidate on a 1 to 10 basis. Just figuring out the winner is a daunting task as the preferences are added up. So if your name is Wettstein (for example) and you instruct your supporters to only vote for you, there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s called “plumping” or vote concentration.

Say hello to a Pizza Parliament

It’s a system used in Israel where there are some 21 political parties vying for votes to be elected to the Knesset, The Israeli Parliament. The result? With no party able to attain a majority to form a government, the leader with most elelcted members is forced to make deals with other parties. In certain circles the system produces a “Pizza Parliament.”

The New Democrats have been pushing adoption of this system. They came close when The Liberals won the election with one of their promises being reforming Canada’s election system. Prime Minister Trudeau canned the promise recently and that must have caused Susan Watson apoplexy. Not surprisingly, the NDP has yet to elect a leader to replace Thomas Mulcair.

Even her friends on council voted to not adopt the system for 2018.

So why are the leftist councillors now opposing Internet voting after agreeing to adopt it in 2014?

Here are a couple of theories:

The first is having yet to figure out the defeat of their Leader and four councillors who either did not run or were defeated. The result was a slim win with Coun. June Hofland winning by just five votes. Since then the progressives, through their activist surrogate, 10 Carden Street, have planted operatives in every ward to assist community groups to deal with city hall. This is a smart political move that will pay dividends in the 2018 election.

As a safeguard, those among the lefty hierarchy have decided to oppose Internet voting because of what happened in 2014. They just don’t get it. They lost their leader and the others because of a $23 million excessive cost of the new city hall project.

Their quest may not be as easy as killing Internet voting. The financial hangover of Guelph Municipal Holding Inc. (GMHI) The Community Energy Initiatives and the proposed sale of Guelph Hydro, will not go away as soon as they would loke..

The Strategic Options Committee, (SOC) appointed by council to seek bids for selling or merging Guelph Hydro has suffered two defections of members of the five-person committee. Gone is member Richard Puccini who has yet to be replaced. Guelph Hydro Board chairperson, Jane Armstrong, is replacing Hydro’s Chief Executive Officer Pankaj Sardana, co-chair of the SOC. Ms. Armstrong has had long-term service on the Guelph Hydro Board.

She has already stated that she will support the recommendations of the SOC. Robert Bell, a member of the Guelph Hydro Electric Services board. A former member of the GMHI board of directors, Mark Goldberg, remains on the SOC board.

Perhaps Mr. Goldberg will reveal why CMHI became a financial disaster losing some $26.6 million. The two council members of the GMHI board for four years have never admitted any responsibility. But then, they were paod to serve.

Why do I get the feeling that this SOC membership is stacked to dump Guelph Hydro?

And I hope that council will read the overwhelming citizen’s rejection of the Internet vote. It is to be ratified by council April 24.

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