Have you noticed how, at every new opportunity for voting, there is a fresh flurry of letters-to-the-editor about different ways to elect. For the upcoming by-election of a new mayor in Toronto, the push seems to be for preferential voting. It is where the voter is encouraged to number (or rank) his or her preferences. I think, in this case, that would be the guaranteed method to elect a mediocre candidate for mayor.
What you would find is that the larger the number of candidates, the deeper the dive the vote count would take to find the candidate bland enough to be acceptable to a majority of voters. The previous two conservative party leadership races are an excellent example of the problem. Combining preferential voting and the silly idea that all ridings were equal gave the conservatives Andrew Scheer and then Erin O’Toole. The conservatives made the case even clearer when the party hierarchy dumped the obviously second place candidate before the voting in the last race, enabling a first-place win.
And a first-place win in preferential voting (50 per cent plus one) gives you the same result as in first-past-the-post voting. Fewer candidates and a strong front-runner are the only times that preferential voting really works. When you realize there can be 20 to 30 candidates in the by-election for mayor in Toronto, you can see the problem.
The conservatives in Toronto, who understand the problem, have their own solution. They are trying to bring their party behind a strong right-wing candidate. They might even have to hold a quasi-nominating meeting to make a selection.
But that is likely to be met by a similar possibility on the left. They might not be as open as the conservatives but I can already make a guess on the candidate preferred by the Toronto left wing (NDP) members of council.
Surprisingly, I have no idea of whom the liberals might choose. When I got my friend, fellow liberal, Keith Davey involved in Toronto politics in 1969, his reputation as ‘Rainmaker’ was muddied and the liberal party in Toronto swore off municipal politics. Yet, the party will rise again. We can only hope.
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