Measures to Strengthen Ontario's Election System
Ontario is proposing changes to the provincial election system that would ensure Ontarians are represented fairly in the legislature, enhance the integrity of the election finance system and move the fixed election date from fall to spring.
The government will adopt a number of recommendations made by the Chief Electoral Officer. Today it will introduce the Electoral Boundaries Act, 2015, and this fall it will move ahead with additional measures.
Electoral Boundaries Act, 2015
This bill, if passed, would increase the number of provincial ridings in southern Ontario from 96 to 111. This would align with the new federal boundaries adopted last year, and would better reflect population shifts and increases. The new ridings would be in areas including Toronto, Peel, York, Durham and Ottawa.
The 11 ridings in northern Ontario would stay the same to ensure that northern communities continue to have effective representation in the legislature.
In 2004, federal redistribution reduced the number of federal seats in northern Ontario from 11 to 10, but Ontario kept the number of provincial seats at 11. If the Electoral Boundaries Act, 2015 passes, Ontario will have 122 provincial ridings and 121 federal ridings.
The new provincial boundaries would take effect upon the first dissolution of the Legislative Assembly after November 30, 2016. They would be in place for the next scheduled general election in 2018.
Any by-elections before the next dissolution of the Legislative Assembly would take place based on the current electoral map.
Other Recommendations by the Chief Electoral Officer
In the fall, the government is also committed to moving ahead with other steps recommended by the Chief Electoral Officer, including:
Moving Scheduled Elections from the Fall to the Spring
The government will propose moving the fixed election date from the fall to the spring. The Chief Electoral Office has stated that this would make it more convenient to vote. This is because:
- The days are longer and the weather is usually better in the spring, making it easier for people to get to the polls;
- It would avoid overlap with municipal and federal elections held in October.
Allowing Provisional Registration for 16- and 17-year-olds
The government will encourage young people's engagement with the voting process by proposing provisional registration of 16- and 17-year olds. The minimum voting age would remain 18.
The Chief Electoral Officer states that provisional registration could allow Elections Ontario to work with schools and the driver's licensing program to ensure maximum exposure to the registration process. Registration would become active when a young person turns 18.
The government would consult with the Chief Electoral Officer and other stakeholders, as needed, about the best provisional registration model for Ontario, including ensuring that Elections Ontario would take the utmost care with information it collects to ensure that individuals' privacy is protected and their personal information is secure.
Strengthening Rules on Third-Party Advertising
Third-party advertising is an increasing presence during Ontario elections. Total spending grew from just over $6 million during the 2011 campaign to almost $8.7 million in 2014.
Ontario introduced third-party advertising rules in 2007 to ensure that there is transparency and free speech during election campaigns. Third parties that spend $500 or more on election advertising are required to register with and report to the Chief Electoral Officer on their election advertising expenses. If these total $5,000 or more, the reports must be audited.
The government is proposing strengthening rules on third-party advertising to enhance the integrity of the election finance system and protect the public interest. It will consider a range of options informed by the Chief Electoral Officer's report on the 2014 general election.