Developing story: Winnipeg mayoral candidates on ranked ballots

Ouellette and Sanders voice support for alternative voting system

Graphic by Justin Ladia

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Robert-Falcon Ouellette, David Sanders, Judy Wasylycia-Leis, and Brian Bowman voiced their opinions on ranked ballots as an alternative to first-past-the-post for future Winnipeg elections.

The Manitoban contacted all of the mayoral candidates for their position on ranked ballots.

Sanders and Ouellette spoke in favour of the system.

Under a ranked ballot system, voters rate their preference for candidates.

In its most common form, preferential voting, the candidate with the lowest number of first votes is eliminated and their votes are transferred to the next favourite candidate on each voter’s list.

This process continues until one candidate has the majority of votes.

In an interview with the Manitoban, Ouellette voiced his support for ranked ballots at the municipal level, saying they could lead to election results that are more representative of people’s real preferences.

“I think this is one of the most important things that we could be experimenting with at the municipal level,” said Ouellette.

“The people who are often elected say, ‘Well I was elected under the old system, and that favours me,’ and so they’re very unwilling often to change and actually look at ways of doing things differently.”

Sanders also voiced his support for preferential ballots but added that it would have to be a decision made by the province.

“It would have to be approved by the provincial legislature. It’s not something city council can decide. But I would support a preferential ballot.”

Sanders said he followed elections as the city hall and metro reporter for the Winnipeg Tribune newspaper and covered at least one election of the Metropolitan Corporation of Greater Winnipeg, which he said used preferential ballots in that capacity in the 1960s.

“I was familiar with how the preferential ballot worked and it worked quite well.

“And with this particular election, with the number of candidates and the distribution that may well happen, it would certainly have been preferable to have the winning candidate be able to say that they are the preferred choice of a majority of people – to have a mandate to govern with some assurance.”

Brian Bowman said he was interested in any reforms that would increase voter turnout, but clarified that ranked ballots were not something his campaign had looked at specifically.

“I certainly would be open to any form of reform that can try to assist with a greater representation of democracy as well as [ . . . ] increase voter participation. That would be an objective that if ranking could help I’d be supportive of it.

“I don’t think the status quo is the end all and if there’s other forms that should be looked at then I’d be open to doing that. In fact, one of the reasons I’ve proposed a new office of public engagement is so that we could have the city try to drive some of these conversations a little more.”

Peter Dalla-Vicenza, a media-representative for Wasylycia-Leis’s campaign, told the Manitoban that ranked ballots are not a priority for Wasylycia-Leis in this election.

“Any change in democracy is an interesting idea but really when it comes to those things—when it comes to any decision on how municipal elections are run—that’s usually [ . . . ] a Winnipeg charter issue, it’s a provincial government issue.

“Throughout our campaign our main message has been to fix the city and to fix city hall. We want to work on the issues that we actually can control [ . . . ] There are many things that a city government can do within its own purview and that’s where we’re going to focus our attention.”

The remaining three candidates—Gord Steeves, Paula Havixbeck, and Michel Fillion—have not responded to the Manitoban as of press time.