Democracy won in Court Battle

By  | January 9, 2014 | 7 Comments | Filed under: 2014 Municipal Election, Community

Jun 08, 2011

This ran in the KW Record …………. comments invited below

Thomas Vann and Debbie Vitez have lost their fight for a new municipal election in Cambridge but they have won the respect of their fellow citizens.

At a time when the meaning of democracy is being fiercely debated around the world, these two individuals stood up for people-power in their own Canadian community. They stuck out their necks, challenged Cambridge city hall and, after failing to win their case, were ordered to pay $2,500 toward the city’s legal costs.

For their risk, their effort and their very real sacrifice in time and money, they deserve applause. Whether they were right or wrong in their assessment of last fall’s vote in Cambridge is actually of secondary importance.

We see no reason to question Monday’s ruling by Justice Jane Milanetti that the election in Cambridge was legitimate and that a second, city-wide vote is unnecessary. Given the high cost of an election and the incredible work candidates and their supporters devote to a campaign, the results of a civic vote should be overturned only when egregious errors have been made that leave the integrity of the entire process open to doubt.

Clearly, Justice Milanetti rejected the argument that such extraordinary circumstances occurred in Cambridge last Oct. 25. On balance, the judge appears to have ruled wisely and reasonably based on the admissible evidence brought before her.

But the health of democracy in Cambridge — indeed in Ontario itself — is stronger because of the civic activism of Vitez and Vann. They observed problems on voting day and heard from other citizens with similar concerns. Many seniors were upset because polling stations that had been in their buildings were moved. Other voters complained bitterly about waits of up to 1 ½ hours at polling stations. Vann and Vitez also claimed the vote counting machines didn’t all work properly.

Most citizens alerted to such problems would do nothing. Vann, who ran unsuccessfully for a council seat that day, and Vitez took action. Because of them, the civic election came under close scrutiny. Questions were asked. Complaints were considered. Explanations were heard and improvements could come. Today, Cambridge citizens can have full confidence in the official outcome of the city’s last election even if that election was not perfectly run.

The most regrettable aspect of this outcome is the personal cost to Vann and Vitez. Neither frivolous nor mischievous, their complaints were genuine expressions of serious concerns. They testified that they spent $3,000 of their own money to bring their case to court. Under such circumstances, the judge’s order for them to pay $2,500 of the city’s costs seems harsh. As taxpayers, Vann and Vitez have already paid for the city’s lawyer and its legal response to their challenge. It is arguable they should not have to pay twice.

Society’s interests are not served by discouraging citizens from questioning an election. No, our democracy is stronger when the democratic process is exposed to the light shone by an impartial judge.

Perhaps what is needed is another avenue for concerned citizens to follow other than one that leads to a courtroom. It makes sense that Vann and Vitez would be reluctant to have the City of Cambridge hear their complaints because it is the City of Cambridge they were complaining about. The Ontario government could consider having an impartial official like the provincial ombud who can address future complaints from citizens like Vann and Vitez.

As for Cambridge, it is appropriate that the city has revived its voters’ task force advisory committee to encourage greater participation in the 2014 municipal vote. We can think of no more appropriate candidates for this committee than Vann and Vitez.

http://www.therecord.com/opinion/editorial/article/544348–democracy-won-in-court-challenge

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debbie_vitez@rogers.com'

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7 Responses to Democracy won in Court Battle

  1. Debbie Duff Vitez January 15, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    My response from the City ..
    Bev McDowell, you’re the crack researcher, can you follow this link and see what you can figure out
    regarding this Task force he mentions, with Ben Tucci and other sitting council members on board..
    Are they not obligated to have a task force for each election? They stole and cheated their way thru the 2010 election..( in my opinion) now they are changing the rules again and no Task force to help educate the public.. How is this even legal?.
    ***
    Hello Ms. Vitez,

    Thank you for the email, I’ve had a chance to review your request and am responding to let you know that the City had established a Voter Task Force which was done after the 2010 Municipal Election.
    The purpose of the Task Force was to report and make presentation to Council which was finalized & completed in July 2013. A report can be located from our municipal website at http://www.cambridge.ca

    There are no further plans to reconvene the Task Force; however, I do thank you for your interest.

    Sincerely,

    Michael Di Lullo, MPA, CMM III

    City Clerk

    City of Cambridge

    50 Dickson Street

    PO Box 669

    Cambridge ON N1R 5W8

    T: 519.740.4680 ext 4585

    F: 519.740.3011

  2. Debbie Duff Vitez January 15, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    I spoke to the Ombudman this week..
    I was so impressed they called me at home.. They told me to contact Elections Ontario..
    So I will try that again..

  3. Debbie Duff Vitez January 15, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    From: Debbie Vitez [mailto:debbie_vitez@rogers.com]
    Sent: January-15-14 3:17 PM
    To: ‘Michael Di Lullo’
    Subject: RE: upcoming 2014 Municipal Election

    Thank you for the response Michael
    Sorry I sent this to llidia, I was told she was the new Clerk..
    So, it’s you I should have sent this letter too?
    Please explain to me how this council and Mayor can justify no Voter Task force when they are once again changing how Cambridge Votes..
    Is it not their legal obligation to have a committee /task force in place to ensure no more games played with our right to a legal unencumbered vote..??
    I think something needs to be in place to educate the public as to what changes have been made..
    I am certain you would agree with this.. Debbie
    *****
    Michael Di Lullo
    To Me
    Today at 3:41 PM

    Hello Ms. Vitez,

    Thank you for your concerns, it is the Clerk’s role in accordance with Section 11 of the Municipal Elections Act to ensure the Election process is conducted and I will do my utmost to ensure it is fair, accessible and transparent as possible.

    Regards,

    Michael Di Lullo, MPA, CMM III

    City Clerk

    City of Cambridge
    ****
    To Michael Di Lullo
    Today at 4:05 PM
    Michael,
    Sorry if I sound like I am challenging you… but Alex Mitchell assured us the same thing in 2010..
    I spoke with him prior to his passing, and he told us, he did what he was told to do, and that he needed his job..
    So excuse me if I need to see a committee to assure us “the voting public” that everything will be above board and legal this time out..
    Do we need to start a petition to get a committee formed?.. Because legally I would think we are entitled to have something as Citizens, without members of council directing or running it….I would think you would welcome outside support not just rely on the Mayor on how to run an election.. Debbie

  4. margaret-barr@sympatico.ca'
    Margaret January 15, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    Deb wasn’t it the V2V task force that made the recommendations for the 2014 Municipal election?

    There was a City of Cambridge advertisement in the Times, in March of 2011, asking for applicants to the voters task force, but I didn’t search to see who finally made it on the committee.

  5. Debbie Duff Vitez January 15, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    Margaret,
    I have no clue but am now making it my mission to find out how this works..

  6. lvann_11@sympatico.ca'
    Tom Vann January 17, 2014 at 11:35 pm

    No sense wasting your time Deb, ’cause it will be fixed again. Even Pam is running I heard, and will declare later. No sense doing it like the big boys do Federally or the good old fashioned voting booth. Gotta have it so more dead people can vote again. All levels of government are corrupt and run by organized crime. That includes the stinking unions out there. So do you think the gutless (I need my job) people will do something? The beat goes on. Scary when you look at the Province. Who do you vote for? A lying lesbian with zero morals, or Timy Hoodat that hasn’t got a clue. Then there is the NDummeP’s. Clueless. I’m voting for FAG. Forever Against Government. Nice to say hi. Hi!

  7. Debbie Duff Vitez January 18, 2014 at 11:33 am

    Sorry Tom, I just don’t agree..
    I’m going to do everything in my power to assure a fair election…I have notified so many Agencies that I would be shocked if Cambridge pulls off another 2010 successfully..
    Craig can’t win a fair election… NO SECRET… Cambridge can’t stand him, and wants him gone…
    If he pulls off another win, I have a funny feeling, there will be more than just you and I taking this new Clerk to court..
    ( remember 03/06, questionable results, ballots taking hours to get to city hall?) No more my friend.. This city is Going to have a Fair Election.. Craig continues to get creative, because he knows dam well, with a regular Election, he would be gone.. Time to get the Public’s attention on what is going on.. Probably a Petition is the way to go.. I hear there is a shuffle going on, because they know everyone can’t get back in this time..
    but Craig needs to be there, so many promises so little time.. lol.

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