The phantom motion that nearly caused a Cambridge referendum

Apr 07, 2017 12:00 by Richard Vivian Cambridge Times

It seemed, at first, as though I would be penning a correction notice, perhaps accompanied by an apology to readers. How could I have messed up this badly?

But the more I looked into where I went so terribly wrong, the more obvious it became the error was not mine — it was a mistake at city hall.

Allow me to explain.

There was a staff report on the March 28 Cambridge council agenda regarding the potential wording of an electoral reform referendum question on the 2018 municipal election.

The problem is, when council discussed the possibility of ditching the unrepresentative first-past-the-post process in favour of a ranked ballot system last September, members talked about holding a referendum, but they didn’t firm up that plans. A staff report on a “game plan” for a “possible question” was to come back in the new year, but even that’s questionable.

I had written an article regarding council’s debate that night, and we ran an editorial criticizing the poor decision and their lack of action in not at least moving ahead with a question on the ballot.

Now a staff report states council had “endorsed” plans to hold a referendum.

So I set out reviewing my notes and tracked down my recording of the council conversation from September. I found nothing to indicate such an endorsement took place.

I went through the recording several times in the days to follow, just in case I missed something, but there was nothing reflective of what the staff report claimed had happened.

Along the way, I looked up the minutes of the Sept. 27 meeting and it stated, plain as day, that council had agreed to hold a referendum.

There was a clear discrepancy here.

Not wanting to jump the gun, and still figuring I was missing something, I discussed the situation with a couple of colleagues who have a great deal of council coverage experience.

After I presented all the information, they agreed with my take on it, but recommended a couple of additional follow-ups just to be absolutely certain.

As I set out to do just that, I also got in contact with city clerk Michael Di Lullo to discuss what was going on.

My information was initially greeted with what could best be described as a not particularly receptive approach — there seems to have been a misunderstanding between us — but I offered to drop off a copy of the recording and he agreed to listen to it. I delivered another copy to city manager Gary Dyke.

Later that day, after reviewing my concerns with Dyke, Di Lullo called me back and confirmed I was right — indeed council had not agreed to a referendum.

I was told the issue of whether to include a question on the ballot will now go back to council for a decision and the inaccuracy of the minutes, which are the official record, will be corrected.

I’m pleased with the outcome, but a couple of questions continue to nag at me.

First, what would have happened had I not been persistent regarding the problem? Or if I’d not had a recording of the discussion to back up my observations?

More importantly, are there any other phantom motions out there being put into action?



One Response to The phantom motion that nearly caused a Cambridge referendum

    r k April 9, 2017 at 6:44 am

    Those are good questions that Mr. Vivian is stating here and the public need to be more informed and they need to take more action with regard to what is going on at council and with members of City Staff.
    I have actually printed off the motion and this is what it states:

    Motion 158-16
    Moved by: Councillor Monteiro
    Seconded by: Councillor Ermetta

    THAT Report No. 16-049 (CRP), re:Municpal Election Review ad Ranked Ballot Election be received;

    AND THAT Council maintains the existing first-past-the-post election model for the 2018 municipal election;

    AND THAT the Clerk be directed to monitor ranked ballot elections in Ontario and report back to Council with a comprehensive report after the 2018 municipal election;

    AND FURTHER TO THAT Council endorses a referendum on the ballot for the 2018 municipal election related to the usage of ranked ballots and directs the Clerk to report back in the New Year with the process.


    With all this in mind and reading this, PLEASE email your Councillor and let them know you want PAPER Balloting for the 2018 Election and you DEMAND that they FORGET a Referendum regarding RANKED Ballots.
    This is just Council’s way of making sure they can ALIGN Council with WHO THEY WANT sitting and acting on our behalf rather THAN who we TRULY want as our representatives.

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