Municipal Voting Reform: Making every vote count

Electoral reform is often brought up as a federal issue. But it is just as important at the provincial and municipal levels. Whether MPs, MLAs, mayors or councillors, many have been elected on tiny majorities as a result of the first-past-the-post electoral system or have simply returned unopposed (i.e. acclaimed).

It’s time for a proportional system for municipalities, where no one has to ‘hold their nose’ at the ballot box, and where there is healthy competition – rather than a politics of ‘winner takes all’ and uncontested fiefdoms.

‛Better ballots for a better city council’

Dave Meslin, who labels himself an independent non-partisan community organizer, has been championing a proportional voting system at the municipal level since at least 2010!

In fact, he wrote a blog post in 2009 in which he declared: “By any measure, our city elections are failing us. Voter turnout is astonishingly low, turnover of Councillors is extremely rare, and our Council is surprisingly white and male for a city that allegedly prides itself on its ‘diversity’.” That was Toronto then. It could describe Charlottetown today.

Meslin is the creative director of Unlock Democracy Canada (modelled after the UKʼs Unlock Democracy organization), a non-profit organization that is part of Canada’s growing movement for democratic renewal. Here is what he writes about municipal reform:

Municipal democracy could use some innovation in Canada.  […] with First-Past-the-Post, thousands of Council Members across Canada are serving without a definitive mandate. It’s normal for a Mayor to “win” a race in Canada, with less than 50% of the vote – or even less than 30%.

In 2018:
Philip Brown received 42.13% of the vote.
Voter turnout in Charlottetown was 58% (relatively unchanged since 2000).

But there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to local democracy. From Victoria to Iqaluit to St John’s, each municipality has their own unique needs, demographics and history.  That’s why our local councils need flexibility and tools to maximize participation and diversity.  If cities have Local Choice, then they can begin to experiment with democratic reform. Change always starts local!


Meslin holds a monthly workshop Better Ballots 101 the first of every month at 8 PM Atlantic time.
Click here to register for the November 1, 2021, workshop.

Learn more:


Report a typo, or send a question or comment by e-mail to:
newcharlottetownproject [at] eastlink.ca

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