Could ranked ballot become Ottawa's new reality? (Emma Jackson, Metro News)

Could Ottawa move past the post in 2018?

The province said Monday it will give cities the option of using a ranked ballot system instead of first-past-the-post in the next municipal election.

The new system lets voters rank their top candidates in order of preference. If no one wins 50 per cent of the vote, the last-place candidate is eliminated and their second-place votes are transferred to remaining candidates. This continues until someone has a majority.

It’s supposed to let residents vote with their hearts, according to lobby group Ottawa123. It’s also supposed to make campaigns more civilized, since politicians will have to appeal more broadly.

So will Ottawa make the change?

The idea has some backing around the council table.

Kanata North Coun. Marianne Wilkinson said she would try it for one election before making it permanent.

“You won’t know whether you like it until you try it,” she said.

Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Tobi Nussbaum campaigned on electoral reform, including a ranked ballot system.

He supported Wilkinson, but questioned whether Ottawa can pull it together in time for 2018, given the need for extra training, new equipment and processes.

“It is critical we take the time to do it right to make sure we can defend the integrity of whatever electoral system we have,” Nussbaum said.

That should include public consultations and council debates, he added.

Capital Coun. David Chernushenko could be the catalyst to make it happen. In 2014 he said he would bring a motion to council once the province makes it an option. He couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.

Vote splitting is especially an issue in municipal politics, where party politics don’t play a major role. In the 2014 election, two wards fielded 11 candidates each, and several others had nine or 10.

In Osgoode ward, 11 candidates fought to replace the retiring Doug Thompson. George Darouze eventually secured 21.1 per cent of the vote – the smallest victory margin in the city.

In River ward, Riley Brockington eked out a minority against nine others, ultimately taking 36.4 per cent of the vote.

Even Wilkinson saw her ward split three ways, leaving her with 46.2 per cent.

Grove-White said the new system could also encourage higher voter turnout.

“I think when you give people choice, they like it,” Grove-White said.

Only 40 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots in 2014.

Source: Metro News