Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca pledges ranked ballots or he’ll quit

By Allison Jones

TORONTO – Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca is unveiling an all-or-nothing pledge to introduce a ranked ballot system for provincial elections, pitching it as a way to reduce partisanship and staking his leadership on it.

Del Duca is set to tell his party’s annual general meeting Sunday that if the Liberals win the June 2022 election, he will ensure future provincial votes are run by ranked ballots. He’s also promising to reinstate the option for municipalities.

And if he doesn’t deliver electoral reform by the end of a first term, Del Duca says he will resign as Liberal leader.

“Now, I suspect I know what you’re thinking – other leaders have promised a lot on electoral reform and they haven’t delivered,” Del Duca is set to say Sunday in his speech, a copy of which was obtained by The Canadian Press.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised in 2015 that the federal election held that year would be the last to use the first-past-the-post method, but he ultimately reneged on it.

Del Duca’s speech says that people are looking for change coming out of the pandemic, and ranked ballots will reward parties who find common ground.

“Ranked ballots will mean that parties and leaders will have to compete for voters’ second choices, so it won’t make sense for leaders and parties to demonize one another,” he says. As a former cabinet minister, he is guilty of doing that too, he says.

“I realize now that, far too often, the noisy and excessive partisanship that all parties were focused on did nothing but drown-out what everyday Ontarians were trying to tell me, and trying to tell all of us,” Del Duca says in the speech.

“Partisanship doesn’t deliver progress, and rhetoric won’t deliver results.”

The Progressive Conservative government scrapped ranked-ballot voting as an option for municipalities last year. Premier Doug Ford, who was elected leader of his party using ranked balloting, defended the decision to uphold the current system, saying it would prevent voter confusion.

The City of London was the first municipality in Ontario to use ranked balloting in the 2018 civic election, but other communities have explored using the option.

The ranked ballot system lets voters rank candidates instead of voting for a single person. If no candidate receives an absolute majority on the first ballot, the last-place candidate is eliminated and his or her supporters’ second-choice votes are counted. That continues until one candidate receives more than 50 per cent.

In the current widely used first-past-the-post voting system, the candidate who receives the most votes wins, regardless of whether they’re supported by more than 50 per cent of voters.

Del Duca is promising to appoint a citizens’ assembly to review additional electoral reform proposals and make recommendations to an all-party committee.

In his speech, he is also pledging to launch a pilot project to examine the feasibility of a four-day work week, as well as reinstate a basic income pilot project, which was set up by the previous Liberal government and cancelled by the Tories.

Del Duca took over as Liberal leader in March 2020 from former premier Kathleen Wynne, who stepped down after a dismal election result in 2018.

The Liberals were reduced from a majority government to third place without official party status in the legislature. They currently hold seven seats