How Moving the Provincial Election Date Could Affect the Makeup of City Council
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How Moving the Provincial Election Date Could Affect the Makeup of City Council

A lot of councillors could run provincially with little political risk.

Photo by asianz, from the Torontoist Flickr pool.

Ontario’s next election will be June 7, 2018, in a move that could affect who runs for City Council and which councillors seek seats at Queen’s Park.

The election was scheduled for October 2018, the same month as municipal elections in the province. That meant that incumbents and would-be politicians had to choose between running provincially or municipally, but now they could run for both if their provincial effort fails.

The election date change was made to increase turnout, in part by avoiding confusion with municipal ballots and by holding the vote in a month with better weather.

In 2014, many incumbent councillors registered as candidates after June 7 but before the September 12 deadline. The 2018 municipal election is scheduled for October 22.

The provincial move could enable incumbent councillors to run provincially without the risk of losing their seat. This could potentially provide councillors with access to party voter lists, donors, and volunteers. Notably, they would also be able to spend two sets of campaign funds, which could provide a significant advantage over Council candidates who do not run provincially. Additional funds can increase name recognition—a meaningful advantage in elections where many voters might only be familiar with a couple of names on the ballot. By splitting up the two elections, provincial political operatives and supporters will also be available to support selected municipal races.

The provincial election move could also mean that Queen’s Park incumbents who lose in the June 7 election seek election at the municipal level.

The change underlines and reinforces the value of incumbency. In 2014, only one incumbent city councillor lost their seat. Since 2003, incumbent Toronto councillors have won their Council seat 92 per cent of the time.