New report suggests Windsor needs to work on its democracy – BlackburnNews.com
When it comes to voter engagement, options of vote, and diversity on city councils, Windsor may have a lot of work to do.
The report, called the Ontario 2021 Municipal Democracy Index, was compiled by the Armstrong Strategy Group and Unlock Democracy Canada.
More than 50 city clerks, deputy clerks, election managers, administrators and program managers helped collect the data used in the index.
The report is the first of its kind and measures the democratic health of Ontario’s 32 largest cities. Measuring four indicators, the index gave those cities a score out of 150. Windsor placed 30th with an overall score of 48.
The study calls the results a wake-up call and an invitation for transformation.
When it came to voter turnout Windsor scored in the middle of the pack at 35.2 per cent. Thunder Bay was at the top of the list with a voter turnout of 51 per cent. Chatham-Kent was third with about 45.4 per cent, and London was 9th at just under 40 per cent.
The index suggests there are four causes for low voter turnout. It cites a lack of faith in the system, a lack of awareness about general issues or candidates, undervaluing the importance of municipal politics, and a lack of choice.
It also examined how cities invite their residents to take part in municipal politics. Pickering got high marks for its Pickering 101 program, which invites the public to meet weekly with city staff to learn about planning processes, services, and programs.
London also scored well for its Neighbourhood Decision-Making program, which gives residents discretion over $250,000 in the annual budget.
“Residents know the needs of their neighbourhoods better than anyone,” read an excerpt from the City of London. “They’re the ones with the great ideas to help make their neighbourhoods stronger, safer, connected and vibrant. But some ideas need a bit of cash to come to life.”
The report also suggested creating a lobbyist registry, adopting a ranked balloting system for elections, even offering the public food and drink at council meetings.
The last two measures looked at gender balance and representation of people of colour on council.
Ward 6 Windsor City Councillor Joanne Gignac.
Windsor only has one female member of council, Councillor Joanne Gignac. It scored second from the bottom of the list, while Chatham-Kent did better. Forty per cent of its councillors are women.
While Windsor is one of the most diverse cities in Canada, 72 per cent of residents are white. Meanwhile, only one councillor, Ward 7’s Jeewan Gill, is considered a Person of Colour.
“While gender representation in government is grossly distorted, Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour representation are almost non-existent,” said the study. “Lack of diverse representation not only harms the policy-making process but is also a clear sign that politics today is an insiders’ game that attracts certain demographics at the expense of others.”
Ultimately, the report’s authors hope the index will motivate cities to make positive changes.
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