Author Archives: jamesgordoncouncillor

My thoughts on our online voting debate

Guelph City council’s deliberations around electronic voting have turned into a lively and sometimes divisive debate. I’ve appreciated all the feedback I’ve received both for and against the council’s decision to put a ‘pause button’ on this technology.
I think it’s important for me to be clear that I am actually in favour of online voting. I appreciate the convenience of it, and the possibilities for expanding our number of voters.
I was advocating for it. As I did more research and heard from many of our informed citizens and delegates this week, I was quite surprised to learn just how many ‘unknowns’ there are, how many risks to the security of our system there are, and how many myths have developed around the issue.
Some of the proponents of online voting will say that it enables voters with disability and accessibility concerns to vote when they were unable to before. Long before electronic voting came along the Municipal Act entrenched comprehensive regulations to ensure full accessibility to seniors and those with disabilities. By law, no one can be denied an opportunity to vote and electoral officers even have authority to go to the bedsides of anyone unable to get to a polling station. There are a number of valid arguments in favour of electronic voting, but accessibility is NOT one of them. I have included some  of the key clauses in the municipal act that address this in a footnote below.

It’s also important to look at statistics showing that electronic voting does not necessarily increase the voter turnout. Here’s a link to an interesting article in Municipal World magazine:

https://municipalworld.com/feature-stories/page.php?postid=40

The article confirms what many have learned, that there is sometimes a bump in voting when electronic voting is introduced, but the ‘novelty’ factor wears off quickly, and after that many, especially younger more internet-savvy young people, prefer to vote in a way that they know is safe and secure.

Let’s address that safety and security issue. It seems that as soon as we design ways to keep our technology secure, others find ways to abuse the system. In this case it’s not individual voter fraud we have to worry about, it’s hackers gaining access to our voter lists and data. Of course we all know that Guelph was the epicentre of the Robo Call scandal and it’s made many of us sensitive to the risks of cyber attacks. Given the current vulnerability of all government agencies and corporations to criminal and malicious breaches of their databases and systems, there appears to be currently no fail-safe guarantees to protect the integrity of our electoral system, other than the paper ballot. Do we need a guarantee? I think so. Some councillors seem to think we don’t. Some say “there weren’t major issues, so what’s the problem? With all I’ve been hearing, we may have gotten off lucky, and there is also no way to know how many of our electronic votes cast last time were authentic.

Regarding our system of checks and balances and proof that online voters are ‘real voters’.. here are some of the obstacles to a completely safe system:

1) There are no ID requirements to register on the MPAC voters list. ( Our voter’s lists are based on data from the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation, or MPAC)
2) There are no ID requirements for internet voting once an individual is on the voters’ list, other than the PIN number on the voter card and date of birth. This info can be manipulated.
3) There is no verification process that the individual casting the ballot at the computer is the individual who is entitled to do so.
4) We have a very out-dated voters list which is rife with errors, resulting in tens of thousands of electronic PINs being mailed out to people who no longer live in the city, and no door-to-door enumeration system to update the list.
5) No audit process to verify that individuals who voted electronically were real human beings who were entitled to do so.

With these shortcomings in the system, I believe that it would be very difficult to address all these issues in time for the next municipal election. I believe that to proceed without fixing these problems would really compromise the integrity of our electoral process. At the very least we have to get our voter’s list up to date before it leaves us vulnerable to fraud, and that may take us beyond the next election.

Even the national committee on electoral reform stated that “The secrecy and integrity of an online ballot cannot be guaranteed”. Federally, we have put on hold electronic voting for this reason, and only about 20 percent of Ontario municipalities are proceeding with it.
The German Constitutional Court ruled that electronic voting is unconstitutional as it does “not live up to the constitutional principle of transparency of elections, which requires that voting machines be safeguarded against potential manipulation or error through procedures that are understandable to the average citizen”.

As Councillor Piper said: “Voter fraud can’t be traced.  There is no way of knowing whether a software hack has changed a vote, or if the person behind an IP address is really the elector.  There are, however, many documented cases of bank fraud, identity fraud, credit card identity theft.  I use online banking and many other online services, however, these transactions are protected by the bank and they will return my money if fraud has occurred.  A fraudulent online vote cannot be reversed”.
And as one of our delegates, Susan Watson, pointed out in a letter to council-

“There is no question that internet voting is convenient, however, the experience of the 2014 election has demonstrated that there are unacceptable security cracks in the processes of the current internet voting system.  Electoral fraud is not an abstract issue in our community.

I concur with Councillor Bell who said  that until we are absolutely sure that there is total security in any system created around voting, we have a responsibility to delay embracing this technology. Despite one councillor’s claim that our vote to ‘pause’ was a ‘fear-based’ reaction, in fact those who voted against enabling electronic voting at this time were referring to ‘evidence-based’ research in their decision-making, and there is more evidence all the time. In my view we must do two things as we move forward: exercise the precautionary principle and put a hold on this kind of voting until we have mitigated those risks, and we need to  assure our citizens that no one will be denied a vote under our current system. Some of the critics of our vote this week to ‘pause’  have seen our vote as ‘regressive’ or ‘going backwards’. I personally view this as common sense. We don’t have to embrace new technology if it comes with too great a price to pay, and speaking of price, there is also a high price tag involved in adding online voting to our system.
I equate this issue with another technological advancement that has that “cool factor” like internet voting. Self Driving cars.  We all seem to believe that’s where we are headed, but in a number of regions there has been a pause in permitting them until there is proof that there is no risk.   Denying something new is not subverting democracy, as some have claimed. Because of the risks, those of us who choose to be cautious are PROTECTING our democratic system. I was impressed with the quality of the debate this week, and remain hopeful that this debate will continue without the name calling or labeling of those with diverse opinions that I am seeing on Twitter. We can do better than that. Electronic voting IS a convenience. We must not let convenience trump security. Safety first, as they say.
Below is the footnote on the Municipal Act, and below that is a letter I’d like to share from a concerned citizen who reflects what I’ve been hearing from many.
Thanks for reading and participating in the process. I’d be happy to chat more about this. My number is 519-827-6481

James

Footnote:
Electors and candidates with disabilities
12.1 (1) A clerk who is responsible for conducting an election shall have regard to the needs of electors and candidates with disabilities.  2009, c. 33, Sched. 21, s. 8 (8).

Plan re barriers
(2) The clerk shall prepare a plan regarding the identification, removal and prevention of barriers that affect electors and candidates with disabilities and shall make the plan available to the public before voting day in a regular election. 2016, c. 15, s. 11.

Report
(3) Within 90 days after voting day in a regular election, the clerk shall prepare a report about the identification, removal and prevention of barriers that affect electors and candidates with disabilities and shall make the report available to the public. 2016, c. 15, s. 11.

Number and location of voting places
45. (1) The clerk shall establish the number and location of voting places for an election as he or she considers most convenient for the electors. 1996, c. 32, Sched., s. 45 (1).

Voting places in institutions, retirement homes
(7) On voting day, a voting place shall be provided on the premises of the following:

1. An institution for the reception, treatment or vocational training of members or former members of the Canadian Forces.

2. An institution in which, on September 1, 20 or more beds are occupied by persons who are disabled, chronically ill or infirm.

3. A retirement home in which, on September 1, 50 or more beds are occupied. 1996, c. 32, Sched., s. 45 (7); 2016, c. 15, s. 34 (2, 3).

Attendance on resident
(8) The deputy returning officer for a voting place described in subsection (7) may attend on an elector who is a resident of the institution or retirement home, to allow him or her to vote. 1996, c. 32, Sched., s. 45 (8).

Attendance on electors with disabilities
(9) To allow an elector with a disability to vote, a deputy returning officer shall attend on the elector anywhere within the area designated as the voting place. 2001, c. 32, s. 30 (3).

Other persons
(10) The other persons described in subsection 47 (1) are entitled to accompany a deputy returning officer when he or she attends on an elector under subsection (8) or (9). 1996, c. 32, Sched., s. 45 (10).

Dear Councillor Gordon,

I am one of those voters who voted online last time it was available.  New information since then has altered my viewpoint, so that I now will argue most forcefully against any online voting for the next election.

My biggest concern is that there is little requirement for a voter to actually be able to convincingly prove that they are entitled to vote.  Further,  there is no way for the electoral authorities to ensure with any certainty that the person voting is the person whose name is on the rolls.

It understand that the voter list is maintained by MPAC and is based upon home ownership and tax rolls. I am assured that voter rolls are significantly out of date, and that people who no longer live within the city, or even within a particular ward are removed from the list of eligible voters.  We are, in fact, a fairly mobile population as compared to a few decades ago.  People move for employment, studies in post-secondary institutions, families separate and people die, yet it is incumbent on the voter, not MPAC to make the call to update the list.  How many residences are listed as having X numbers of voters within the walls, yet actually have Y number of voters.  We do not know.  As a Councillor who has had to canvas to get elected, how often have you been told, “he doesn’t live here anymore.”  From my experience canvassing, likely quite a few. Yet, that residence can receive a voter card which counts as one online vote. Until the voter list actually closely resembles the real list of voters, surely it makes sense that someone should present themselves to an electoral official to make their vote count?

There is little in the way of security involved in voting online; certainly not enough security to prevent one person voting instead of the person named on the card.  What is required?  Information about an individual can easily be found on social media?  One ‘worst case scenario’ suggested to me involves the voters in a care facility, where an unscrupulous person collecting the mail for the residence could conceivably divert all of the voting cards for people too ill to notice, and then use data available within the residence files to complete the voting process for all of them, thus skewing the vote.  Not an unimaginable scenario.

Truly the so-called best argument in favor of  online voting is its expediency:  I thought so at the last election.  However, there are many ways for people to get to the polls, even those with mobility issues or strange hours of employment.  We have early voting at advanced polls, we have candidates only to happy to arrange rides to the polls, and other methods to ensure that someone who has mobility issues can vote.  Online voting doesn’t add significantly to voting numbers, it just opens the door to malfeasance and potential voter fraud.

If we are truly concerned about access to voting, then creating more polling stations would do much more than online voting, without the additional problem of a tainted vote. At some point in the future, it might make sense to reintroduce online voting, but not until we can be assured the voters lists are accurate, and when we have much better security ensuring that the person voting is the person with a right to vote,

Yours,

Bill McLellan

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A good news story and a Ward 2 celebration of it!

Hello Twovians…

City Council last year voted unanimously to update our innovative Community Energy Initiative, a long term plan to be more sustainable and “green” in our energy use. So it seems appropriate to announce this on St. Patrick’s Day. The celebration is being held in Ward 2’s own Youth Music Centre this Sunday! Read on, and thanks. James

Guelph celebrates ninth solar energy installation

Guelph, Ont., March 17, 2017 – The City of Guelph now has nine solar photovoltaic systems installed across the city, as part of the City’s commitment to generating more local, renewable electricity in support of Guelph’s Community Energy Initiative and the Corporate Energy Management Plan.

“Last week clean solar electricity started flowing from the City’s ninth photovoltaic system, located on the roof of the Lyon Park pool building,” explains Alex Chapman, manager of the newly created Climate Change Office. “These types of projects further Guelph’s position as a solar energy champion.”

Solar photovoltaic systems have been installed at the following City-owned facilities:
·         Lyon Park pool (301 York Road)

·         Guelph Fire Headquarters (50 Wyndham Street South)

·         Fire Hall #3 (115 Stone Road West)

·         Fire Hall #5 (380 Elizabeth Street)

·         Lawn Bowling Club (124 Gordon Street)

·         City of Guelph Operations building (45 Municipal Street)

·         River Run Centre (35 Woolwich Street)

·         Speedvale water tower (461 Speedvale Avenue West)

·         Guelph Youth Music Centre (75 Cardigan Street)

The electricity generated from the systems is sold to the Independent Electricity System Operator as part of the MicroFIT program, adding electricity into the provincial grid.  Each system produces slightly more electricity per year than that used by an average Ontario home. Total revenue generated from the nine sites since 2014 is $91,000.

The systems are owned by Envida Community Energy Inc., with the exception of 745 Cardigan Street, which is owned by the Guelph Youth Music Centre. These partnerships allow the City to work with community organizations to generate revenue that is invested back into the community and the City.

“By generating clean electricity from solar panels installed on the roofs of City buildings and land under the Speedvale water tower, Envida Community Energy Inc. is proud to be contributing to community well-being,” says Pankaj Sardana, Chief Executive Officer of Envida Community Energy Inc.

“It’s hard to believe it has been almost three years  since our decision to install ‎solar panels, generate power and move to renewable energy,” says Gabriella Currie-Ziegler, Executive Director of the Guelph Youth Music Centre. “Our mandate is to enrich the lives of children and youth through music and the arts, and within that, help to create a better future. Solar energy helps ensure a better tomorrow and that’s important to us.”

Guelph Youth Music Centre is celebrating a free “Solarversary” event this Sunday, March 19 at 1 p.m. Visit the GYMC Solarversary and Orchestral Performance webpage to register.

https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/gymc-solarversary-and-free-orchestral-performance-tickets-32538576759

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Neighbourhood meeting for Ward 2 development proposal

Hi folks…. here’s a kind of late announcement for an important meeting if you live in the Woodlawn/Victoria part of the best ward, ward 2. Hope to see you there.

James

 

Neighbourhood Meeting and Open House for
A Revised Development Proposal at 671 VICTORIA ROAD NORTH

Thursday, February 23, 2017 at 7pm
City Hall, Room 112

Meeting Purpose:
Interested members of the public are invited to view, discuss and comment on a revised development proposal for the property at 671 Victoria Road North, located on the northeast side of Victoria Road between Wideman Boulevard and Mussen Street.

Meeting Format:
The proposed plans will be available to view and the applicant will give a brief presentation outlining the revised proposal at 7:30 pm. The applicant and City Staff will be available to answer questions and listen to your feedback about the proposal from 7pm til 8:30 pm.

Site History:
A rezoning application was filed for this site in March, 2016 and a statutory public meeting on the lands was held on May 9, 2016 for a proposal to create 2 mixed use commercial and residential buildings that were 6 storeys each with a total of 124 apartment units, together with a small 1 storey commercial building. Neighbouring residents raised concerns about this proposal at the public meeting so the applicants have developed an alternative rezoning proposal for the site. Information about this original rezoning application is available on the City’s website, guelph.ca, by searching “current development” and the property’s address, 671 Victoria Road North.

New Proposal:
The revised plans propose a small commercial plaza near the corner of Victoria Road North and Wideman Blvd, with the remaining portion of the site developed with 64 stacked townhouse units, with each building being 4 storeys high (see attached concept plan). This proposal will require rezoning from the current NC-9 (Specialized Neighbourhood Shopping Centre) Zone to a new cluster townhouse zone, with specialized regulations for increased density, increased height, increased building coverage, reduced landscape open space, reduced common amenity area and reduced minimum lot area per unit. If the applicant proceeds with this proposal, the rezoning application will need to be revised and taken back to City Council for a statutory public meeting and then for a decision by Council at a future date.

For more information, please contact:
Katie Nasswetter
Senior Development Planner
katie.nasswetter@guelph.ca
519-822-1260, extension 2356

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Free Family Day Event at the Sleeman Centre

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by | February 19, 2017 · 11:02 pm

Special prayer Service at Ward 2 Mosque

Hello Ward 2, just a quick note to say that in light of the tragedy at the Quebec Islamic Centre there will be a special prayer service tomorrow, Friday, at Guelph’s oldest Mosque, Mashjid Aisha, at 44 Marlborough Rd here in our ward.

The prayers start at 1:30 pm, and I will be making remarks on behalf of the city at about 1:50 pm.

I’ve always found Mashjid Aisha to be a very welcoming place for all. I urge you to attend to show solidarity for a community that is grieving. Our Muslim neighbours and friends are a genuine asset to our city.

thankyou

James

 

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Update on meetings about Guelph Hydro’s future

Interested in the future of Guelph Hydro? The special council meeting, scheduled for Wed. Feb 15th at 6 pm, is public and there WILL be delegations. Council will be receiving a report about options for the future of our utility. I would encourage you to attend, and to delegate if you have input to share.
Delegations would be 5 minutes long, and delegates would need to sign up at clerks@guelph.ca by the Friday before. Please pass the word, and make sure people are directed towards the survey at energizingtomorrow.ca There is other helpful info there.

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Discussions on the future of Guelph Hydro

Hi folks… I wanted to make sure you knew about upcoming meetings concerning an issue important to all of us. The future of Guelph Hydro.

The city Strategies and Options Committee is conducting a wide variety of community engagement activities surrounding the future of Guelph Hydro. They are asking people what is most important to them as we consider opportunities for our local electricity distribution utility.
Open houses in Guelph:
Tuesday, January 17
1:30-3:30 p.m. or 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Guelph City Hall
1 Carden Street, Guelph
·        Online, there is opportunity for questions and comments at:
http://energizingtomorrow.ca/questions-answers/#.WHU80IW7R7l
and there is a    Three-question poll – this page has some important information upfront that leads into the poll. – it’s at

http://energizingtomorrow.ca/have-your-say/#.WHU9O4W7R7l

·        Key stakeholder engagement including with Guelph Hydro employees, key large industrial and institutional customers, the Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Guelph Business Association, Evergreen Seniors Association and others is underway.

The decisions we make about the future of our utility have major consequences for all of us. I urge you to participate.

thanks

James

 

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