City council’s unanimous approval of a move to a paperless municipal vote in 2022 generated plenty of pushback, questions and conspiratorial warnings.
So, why not go right to the target of all this distrust and anger, Simply Voting Inc., and talk to the founder, Brian Lack.
It’s the firm that will undertake the electronic vote in the 2022 municipal vote in St. Thomas, as they did in a limited fashion in the 2018 municipal election.
We won’t hold the face he is a Montreal Canadiens fan against him. He is an interesting and knowledgeable individual who is refreshingly forthright.
“I’m the first to admit there is no such thing as 100 per cent security. Nothing on the internet is 100 per cent secure, but we still use it.
“There are people who say we bank online so we should vote online. But actually, it’s not quite the same thing.
“In a way, there is probably more danger with voting online because if my back account is hacked and I’m missing a few hundred dollars, I’m going to know about it.
“If your vote is hacked, how does anybody know? It is not the same analogy.”
“But we have a lot of in-house expertise on security and we work with security companies and we’re following the best practices to make it as secure as possible.”
Well, it seems paper ballots are just so last election.
After substantial discussion Monday (Nov. 15) city council unanimously favoured a report from city clerk Maria Konefal calling for an all-electronic vote in the 2022 municipal election.
In other words, constituents will be able to vote by internet or telephone with no paper ballots. To accommodate those who prefer to vote in person, a system of mobile voting kiosks with computer tablets will be established.
Konefal advised there is some work to be done on the latter option but it will be in place for the municipal vote with clear directions on how to participate in this fashion.
In the 2018 municipal vote, electors cast paper ballots at one of four voting locations on voting day itself.
There was no in-person voting using paper ballots during the advance voting period and no electronic voting on voting day.
It’s been under the microscope for over a year and last month Thames Valley District School Board trustees continued with their collective finger on the pause button while dealing with the future of the School Resource Officer (SRO) program. In October of last year, the program was paused pending a review “as a result of a board motion reflecting concerns raised by the Black Lives Matter that requested the administration to ‘engage in extensive consultation . . . regarding the School Resource Officer,'” according to a TVDSB release at the end of October. The release continues, “While the review found value in the program, it also confirmed that some students, including a disproportionate amount of Indigenous, Black and Youths of Colour have felt harmed or traumatized by the presence of police in Thames Valley Schools.” The SRO program has been in St. Thomas schools for a considerable length of time and Police Chief Chris Herridge stated recently, “We are very proud of our local school programs, the terrific work STPS officers have been doing in St. Thomas schools for decades and the positive relationships which have been developed . . . “ Is this the same program the TVDSB has paused for 13 months?
For the second time in less than a month, Coun. Lori Baldwin-Sands failed in her bid to have council endorse a motion to declare a climate emergency in the city. So, you have to ask what is the motivation behind this motion that Baldwin-Sands admits is purely symbolic in nature? Well, if you were one of the several dozen supporters in the public gallery Monday (April 15) and you listened objectively to what was espoused by seven councillors, the mayor and city manager, then you should have your answer. The motion, tabled by the member of council who is seeking the Liberal nomination for Elgin-Middlesex-London riding in this fall’s federal vote is, pure and simply politically motivated.
Mayoral candidate Steve Wookey was proof the individual spending the most was not guaranteed success in last fall’s municipal vote. In a breakdown of the audited financial statements from all candidates seeking a seat on St. Thomas city council, then councillor Wookey spent $9,490 in his attempt to upgrade to a mayoral seat. All but $400 of that amount was paid for by Wookey or his wife. All of the mayoral hopefuls had a spending limit of $31,205. Incumbent Heather Jackson spent $6,842 in her failed bid at another term as head of council. Financial contributors of note to her campaign were Harold Kewley and Michelle Thomson who each chipped in $500. The successful candidate, Joe Preston, ponied up $8,361 in his municipal politics debut. All of that, by the way, came out of his own pocket.Continue reading →
Mayor Joe Preston and the incoming councillors were sworn in during a ceremony at city hall Monday (Dec. 3). Prior to Preston’s inaugural speech, Pastor Steven McCready from Faith Church, in his charge to council, noted: “This city has changed immensely in the three years I’ve been here.” However, McCready pointed out, “Mayor, there is still lots to do. Let’s work together and make St. Thomas proud. When the city prospers, the people prosper. And when the people prosper, they find peace. The thing all people are searching for.” And McCready reminded all in attendance, “Prosperity is not the same as wealth. It means to flourish and be successful.”
The following is the full transcript of Mayor Joe Preston’s inaugural address.
“This is the beginning of something new and the word propel is exactly what we’re looking to do. I’d like to give my thanks to the past council and Mayor (Heather) Jackson for moving this city into a place we can be exceptionally proud of. The group of you who were here and the new people who are here, we are happy to take the torch. “Thank you to city management and city staff for doing the same thing. St. Thomas is a place we can be proud of because we have great people who think the same way. Thank you to the voters of St. Thomas for electing this team. “I want to talk a little bit about smart growth. St. Thomas is growing at a very rapid pace and we need to be smart about what we do and how we do that. We want to make sure we end up with not just growth but end up with a place all of the citizens of St. Thomas would truly want this to be.
Monday’s meeting (Nov. 19) marked the end of term for council and with it the departure from the chamber of Mayor Heather Jackson and councillors Steve Wookey and Mark Burgess.
While the latter two chose to forego any closing words, Jackson took the opportunity to deliver an emotional farewell after 15 years on council, the last eight as mayor.
Calling it a great honour and opportunity to serve as mayor, Jackson opened her remarks by thanking “all of you who have allowed me this opportunity to serve you and I wish to thank you for your exemplary citizenship that has allowed this city to become a higher, more just and beautiful and liveable city.”
Jackson noted the job of mayor “is very fulfilling in that the responsibilities are not abstract or theoretical, but rather direct, specific and intimate.
“The responsibility for you and your children’s safety at home and at work, on the streets, for your neighbourhood parks to be safe, beautiful and active for you and your children’s play.
“Your garbage and recycling need to be collected, your neighbourhood peaceful and tidy.
“An economy bustling benefits your livelihood. A city growing in fiscal strength and fairness. The inspiration of art is accessible to all. Lovely and positive civic spaces.
“Your reason for optimism for the future. And to serve you in time of crisis and so much more.” Continue reading →
For the first time in St. Thomas, advance polling for the Oct. 22 vote was available via internet and telephone. However, the hoped-for technological turnaround in voter turnout doesn’t turn up in the numbers. That’s according to a report presented to council at Monday’s (Nov. 5) reference committee meeting compiled by city clerk Maria Konefal. It’s a comprehensive break-out of the balloting and there are numerous surprises, and the data may pave the way for further electronic advances in the 2022 municipal election. Tim Hedden, who was unsuccessful in his bid to win a councillor seat nailed it with his observation, “Curious to see if it drives voter turnout up or just made it more convenient for those that already vote.” In an interview this week, Konefal noted “The thing I found interesting is we didn’t have too much of a change in the percentage turnout. But, of the people who voted, 44 percent of them voted electronically. Most of that was by internet.”
In announcing his entry into the St. Thomas mayor’s race back in July, Joe Preston stressed municipal politics is “where rubber hits the road.” Three months later as mayor-elect, after a 550-vote win over incumbent Heather Jackson, Preston isn’t waiting until the Dec. 3 swearing-in ceremony to get the gears in motion. In a lengthy conversation with Preston yesterday (Oct. 26), he chuckled, “They’ve already started.” Noting the increased demands on his schedule this week, Preston continued, “The election is over, now let’s get going. I’ve got a fantastic elected council, so I’m already talking to most of them. I already had a great meeting with (city manager) Wendell Graves about where we are and what I need to know. And with a lot of different community groups who want my ear at the moment.”