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Municipal Election Lesson 3 - Municipal Governments

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This is lesson three of seven about municipal elections that I developed and proposed for Student Vote. …

This is lesson three of seven about municipal elections that I developed and proposed for Student Vote.

This lesson allows students to explore the composition and function of municipal governments in Ontario.

Please refer to Municipal Election Lessons Additional Resources for references and supporting information.


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  • 1. Big Idea:Informed participation in local government both stimulates and upholds the principles ofdemocracy.Essential Question:What are the characteristics of an informed Canadian citizen participating in a municipal election orschool board election?Municipal Governments & CouncillorsMunicipalities, which vary in their composition, are responsible to their constituents for theplanning, growth, and safety of the community.Hook 10-15 min.Imagine that you own the home in which you now live and that for every room in the house, youpay $100 in property taxes. Your municipal government has recently announced that propertytaxes will be rising by $25 per room in the new year to help fund improvements to the region’swater treatment facility, which will have to work harder now that a new factory is being built on theedge of town. Calculate the annual increase in property tax that you will be required to pay anddebate what should be done in this situation. Extension: Students closest to the classroom windoware closer to the factory and will therefore have to pay $50 per room rather than $25 per room.Students closest to the door are strongly in favour of the factory because they will be starting high-paying jobs once the factory opens.Essential Learning 40-50 min.1. Using Handouts 3.1 to 3.2 and the information resources provided by your teacher, create a fact sheet about your municipality that details the municipality’s name, geographic boundaries, population, total budget, significant expenditures, council members, major departments, and any interesting facts. Be sure to include maps that indicate where the municipality is located in Ontario, the shape of your municipality, and the shape of all neighbouring municipalities. If you live in a lower-tier municipality, consider working with a partner so that one person can create a fact sheet about the lower-tier municipality and the other can create a fact sheet about the upper-tier municipality.2. Using Handout 3.3, your municipal fact sheet, the information resources provided by your teacher, and personal experience, develop an inventory or create an advertisement that identifies the most important features and services of your municipality from your own perspective and from the perspective of two of the following groups: business owners, city officials, parents, rural residents, seniors, urban residents.3. Using Handouts 3.4 and 3.5, as well as your municipal fact sheet and a list of standing committees in your municipality, develop a probable schedule for a councillor in your municipality. Share your schedule with the class to summarize how municipal councillors continue “to represent the public and to consider the well-being and interests of the municipality” (Municipal Act, 2001, Part VI, Sec. 224) over the course of their term in office.4. From this set of activities, review what you have discussed and learned about the significance, purpose, and functions of municipal government in Ontario.Extended Learning 20-30 min.Option A:Municipal leaders are elected using the First Past The Post Voting System. Using Handouts 3.6 to3.8, create pictograms to explain how a single person’s ballot leads to an individual getting elected.Consider including the qualifications required to be a candidate and voter, the importance of anelection campaign, and the roles of the individuals involved in facilitating the election.
  • 2. Option B:Compare detailed budgets of two or more municipalities (one of which should be your own) sharingthe same categorization in order to identify trends in where financial resources are directed. Aftercomparing budgets, recommend at least three changes that you would like to see to the spendingpriorities in your municipality and explain how these changes would lead to the development of asafe and sustainable community. Consider rounding budget figures to make comparison of budgetlines easier. (ex. to nearest million, to nearest ten thousand)Option C:Discover the functions of municipal government and the pressing issues in your community byinviting representatives of municipal departments to come speak to your class or your school or byvisiting municipal departments in your community. Categorize the functions of your municipalityand/or the needs in your municipality in a manner that would be easily understood by members ofyour community.Option D:Examine maps depicting how municipal boundaries in Ontario have changed over time. Summarizehow municipal boundaries have changed over time, identify the system of boundaries that youprefer the most, and suggest reasons why the current municipal boundaries might contribute to theeffective governance and functioning of municipalities.http://www.archives.gov.on.ca/english/on-line-exhibits/maps/index.aspxKey Termsagencies, boards, and commissions; budget; clerk; county; councillor; Deputy Returning Officer;election at large; election by ward; elector; expense; First Past The Post; growth; infrastructure;Local Roads Board; Local Services Board; lower-tier municipality; municipal council; municipality;Planning Board; region; safety; single-tier municipality; upper-tier municipality; sprawldevelopmentEssential QuestionsWhat does a councillor do and what does a council do?How do municipal councillors plan for a safe, sustainable community?How is my municipality structured and how does it function?Teacher PreparationSelect teaching strategies for essential learning activitiesMake class copies of required handoutsPrepare information sources about students’ municipality for essential learning activities, includingmaps, visitor or tourist information, municipal council information, and chamber of commerceinformation (see chapter on Additional Resources for links to Ontario municipalities)Generate list of standing committees in students’ municipalityBook computer lab, if desiredPreview websites to be used for class activities, if desired (see chapter on Additional Resources)Select extended learning activity and teaching strategies, if desiredSelect (and consider simplifying) municipal budgets for student examination, if desiredOrganize meeting with municipal government representatives, if desiredAssessmentStudents should provide evidence that they understand how municipal government and the work ofelected officials impacts their life and the lives of other individuals in their community and that theyunderstand how municipal officials are selected.
  • 3. Handout 3.1: My Municipality Fact SheetUsing the resources provided by your teacher, complete the following fact sheet.Name of Municipality:Type of Municipality:Population:Total Municipal Budget:Largest Expenses in Budget:Official Title of Council Leader:Number of Council Members:Important Municipal Departments:Interesting Facts about My Municipality:
  • 4. Handout 3.2: My Municipality’s BoundariesUsing the resources provided by your teacher:1. Indicate where your municipality is located in Ontario;2. Draw or trace the boundaries of your municipality;3. Draw or trace the boundaries of any neighbouring municipalities.
  • 5. Handout 3.3: Municipal InventoryUsing your municipal fact sheet, the information resources provided by your teacher, and personalexperience, identify the best features of your community (eg. ice rinks, skate park, clean streets,recycling program, fall fair) and the best services in your community. (eg. library, parks andrecreation, fire department)Select two of the following groups in your community: business owners, city officials, parents, ruralresidents, seniors, urban residents. Propose what you think might be the best features andservices in your community from the perspective of these chosen groups. The Top Five FEATURES of My Municipality are… My Opinion1. 1. 1.2. 2. 2.3. 3. 3.4. 4. 4.5. 5. 5. The Five Most Important SERVICES in My Municipality are… My Opinion1. 1. 1.2. 2. 2.3. 3. 3.4. 4. 4.5. 5. 5.
  • 6. Handout 3.4: A Day in the Life of a Municipal CouncillorUsing Handouts 3.5 as an example, as well as your municipal fact sheet and a list of standingcommittees in your municipality, develop a probable schedule for a councillor in your municipality. Time TaskMunicipal councillors continue to represent the public and to consider the well-being and interestsof the municipality over the course of their term in office by
  • 7. Handout 3.5: A Day in the Life of a Municipal Councillor – Sample Time Task6:30 am Review overnight email and source to appropriate department with notes8:00 am Teleconference with municipal Chief Administrative Officer on an emerging issue9:15 am Return citizen calls from previous evening9:29 am Answer homeowner call about drainage behind and in front of home9:30 am Phone conversation regarding requested attendance at local hospital event9:40 am Contact public works to investigate homeowner call regarding drainage10:00 am See how local project can be updated to include drainage concerns10:45 am Phone call with economic development officer regarding new retail chain inquiry and level of public support11:45 am Meeting regarding downtown merchant concerns on traffic and parking12:07 pm Association of Municipalities of Ontario requests participation as panelist at workshop on energy conservation1:00 pm Attend opening of new waterfront cycling trail2:05 pm Sign legal documents, including by-laws3:35 pm Respond to invitation to attend local Chamber of Commerce event5:38 pm Review council agenda and material for next week’s meeting7:45 pm Attend homeowners association meeting about waste removal8:37 pm Answer media call regarding a local controversy9:15 pm Answer resident call concerning no turning lane from Ballard St. to Main St.
  • 8. Handout 3.6: Qualifications for Participating in a Municipal ElectionFrom “2010 Ontario Municipal Elections Guide” and “Ontario Municipal Elections Act, 1996.”Who Can Be a Candidate in a Council ElectionA candidate for municipal office must, upon nomination, be a qualified municipal elector and fulfillall of the following requirements:• A resident of the municipality, a non-resident owner or tenant of land in the municipality or the spouse of such non-resident owner or tenant;• A Canadian citizen;• At least 18 years old;• Not legally prohibited from voting; and• Not disqualified by any legislation from holding municipal office. A candidate, if nominated, must remain qualified throughout the election and, if elected,throughout the term of office.Who Can Vote In a Council ElectionA person is entitled to be an elector at an election held in a local municipality, if on voting day heor she is:• A Canadian citizen;• At least 18 years old;• Residing in the local municipality or an owner or tenant of land there, or the spouse of such owner or tenant; and not otherwise prohibited from voting.The following people cannot vote in a municipal election:• A person serving a sentence of imprisonment in a penal or correctional institution;• A corporation;• A person convicted of a corrupt practice for an election held within four years of voting day;• A person who is acting as an executor or in any other representative capacity cannot vote on behalf of the person they are representing unless they have been appointed as a voting proxy.One Vote Per VoterA voter is only entitled to vote once in a municipality and once in a school board even if the voterhas more than one qualifying property address within the municipality or school board. The placewhere they vote is where they reside.In a municipality with wards, if a voter resides in one ward but has other properties in differentwards in the same municipality, he or she may only vote in the ward where he or she resides. Avoter may only have one permanent residence.StudentsA student may vote in the municipality where he or she is temporarily residing while attendingschool as well as at his or her permanent home in a different municipality, provided that he or shedoes not intend to change his or her permanent home.CampaigningMunicipal candidates spend the weeks leading up to the election trying to influence voters in themunicipality through advertisements, speeches, and discussion to vote for them on Voting Day.Important DatesNomination and campaign period begins 1 January 2010Last day for nominations and last day to withdraw candidacy 10 September 2010Voting Day 25 October 2010Council term begins 1 December 2010
  • 9. Handout 3.7: The Traditional Process for In-Person Voting at a Polling StationFrom “2010 Ontario Municipal Elections Guide” and “Ontario Municipal Elections Act, 1996.”Before VotingThe clerk must provide notice to voters, in a manner of the clerk’s choosing, of the followinginformation:• Location of voting places;• Dates and times on which voting places will be open for voting;• Where voting proxies are available and how electors may use voting proxies.Clerks must ensure that each voting place is accessible to electors with disabilities.Alternative VotingEach municipality can determine whether it will use alternative forms of voting such as vote-by-mail or Internet voting. The municipal clerk will determine what forms of identification may berequired in order to cast a ballot. These decisions must be made by June 1 of the election year.On Voting DayAn elector:(a) who is on the voters’ list must show identification confirming their identity and place or residence in order to receive a ballot. Photo ID is not required;(b) elector who is on the voters’ list does not have acceptable identification, they may make a statutory declaration that they are the person on the voters’ list in order to receive a ballot;(c) who is not on the voters’ list must follow the procedures put in place by the clerk to get on the list. These procedures may require the elector to show identification.On voting day, voting places shall be open for the electors to vote from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m.Every person who is present in a voting place or at the counting of the votes shall help to maintainthe secrecy of the voting.On receiving the ballot from the deputy returning officer, the elector shall,(a) make a cross or other mark on the ballot, within the space designated for the marking of the ballot to the right of the name of each candidate for whom the elector wishes to vote(b) fold the ballot in a manner that conceals its face; and(c) return the folded ballot to the deputy returning officer.On receiving the ballot from the elector, the deputy returning officer shall immediately deposit it inthe ballot box, in the full view of the elector.Immediately after the close of voting on voting day, the deputy returning officer shall open theballot box for his or her voting place and proceed to count, the number of votes for each candidate.As soon as possible after counting the votes, the deputy returning officer shall,(a) prepare a statement, in duplicate, showing the results of the election at the voting place;(b) place the ballots and all other materials and documents related to the election, except the original statement of results, in the ballot box;(c) seal the ballot box so that ballots cannot be deposited in or withdrawn from it without breaking the seal; and(d) deliver the original statement of results and the ballot box to the clerk.The clerk shall determine the results of the election by compiling the statements of results receivedfrom the deputy returning officers.The clerk shall, as soon as possible after voting day, declare the candidate or candidates, as thecase may be, who received the highest number of votes to be elected.
  • 10. Handout 3.8: The Traditional Process for In-Person Voting at a Polling Station (Simple)From “2010 Ontario Municipal Elections Guide” and “Ontario Municipal Elections Act, 1996.”Who Can Be a Candidate in a Council ElectionA candidate for municipal office must, upon nomination, be a qualified municipal elector and fulfillall of the following requirements:• A resident of the municipality, a non-resident owner or tenant of land in the municipality or the spouse of such non-resident owner or tenant;• A Canadian citizen;• At least 18 years old;• Not legally prohibited from voting; and• Not disqualified by any legislation from holding municipal office.Who Can Vote In a Council ElectionA person is entitled to be an elector at an election held in a local municipality, if on voting day heor she is:• A Canadian citizen;• At least 18 years old;• Residing in the local municipality or an owner or tenant of land there, or the spouse of such owner or tenant; and not otherwise prohibited from voting.A voter is only entitled to vote once in a municipality and once in a school board.Before VotingThe municipal clerk must tell voters provide notice to voters, in a manner of the clerk’s choosing, ofthe following information:• Where to vote;• When voting places will be open;• How to vote (ex. In-person, vote-by-mail, vote-by-phone, Internet voting).Clerks must ensure that each voting place is accessible to electors with disabilities.On Voting Day1. On voting day, voting places shall be open for the electors to vote from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m.2. An elector must show identification confirming their identity and place or residence in order to receive a ballot.3. Every person who is present in a voting place or at the counting of the votes shall help to maintain the secrecy of the voting.4. When a voter receives a ballot from the deputy returning officer, the voter will make a cross or mark beside the name of the candidate for whom the voter wishes to elect. Afterwards, the voter will fold the ballot to hide the mark and return the folded ballot to the deputy returning officer.5. When the deputy returning officer receives the ballot from the voter, the officer will immediately deposit the ballot in the ballot box, in full view of the voter.6. Immediately after the close of voting on voting day, the deputy returning officer will open the ballot box for his or her voting place and proceed to count, the number of votes for each candidate.7. As soon as possible after counting the votes, the deputy returning officer will record the results of the election at the voting place, return all the materials related to the election to the ballot box, and return the election results, ballot box, and election materials to the municipal clerk.8. The clerk will determine the results of the election by compiling the statements of results received from the deputy returning officers.9. The candidates who receive the highest number of votes are declared to be elected.10. Upper-tier councillors are generally composed of the heads of council from lower-tier municipalities.