Mississauga City Council Will Start Recording Votes

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In Canada's Parliament as well as in the Ontario Legislature, all our elected members have the majority of the votes they take recorded for public record. Recording of votes is mandatory for legislation such as the Throne Speech and the budget. The only time one can see their Member of Parliament not stand up one by one to have their vote recorded is late at night when they're asking for unanimous consent to end their session for the day because they're all tired and want to go to bed.

While recorded votes have been a mainstay for the federal and provincial level for years, you may be surprised to learn that your Mississauga city council has NOT recorded every vote they've taken around the council table. In the past, recorded votes would only be taken upon a request from the Mayor or an individual councillor. Well, that old way of doing things has now been changed.

Mississauga councillors recently adopted a governance committee recommendation to amend the council procedure by-law to include recorded votes. Recorded votes will be taken on all motions with some exceptions at council and some standing committees, such as general committee, budget, planning and development (PDC) and the audit committee.

According to the city, the recording of votes began in January. Recordings will be taken by a new tech system that allows councillors to press a button for their vote. Following that, it will be recorded and shown on a screen in Council Chambers. Right now, they are just raising their hands to be counted and recorded until they install the new equipment.

In a statement released last February regarding the issue, Mayor Bonnie Crombie said, "I have been asked by residents many times where they can go to see how their mayor or councillor voted. Knowing how your elected officials voted on important public policy decisions, which could have lasting consequences, is fundamental to a well-functioning democracy."

Until now, Mississauga seems to have been an outlier on this matter. Toronto City Council has had recorded votes for many years, and a number of other municipalities such as London, Guelph, and Burlington have recorded votes. Brampton recently released its record of votes on council dating back to the start of the council term from December 2014. What Mississauga is now doing is simply catching up to the other municipal governments in providing some level of transparency to its taxpayers and residents.

My only issue with the adoption of recorded voting is that it only publishes council's voting record effectively as of this January, when the amendment to the procedural by-law took place. There is no plan to put up anything dating back to even the beginning of this council term on December 1, 2014. But since they only ever had a recorded vote when it was requested, those votes are buried in all the meeting minutes from before, and the logistics of cherry picking those recorded votes from years of agenda minutes and placing them on an electronic record would be rather time consuming.

Mississauga city staff assured Insauga that specific requests can be made for prior recorded voting information. So unless you happen to be the keenest observer of happenings at Mississauga City Council and know what you're looking for, it would be hard to locate votes on prior decisions. But a measure of accountability and transparency is better than nothing at all.

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