Online Voting is a Complex Question

Online Voting is a Complex Question

Recently, Council as Committee of the Whole voted (7-5) against the use of online voting during the 2018 municipal election.  As one of the councillors who voted to pause online voting for 2018, let me assure you that this issue is not black and white.

I try to do my homework before I make a decision — on any issue — and I can see both sides of the argument on this one.  The subject of internet voting is complex, and there are conflicting opinions across the country.  My challenge is to balance all of the input, test the known facts, and make the best possible decision in light of conflicting opinion.

Online voting is something I strongly support – in principle.   In fact, I voted in favour of implementing online voting for the 2014 election.   The 2014 experience led me to the conclusion that we have some very serious data and technology integrity issues that MUST be addressed before we use online voting again, in 2018 or beyond.

Specifically, the voter database supplied to the municipality by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC).  Until they clean up their data, and their online registration process with more secure ways of verifying voter identity, we need to pause.  In addition, there must be an audit process available to test the integrity of the voting software during the real-time election period (before, during and after), as well as an identity test to verify an online elector is the person registered.

Confidence in the security of the democratic election process is more important than convenience.

I know all the arguments in favour of online voting – convenience, increased turnout, accessibility.   Many of these assertions are not evidence-based.   Below is an excellent recent article from Municipal World, a Canadian-based publication for municipal officials:

Municipal World article on Internet Voting, June 2016

There are clear requirements in the Elections Act that municipalities must make elections accessible to seniors and electors with disabilities, including setting up polling stations in institutional settings, nursing homes, and even going so far as empowering election officials to attend an elector in their private residence room.

Does voter fraud occur?  I don’t know.  That’s the problem.  There is no way to know, no audit trail, no traceable evidence.  But I do know that internet fraud is real and voter suppression tactics have taken place in the last two Canadian elections.

I use online banking, pay bills, online shopping, and many other services online.  I use them knowing they are generally safe, but also know that hacking and fraud occur regularly enough that my banks have anti-fraud departments, and that they will return my money if I am hacked.  It’s part of their cost of doing business.  Unfortunately, an audit to test the integrity of an online election is impossible.  If a vote is altered between the home computer (or mobile) and the Clerks office, there is no way to trace it because we can’t go back to the elector and ask them to confirm for whom they voted.  And we have no way of knowing that the voter behind the IP address is the elector to whom a voter card was issued.

One solution that I think would work well is now in place in Quebec — everyone is issued a Voter Registration ID # and is documented on a List of Electors for all three levels of government.  It is a unique ID similar to your SIN or CRA registration login.  The Voter ID number can travel with you if you move, and is deactivated when you die.  Municipalities get their voter registration data from the same central List of Electors.  I hope Ontario adopts a similar model.

I am hopeful we can return to online voting in the future.  Unfortunately, the new Elections Act requires us to make the decision for the 2018 election by May 1, 2017.  I’m not ready to support online voting until the integrity of the voter registration process and software products can withstand a higher level of scrutiny.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts…

LP

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Peeling Back the Petrie: Iconic Downtown Landmark is Coming Back to Life

When Tyrcathlen Partners developer Kirk Roberts bought the landmark downtown Petrie Building in 2015, he knew very well that a heritage restoration would bring a unique set of challenges.  It’s not his first rodeo (The Boarding House Arts and the Granary Building) and he clearly sees both personal, cultural and financial benefit in the restoration of unique heritage structures.   Roberts sees potential where others see dust and mud.  According to Roberts, “risk is part of the equation” in downtown, but the benefits far outweigh the challenges.  But for each challenge (such as easements, building codes, importing specialty products from France), there are also moments of discovery and accomplishment. For example, discovering the original 1909 signature of the wallpaper hanger on the wall of the third floor, or finding the opening of the original domed entrance to the main floor.

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Kirk Roberts of Tyrcathlen Partners explains how the patina of the original stamped galvanized metal facade elements will be enhanced using six layers of a traditional linseed oil-based treatment called Le Tonkinois.

The Petrie Building is singularly unique.  It was built in 1882 by Alexander Bain Petrie, a pharmacist and inventor.  The designation of the building under the Ontario Heritage Act speaks to its rare and rich history:  the galvanized iron facade, the Petrie family, the ceiling heights, the Masonic “secret” rooms, and more.

Read about the history of the Petrie Building and its unique features here.

As the Petrie Building transformation get ready to be revealed in the coming months, Roberts was eager to show off the incredible architectural treasures found inside, and to promote how this building plays a key role in the identity of downtown Guelph.  He recently hosted a tour for members of Council and economic development and tourism staff as part of the lead up to Doors Open on Founders Weekend April 21 to 23, 2017.

During the tour, the brothers of Brothers Brewing Co. were busy building fixtures and furnishings using architectural salvage from the building.  Several years ago, while looking across the street at the derelict Petrie facade from a table at Van Gogh’s, they began to dream about opening a business in the very space they now occupy.  They refer to downtown Guelph as “our land of opportunity.”  Today, the brewing vats are installed and the bar — including a foot rail made from the old gas pipes — is almost ready for patrons to enjoy a pint.

Enjoy the tour …

Brothers Brewing

Brothers Asa and Colton Proveau, along with business partner Michael Bevan, call Guelph their “land of opportunity” and can’t wait to open their new brewing facility in downtown Guelph.

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Original tin ceiling panels have been incorporated into the design of the handmade furnishings, including the bar (below) and brew keg taps.

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Original gas pipes have been repurposed as the foot rail of the new bar at Brothers Ale House.

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Brothers Ale House is taking shape and is set to open in May 2017.

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Brothers Brewing equipment is installed and ready to go.

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Elements of the original third floor were rediscovered as each layer was removed during restoration.  Wallpaper revealed the signature of the paperhanger in 1909.

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On the third floor, door openings are original and wallpaper is still intact.

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Twenty (20) foot ceilings make full use of the impressive windows at the front of the building.

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Original crown and cove moldings are being restored.

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The doorway entrance to the former Masonic Lodge meeting space is being opened up and restored using restoration arts specialists.

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The large window opening at the back of the building reveals remnants of the original Western Hotel (on Macdonell) from the 1840s, which is still connected to the newer Petrie Building, built in 1882.

Ward 5 Hero: Jennifer Harrison

Ward 5 Hero: Jennifer Harrison

Leanne and I first met Jennifer Harrison in her role as one of the community leaders who challenged Hydro One over their plans to clear the hydro corridor in Silvercreek Park. Jennifer’s home backed onto the corridor. She became instrumental in bringing Hydro One, the City, the community and Trees for Guelph to the table to work out a plan for the retention of some trees and a plan for new plantings. It is because of Jennifer’s persistence that Hydro One donated $10,000 to Trees for Guelph to replant the corridor and turn it into a meadow of grasses and wildflowers.

Jennifer is also very involved with her children’s school, St Rene’ Goupil, where she is president of the school council. No surprise there! Jennifer is from a small French community in New Brunswick so she feels quite at home spending time volunteering with various activities, fundraising and supporting teachers. Jennifer says this is where she gets her ‘French fix’.

Outside of St. Rene’, she is part of Rainbow Day Camp and Supporting Kids in Camp programs. They teach kindness, inclusion and tolerance at camp in the hopes that kids will adopt these principles in their everyday life. Jennifer says, “I strongly believe that kindness is a choice and my hope is that I can help children choose kindness more often than not.”

We are so fortunate to have Jennifer in Guelph advocating for ‘kindness’ and for the wellbeing of our residents. Thank you Jennifer!

Jennifer is pictured here with her husband, Morrison, and their children, Max and Sam.

Ward 5 Hero: Eileen Hammill

Ward 5 Hero: Eileen Hammill

Locally, the history of the Guelph Public Library (GPL) is not told without mentioning the significant contributions of Eileen Hammill, a Board member for 30 years who retired in 2011. Eileen was always very well prepared for Board meetings, taking a businesslike approach to the many challenges facing the GPL. She was keen to hear about and research the latest trends in public libraries. Eileen understood that a free and accessible public library makes a significant difference in the lives of children and adults. In Eileen’s 30 years on the Board, the library increased its circulation from 400,000 to 1.8 million and grew from one location to six. The GPL was more successful than many other municipal libraries in the province. This was, in part, due to the strong leadership of board members like Eileen.

In the 1980’s Eillen played a lead role in the establishment of the Southern Ontario Library Service. In 1990, she was recognized as Trustee of the Year by the Ontario Public Library Association.

Eileen was and continues to be a strong advocate for a new main library in our Downtown. It is long overdue.

Eileen was also very interested in Guelph’s history and heritage buildings. In the 1960’s she served as the President of the Guelph Historical Society.

Thank you Eileen for your many years of determined and dedicated advocacy! Libraries matter! May your dream of a new home for our wonderful GPL be realized soon.

Ward 5 Heroes: Central Student Association

Ward 5 Heroes: Central Student Association

When we think of the University of Guelph’s Central Student Association (CSA), we usually think of the great advocacy work they do on behalf of students on issues like transit and housing. However, they take on many more issues that often extend into advocacy work that benefits the whole community. Connecting community and campus is a priority for Jay Rojas, the CSA’s new Local Affairs Commissioner.

Here is a list of just of few of the CSA’s advocacy initiatives:

  • Providing accessible and affordable reusable water bottles for community members
  • Starting a research initiative to better connect students with other community members
  • Collaborating with internal and external partners to ensure current and future campaigns, services, and activities are inclusive and accessible
  • Increasing awareness of CSA within the City of Guelph
  • Collecting 17,350 lbs of food for the Guelph Food Bank through Trick-or-Eat campaign
  • Providing a Lock4Lock campaign, where community members were abel to trade their old chain locks for a more secure U-Lock
  • Raising awareness of sexual violence and prevention
  • Providing community members with a safe and reliable escort to their destination after dark

More often our community needs to recognize the great partnership with have with the CSA. Thanks to the CSA for your advocacy work that benefits all of our residents!

In photo from right to left:

Jay Rojas, Local Affairs Commissioner; Zoey Ross, Communications & Corporate Affairs Commissioner; Meghan Wing, Academic & University Affairs Commissioner; Ryan Shoot, Finance & Operations Commissioner; Emily Vance, External Affairs Commissioner.

Ward 5 Hero: Lt. Col. John McCrae

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Today is a fitting day to honour one of Guelph’s most celebrated hometown heroes — Lt. Col. John McCrae, physician, soldier, artist, scholar and poet.  As we honour our veterans across the world, the words of McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields”echo in the background.  The image of the poppy is an international symbol of remembrance as a result of McCrae’s words, written on the back of a battlefield ambulance in 1915.

McCrae was born on Water Street in Ward 5 in 1872, the second son of Col. David McCrae and Janet McCrae.  The McCrae family were already well-established in Guelph.  John’s grandparents, Thomas and Jane(t) McCrae lived on the outskirts of Guelph at Janefield, a stone farmhouse still standing on College Avenue West.  He attended Central Public School and Guelph Collegiate Institute, before heading off to the University of Toronto to pursue post-secondary studies.

McCrae had a solid military background training with the Guelph 11th Field regiment and served in the artillery during the Second Boer War.  During World War 1 he served as a surgeon, and while stationed with the No. 3 Canadian General Hospital in Boulogne, he contracted pneumonia and died January 28, 1918.

McCrae is more than just a Ward 5 hero, he is Canada’s hero and his powerful words remain immortal around the world a century after they were written.