Allocation of representation
To ensure regional representation, 20 benchers are elected from within Toronto, and 20 elected from outside. There are also five benchers elected from amongst Paralegals, and another eight who are laypersons.
The bencher election featured two main coalitions or parties. (“Party” is the nomenclature used in Canadian elections, so we will go with that term.) They are the Good Governance Coalition (GGC); and FullStop (FS).
The balance of the 28 candidates ran as independents.
In 2019, 16,156 ballots were cast for a turnout rate of just under 30%.
In 2023, 22,535 ballots were cast.
Recent provincial and federal voter turnouts were 45.5% and 76%, respectively.
As for the results of the 2023 bencher election, this can easily be broken down into three tiers.
In very simple terms, in the first tier we have GGC who were clearly the successful winners. These candidates collectively got about 53% of the votes (approximately 12,000 votes) and secured the top 20 spots both within and outside Toronto. They ran the table, winning all 40 of 40 bencher seats.
In the second tier we have FS. These candidates received about 25% of the vote (or approximately 5,500 votes each). FS ran a full slate of candidates and were shut out completely, and their incumbents lost their existing seats.
The third tier are the independent candidates who were not affiliated with any party. The top independents received a little over 8% of the vote and the remaining independents drop off quickly after that (approximately 2,000 votes).
So, what does this all mean?
In 2019, FS (previously known as the StopSOP slate) effectively aligned their messaging and resources. They leveraged the vote strategically to obtain a majority of the seats. This is in stark contrast to the results in 2023, where — as the numbers above show — GGC beat FS at their game.
But now we have a single party convocation with no opposition party or independents. Is this a healthy outcome?
Some might argue we should do away with 40 votes for each voter. Instead, it should be replaced with a “one-vote-for-one-voter” system. Or perhaps eight votes per voter, one for each regional bencher.
This would limit strategic vote-stacking. It would also make room for independent candidates who do not want to be part of a party or coalition. It is quite possible, however, that a different system of voting would have ended up with the same result. The clear message from the profession in this election is that it is time for a change.
“I would like to thank every candidate for their contributions in this election cycle, and congratulate the successful candidates and wish them all the best in new roles as benchers.
And as they say with elections: the voters are always right.”