Provincial lawmakers are poised to consider two private member’s bills that could bring a landmark change to the way Torontonians elect their mayor and councillors.

The duelling bills tabled by Liberal MPP Mitzie Hunter and NDP MPP Jonah Schein, who both represent Toronto ridings, would give the city the option of switching to a ranked choice ballot system, starting with the 2018 municipal election.

If MPPs give their blessing to one of the bills, the change would not be automatic. The final say would rest with city council.

The bills are not carbon copies of each other but they both have the same aim – to allow Toronto to replace its traditional electoral system, if it chooses, with ranked balloting.

Hunter, who represents Scarborough-Guildwood, is tabling her bill – the Toronto Ranked Ballot Elections Act – Wednesday afternoon at Queen’s Park.

“We live in a diverse city and the way we elect our municipal representatives should reflect that,” Hunter told reporters at a news conference before she tabled the bill.

Her proposal will be debated March 6 and if it passes second reading it will go to committee before returning to the legislature for a final vote.

Schein tabled his bill, called the City of Toronto Alternative Voting System Act, on Tuesday.

The Davenport MPP is proposing to amend the Municipal Elections Act to give council the freedom to adopt an "alternative voting system" and establish its own rules surrounding the casting and counting of votes.

If one of the bills passes and council OKs the changes, Toronto would become the first jurisdiction in Canada to cast votes outside the traditional electoral system.

Many members of council appear to be receptive to a change. Last June, council voted 26-15 to ask the province to allow the city to adopt ranked balloting, also known as instant runoff voting.

The push has been led by a core group of politicians and community activists, including a group called Ranked Ballot Initiative of Toronto (RaBIT).

Voters choose multiple candidates

Minneapolis and San Francisco are among the jurisdictions that have used the system, which allows voters to choose multiple candidates and rank them in order of preference instead of choosing just one.

If no one receives more than 50 per cent of the vote after all the ballots are tallied, the candidate with the least votes is eliminated. On ballots where that candidate was ranked first, the votes for that person would be transferred to the candidates who were listed as the second choice.

Like multi-round voting at a leadership convention, the process is repeated until a candidate has a majority and is declared the winner.

Proponents argue the ranked ballot system is not as confusing as it sounds and they say it would generate more interest in elections and boost voter turnout.

They say it would eliminate vote splitting and strategic voting, discourage dirty campaigns and attract a more diverse group of candidates.

Ultimately, it means no one can win an election without at least 50 per cent of the vote.

Under the current system, the candidate with the most votes wins, even if they only have a small percentage of the overall vote.

At the news conference, Dave Meslin, a RaBIT member who has been one of the more active campaigners, said the goal is to create elections that are more fair and friendly, and produce outcomes that better reflect the voters’ wishes.

Meslin said the push is a multi-partisan effort that has united members of the right and left.

He was there to support Hunter’s bill but he also thanked Schein for his proposal.

"We're looking for all-party support and very swift passage of (Hunter's) bill," Meslin told

With the introduction of the bills, Meslin is moving one step closer to his goal after launching his campaign about eight years ago. He acknowledged it will be difficult to gain the support of all three parties because they "don't always agree on things."

City Coun. Joe Mihevc attended the news conference to show his support for Hunter’s bill and explain why he favours ranked balloting.

“It will take a lot of cynicism and a lot of the petty bickering and small-minded politics that happens at the local level (out) because the dynamic changes,” Mihevc told reporters. “You need to get at least 50 per cent of the vote and the last thing you want to do is to upset the voters … that are supporting somebody else’s candidate.”

Last year, politicians from dozens of communities from across Ontario endorsed a campaign that called for changes to the Municipal Elections Act.

The Local Choice campaign asked the government to give municipalities the authority to customize their local elections as they see fit, with ranked balloting, online voting and weekend voting among the potential measures.

The bills from Hunter and Schein, however, apply only to Toronto and no other community in Ontario.