Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Infographic: things we can learn from recorded votes on speaking extensions

One of the best absurdities of the Rob Ford mayoralty is the mayor's relentless devotion to keeping his pledge to require recorded votes for every decision made at council meetings. Even as he sheds and forgets campaign promises related to service cuts, bike lanes, transit and other things, he clings to this one minor plank of his platform.

Not that this promise doesn't have its good points – it leads to increased accountability & fun scorecards – but it does come with a major downside: it's made procedural business, the kind that used to pass with a quick voice vote, way more tedious and time-consuming. Under Ford, council can't even approve their meeting agenda without their fancy voting machines.

The most flagrant example of how ridiculous this policy is found with speaking extensions. Previously, councillors received five minutes to speak on an agenda item and, if they ran out of time, they could ask for an extra two minutes that would virtually always be granted after a simple yay/nay voice vote. It was a minor part of council meetings that few paid much attention to.

But under the Brave New World of Rob Ford, speaking extensions require a recorded vote, just like everything else. The time and money wasted on this is unfathomable: over the course of the 21 meetings held under this administration, council has considered 297 requests for an extra two minutes of speaking time. The voting process itself takes about a minute each time. That adds up to nearly five hours of meeting time in which elected officials have done nothing but press buttons.

All 297 requests have been approved with minimal opposition. (The closest anyone came to being denied: Anthony Perruzza once saw an a bipartisan alliance of 17 councillors try to shut down a speech he was giving about the 2011 budget .)

But, still, Ford isn't likely to cave on this any time soon – just as he wouldn't cave on subways or the budget or most other things. And so, stuck with the lemony reality of tedious and useless recorded votes for speaking extensions, we pour lemonade.

Here's an infographic look at speaking extension votes over this council term.

Click the image to view full-size.

This post was originally published at on 2012-04-03T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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