LIVE BLOG: City Council Meeting for April 24, 2017

It will be a very busy night at city council complete with the pivotal debate on internet voting in the 2018 municipal election. You can click here for the amended agenda from City Hall, and you can click here to read Politico’s preview of tonight’s meeting. For the complete blow-by-blow of tonight’s council meeting, you can follow me on Twitter, or follow along below via Storify.

Guelph City Council Meeting – April 24, 2017

Live blog from the meeting starting at 6:30 pm

  1. So we’re about 15 minutes till the start of the meeting. A couple of people have trailed in so far. Me and @SaxonOnTheStorm among them
  2. There are 15 delegates listed to speak on internet voting. About 300 correspondents as well.
  3. When I wrote the preview a couple of weeks ago it was 8 to 1 in favour of internet voting among correspondents.
  4. The Trib's Doug Hallett is getting ready for his final city council meeting before retirement. We'll sure miss Doug at the media table.

    The Trib’s Doug Hallett is getting ready for his final city council meeting before retirement. We’ll sure miss Doug at the media table.
  5. We’ve begun. 1 item for closed session: ATU Collective Bargaining Mandate Request.
  6. Council provided direction, a fair, reasonable and affordable contract with employees, but w/ affordability for citizens.
  7. Mayor Guthrie is talking about tone, apologizes about the commentary and wants to make sure there’s respectful debate.
  8. He wants to make sure we’re getting the right tone of debate and apologizes for painting with a broad brush. Here to talk policy not person.
  9. On another note, Guthrie pays tribute to man that’s “logged more hours at council than anyone else, Doug Hallett.
  10. That's Guelph's city council giving a standing O to a journalist, the @MercuryTribune's Doug Hallett

    That’s Guelph’s city council giving a standing O to a journalist, the @MercuryTribune‘s Doug Hallett
  11. Cllr Gibson will be removing himself from the Habit for Humanity vote, his wife serves as a board member of Habitat.
  12. Minutes from the previous meetings pass unanimously. Next setting the agenda.
  13. Looks like everything but Outstanding P.S. motions, and Animal Control Bylaw amendments been pulled.
  14. Cam Guthrie nominated to run for Board of Federation of Canadian Municipalities unanimously.
  15. Habitat for Humanity Development Charge Late Payment Agreement approved unanimously (sans Gibson).
  16. Cllr Piper’s ask for additional training funds is now $700. Passed unanimously by council.
  17. On Surplus Asset sales, Gibson says he takes issue with mention of St John’s Ambulance. Doesn’t like “picking winners” so to speak.
  18. St Johns will staff have to go through the county to get approval on buying the ambulance. Guelph can only sell 2/5s of an ambulance.
  19. Part 1 passes unanimously, part 2 passes 10-3 (Gibson, Billings and Salisbury against)
  20. Cllr Billings with tax ratio and policy question: would the infrastructure levy be more than 1% with adjustments.
  21. Staff: Yes, technically, it means the levy is 1.03%.
  22. Tax Ratios 2017-20 assessment cycle passes 10-3 (Billings, Guthrie and Gibson against).
  23. Vote on clauses 1and 2 passes 10-3 (Guthrie, Gibson, Billings against); 3 and 4 passes 13-0
  24. Next up, Robert Swayze, City of Guelph Integrity Commissioner.
  25. He’s going to be brief. Only 1 complaint and 6 calls from council giving confidential advise. “This council’s doing something right.”
  26. Swayze is keeping his eye on Bill 68 – Modernizing Ontario’s Municipal Legislation Act, 2016. Making its way thru Queen’s Park
  27. Cllr Hofland asks of Swayze has worked on any code of conduct with social media.
  28. Swayze says he has. Participated in change to CofC in Mississauga, but work’s been postponed will B68’s been passed.
  29. Was going to make changes, incl. Bill 68, but Swayze says they’re waiting for that process to conclude.
  30. Guthrie asks if there’s any “frivolous” complaint where the person has to pay the taxpayer back?
  31. Swayze knows of 1 municipality where someone filed 16 complaints in 3 years, but @Ont_Ombudsman doesn’t want to discourage complaints
  32. Vote to receive report passes 12-0 (Cllr Gordon not in council when vote was called.)
  33. Next up: online voting. Now it really begins…
  34. Guthrie looking forward to “wholesome” and “respectful” debate.
  35. First up, former Wellington-Halton Hills NDP candidate Anne Gajerski-Cauley.
  36. She says that as mother of adult autistic son she understands accessibility argument, but she’s against internet voting.
  37. Gajerski-Cauley says that voters with autism can be easily manipulated through online voting, & accessibility means being seen in world.
  38. Gajerski-Cailey says she wants to see all autistic people proudly cast their vote, maybe inspire the abled to get out and vote.
  39. Can the in-person voting experience be made better for ppl w/autism? More ppl on hand at polling place, answers AGC.
  40. Cllt Allt asks if additional transit $ would help getting more ppl out to the polls? Contract out mobility to pick up disabled voters.
  41. Gajerski-Cauley says there should be some PR money to encourage the disabled and ppl with autism to get out and vote.
  42. Essex is associate prof. of computer security at Western, he specializes in online voting.
  43. Essex says he disagrees with mayor’s perception that concerns about security risks to online voting are unfounded.
  44. He has a masters student that got his degree three hours ago proving that online voting systems can be hacked.
  45. No solutions exist, just intractable problems, Essex says.
  46. We need secrecy of the ballot, accessibility, and security, Essex says. Also certainty that the results reflect the votes cast.
  47. How can a bank process your transactions w/o knowing where the money is coming from? That’s why online banking =/= online voting.
  48. Basically the goals of security and secret ballot conflict.
  49. Cllr Piper asks for confirmation that there’s no way to trace a violation of software.
  50. There’s a variety of possibilities, could be hacked w/o knowing, could try and hack and stop, etc.
  51. Salisbury asks why Essex is here? In brief: public service, says Essex.
  52. Salisbury asks for professional opinion from Essex. Big mistake is to talk in extremes. It’s not simple.
  53. He would love to vote online, but we want to have our cake and eat it too.
  54. Cllr Allt congratulates Essex for training cyber criminals. Essex says it’s really more of a “Defense Against the Dark Arts” thing. #lulz
  55. Big concern in cyber security is nation states: have the resources to hack, and can keep it secret.
  56. Would a nation state hack Guelph’s elxn? Maybe, but Guelph has had issues with electoral fraud b4 Essex notes.
  57. Essex says that he and a colleague agree that there’s a lack of standards in Canada about what “secure” voting looks like.
  58. Essex says council is in the unenviable position to be a decision maker, he just gets to advise and warn.
  59. “We’re in uncharted territory. We don’t know what it would be like to have gov’ts elected by malicious hackers,” says Essex.
  60. Salisbury asks how easy to buy the services to buy the next elxn?
    Essex: How much are you offering?
  61. Hackers come in all sizes, shapes and motives, says Essex. Can go top of the line stuxnet, or can do something low keep & easy.
  62. Not something you can buy, but you can find all kinds of ppl looking to do things for bitcoins.
  63. “That’s the laaaaa…” Mayor Guthrie before noticing there’s one more question.
  64. Billings asks Essex if he’s “unhackable”. Short answer: no.
  65. Guthrie’s got Qs now. Asks why Essex didn’t come to Guelph in 2013? He had been a professor for 1 day.
  66. Essex says that working with the City of Toronto opened him up to the need to advise.
  67. Guthrie asks if anyone from Guelph reached out to him to come and talk. People from Guelph did get in touch with him.
  68. He’s also going to be at a conference with Guelph’s clerk this week, and was aware of the debate.
  69. That’s it for Essex, Brian Holstein is next. And Guthrie notes at this rate we’ll be here till 2 am…
  70. Holstein assures, he’s no luddite despite his age. Taught computers in the classroom when they first appeared in schools.
  71. Holstein points out that Germany’s banned online voting, and Australia’s online census was compromised.
  72. Holstein is hitting hard on the point that there’s no paper trail. The city side doesn’t need to be hacked, could hack personal computer.
  73. Guelph is the place where people “use fake names to drum up support,” says Holstein.
  74. Holstein worked as a driver all day last election. Evergreen Centre was “humming” with seniors going out to vote, he said.
  75. Kelly is the Chair of Guelph Coalition for Social Justice. He’s also against, and references robocalls.
  76. “I think we’re here, all of us, to protect democracy,” says GK. “Voters R not practitioners of fraud anymore than council supresses votes.”
  77. Guthrie asks if Kelly sent in correspondence in 2013 on the issue. He did not.
  78. Next up, Dave Suffling. He works in internet tech security too.
  79. Suffering says he’s helped talk Waterloo Region out of internet voting twice. The tools are “easily accessible” he says.
  80. Internet voting with the MPAC list is driving drunk in a car with no brakes, says Suffling.
  81. Protections used in online banking, shopping are based on user patterns, IPs logged from, etc.
  82. Suffling notes that Microsoft stopped adding updates to Windows XP 3 years ago, and ppl still use it. Can confirm.
  83. Salisbury asks about the reluctance to report hacking.
  84. Vendors will try and keep tech closed and proprietary, but more often that’s way of hiding systems that “shouldn’t see light of day”
  85. Salisbury wonders why more people are coming out now. Suffling says he didn’t know it was happening, would have come out otherwise.
  86. Suffling says the internet is also being seen as less secure over time.
  87. Cllr Gordon says there’s divisiveness around council trying to overcome. Looking for advice.
  88. Gordon notes Waterloo “tech savvy neighbour” was a unanimous vote against (in 2013). Suffling wants to tell council it’s safe, can’t.
  89. Gordon notes 3 camps: hard no, worth the risk, will endorse if safe. What is #Guelph to do?
  90. Suffling: No evidence of a problem doesn’t mean that there isn’t one.
  91. “None of us like waiting at home for the cable guy,” Suffling says on door-to-door.
  92. Suffling says not something to be rushed into. Political parties are self-governing, geography issues, so makes sense for them.
  93. Suffling: We would like internet voting to be the right thing, but we’re not there yet and we might not be for some time.
  94. “The state of client service is awful,” he adds. Especially when we don’t have control of voters list.
  95. Guthrie again reminds everyone about timing. Still 10 delegates left.
  96. “There’s nothing to recount once they’ve compromised the system,” Suffling
  97. “How are you going to guard these machines between elections?” Suffling asks.
  98. Next up is @cam_shelleyA1. He is also against, which makes 6 for 6 right now.
  99. Dodge is here as representative of Guelph Accessibility Committee. Howcroft is the chair, and they’re the 1st delegate in favour.
  100. Howcroft points out that other municipalities in Ontario are proceeding b/c benefits > issues.
  101. Howcroft makes key point (I think) can’t offer something, and then take it back.
  102. Howcroft says he’s learned a lot tonight. If gov can offer alternative to online that’s as accessible, he’d take it (speaking 4 himself)
  103. Hofland asks Dodge if testimony tonight has changed his mind.
  104. Dodge says he came in open-minded but not sure extra security could be ready for 2018. Can’t support remove online vote in meantime.
  105. Dodge says we’re basing a lot of decisions on hypotheticals. Crossing the street is risky too.
  106. Dodge says that nowindays there’s really no such thing as a secret ballot, accessibility takes precedence.
  107. Gordon aks Dodge about social media exchange, voter suppression, and playing politics.
  108. Dodge says he has issue with bringing problems with federal and provincial matters into the debate is unhelpful. This is municipal.
  109. Dodge: “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism”
  110. McLellan says he’s going to be brief, and this is a contentious issue.
  111. McLellan says that anti-online based on facts, pro side is based on hopes.
  112. McLellan points out an interesting fact, young people are more suspicious of online voting than older people.
  113. No Qs for McLellan, it’s now time for Susan Watson.
  114. Watson says that vaild concerns about fraud have been mocked and marginalized, sometimes by members of council.
  115. Watson now quoting several lawyers, jurists involved in the robocalls case stating with Justice Hearn.
  116. Robocall fraud did involve the theft of information from secured system, Watson reminds.
  117. Integrity of the process has been tarnished, says Watson, thanks to robocalls.
  118. Quick Q from Allt: Didn’t hear Watson talk about internet voting, what’s the connection with robocalls?
  119. Watson: a diminishment of trust in the community, and in the integrity of the result that the process couldn’t be tampered with.
  120. Back to business! Guthrie calling the meeting back to order.
  121. Ron East is now up. Wants tabulators and online voting treated as two separate issues.
  122. East suggests that there was bias in the staff poll, not enough ppl 18-35 counted among the respondents.
  123. East cites B.C. research that says that internet voting does not encourage more ppl to vote, makes is easier for those that always vote.
  124. Next up, Lin Grist. Last time she was at council she left her water bottle behind. It’s now in Barcelona.
  125. Grist agains internet voting – for now – not convinced it’s secure.
  126. Voting in an election is not like grocery shopping, Grist says. Emphasis is on accessibility, no convenience.
  127. @AdamMacIntyre She doesn’t like the convenience argument, but greater accessibility is persuasive was her meaning.
  128. Galon notes that viruses and hackers are constantly breaking in, which is why your computer has so many vital security updates.
  129. “Hackers for hire abound,” says Galon, which is a scary thought, but very lyrically phrased.
  130. Galon the 2nd person in a row to mention mail in ballot possibility.
  131. Maggie Laidlaw says there’s never any questions after 10 pm.
  132. Laidlaw says she’s 2nd and 3rd guess her decision on internet voting in 2013, says that she thinks she was naive about the safety.
  133. “It will come, but not yet,” Laidlaw on internet voting.
  134. Next up, is Hugh Whiteley. Says that he’s astonished that this has not gone through community engagement.
  135. “Here, here” someone on the horseshoe said. (Didn’t see who)
  136. Wettstein says that he made the decision in 2013 and felt pretty good after 1/2 hour discussion, but things have changed.
  137. Last one up is Laura Root. She has a physical disability and fears the cancellation of online voting will have an ill affect.
  138. On many days, leaving the house just isn’t possible, says Root, but she had to come out so she could be heard.
  139. Says the concerns about security breaches are a “resounding what-if?”
  140. Root adds that she finds it offensive to focus only one area of accessibility: getting people out of the house.
  141. Root asks how accurate the elxn results will be if a portion of a population is silenced.
  142. Allt says council has the ability to take everyone to the polls in limos if they want to (but they won’t).
  143. That’s it for the delegates, not it’s time to debate!
  144. Guthrie opens with a motion to go past 11, but council doesn’t seem willing… ?????
  145. After conferring with the clerk, Guthrie says if council doesn’t go past 11, another date needs to be set immediately.
  146. Guthrie says he’s ready to stay till 3, but if council does’t think they can get stay past 12, they should vote no now.
  147. Would hate to be halfway thru and have to shut it down. “I’ll be up all night anyways” Guthrie says.
  148. Downer adds that council can’t talk to anyone or hear anymore on matter in meantime.
  149. Vote to go past 11 passes 9-4 (Allt, Bell, Gordon and Hofland against). Guthrie asks for questions and amendments only
  150. MacKinnon and Van Hellemond put motion on the floor, w/ amendment for advanced internet polling.
  151. Downer asks staff about what kind of vulnerabilities there might be.
  152. Third party ran tests and there could be possibility of denial of service (D-DOS) attacks.
  153. O’Brien points out that multiple servers allow for multiple redundancies, which would be the case here.
  154. O’Brien says “we ask a lot of the venders” they go thru 3rd party audit process, hence discovery of long response time for certain pages
  155. O’Brien says that electors have to know that is their place for election information. That’s the only site that matters.
  156. Meaning for official election information like where, when to vote.
  157. Downer asks if O’Brien’s heard anything tonight to cause him concern?
  158. O’Brien: Staff stands behind the recommendation. Presentations have highlighted areas to discuss with vender otherwise…
  159. Downer: Then why are ppl coming to town saying why “the system doesn’t have integrity”?
  160. O’Brien: “We recognize there are potential risks in paper ballot as internet. We do our best to mitigate those risks.”
  161. Thomson: I stand by our clerk and the due diligence staff put in this report. Mr. O’Brien is our expert in the field…
  162. Billings has asked three different ways, Thomson firm that he stands by the clerk.
  163. Hofland says it’s very clear to her that there’s not a person on the horseshoe that doesn’t champion accessibility…
  164. …asks if O’Brien what other improvements there maybe be made to accessibility.
  165. O’Brien says they’re always looking at ways to make elections as accessible as possible.
  166. If the city is going to proceed with internet voting, it has to do so by May 1.
  167. Hofland asks if it would be possible to opt out of the MPAC list.
    (The short answer is no.)
  168. The city gets the list at the end of August before the elxn so that they can get out the most up-to-date list they can.
  169. The list is also corrected as people come into the poll and vote.
  170. Hofland says it shouldn’t be councils that decide how to vote (should come from MMH she says) asks O’Brien if this is a thought among clerks
  171. O’Brien says there are those discussions, AMCTO also questions the validity of MPAC list, also a position paper that made Hofland recommend.
  172. Allt takes exception to risks to the ballot box the same or greater to internet voting.
  173. O’Brien says in person ppl have ability to take the oath, ppl w/ disability behind voting screen could be coerced. It’s rare/could happen
  174. Allt says staff in the voting station are able to see if fraud, coercion is being committed. Limited capacity to scrutinize in the home.
  175. O’Brien: Online voting has changed the role of the scrutineer.
  176. Allt adds that there’s a matter of candidate’s rights and recounts.
  177. O’Brien says the recount has to happen in the same process the vote was cast. A hand recount of all ballots has to be ordered by judge.
  178. Used to be a hearing process to get someone deceased or moved off the list, MPAC x-references with national list, and city shares info too
  179. O’Brien says anyone that owns, rents or is the spouse of an owner or renter can vote in an Ontario Municipal elxn. Period.
  180. Piper asks if we can invite hackers to test the system.
    Staff: That was the audit function.
  181. Piper asks if the city can have an open call for hackers. Like a hack-a-thon with actual hacking.
  182. Staff: Can’t answer that now, but maybe we can.
  183. O’Brien said we was asked about follow-up, but calling somebody up to confirm they voted might undermine confidence in system
  184. Thomson says he’d be cautious about imposing conditions like an open hack is that a vender might not bid on it.
  185. Piper says there’s got to be confidence in the system going into the elxn.
  186. Gordon appreciating comprehensive staff report, but doesn’t understand the assurance that online voting can provide a secret ballot.
  187. O’Brien says that it can’t be tracked in the paper process that one of the ballots in the box can be matched to a name on the voters list
  188. The same is true for internet voting. The system logs that someone with that voter info cast a ballot.
  189. Wettstein says he won’t support this amendment b/c he doesn’t know what future amendments there might be.
  190. If the motion passes there could be further conditions and amendments. What’s the endgame, I guess.
  191. O’Brien says he’s heard loud and clear what delegates have heard on both sides.
  192. Wettstein asks if improvements can be made after May 1. They can, but would O’Brien be bound by that decision.
  193. Council bound on determining method, staff will carry out that method best way.
  194. In other words, council can choose online voting, but its up to staff to secure the vender.
  195. Staff says this is “their bread and butter”. This is they’re product and if it fails, the company fails.
  196. Wettstein says the reality is if it fails, the city has to do it anyway.
  197. Cllr Bell doesn’t know online voting can achieve secret ballot b/c you can never know who’s “sitting beside” the voter.
  198. O’Brien says the same concerns exists for the mail-in ballot (someone sitting next to elector coercing their vote).
  199. This council meeting expires in 8 minutes w/o an extension.
  200. Staff: hindrance of pro and federal elxns doing internet voting is the size of the electorate. Plus, no standards in place in ON for mail-in
  201. O’Brien understands dilemma of decisions this late, would like an answer tonight though.
  202. “I honestly think we’re 85%, 90% there” says Guthrie. “I hope that council feels the same.”
  203. Council votes 10 in favour of continuing. We push on.
  204. Allt notes that he’s still recovering, and he’s hitting a wall, hence his vote against going past midnight.
  205. No more Qs from council, time to vote on the amendment for internet voting in advanced period.
  206. Bell says he’s trying to take a long view. He was uncomfortable in ’13, seemed like he was going against the current…
  207. …4 years later, he though city was still going down that track, thanks councillors that with went him.
  208. Bell concerned b/c in 2014 he was still campaigning and ppl had already voted online. Concerned city going way too fast on this.
  209. The only persuasive argument for Bell is the accessibility one. The convenience argument has “no credibility”
  210. Bell says integrity of process very important, and online ballot can never be confirmed secret. It’s fundamental of democracy.
  211. Wettstein says the issue is around politicization and polarization is one the reasons he’s not going to vote for this.
  212. Wettstein says Waterloo didn’t want to be a test case for when someone (inevitably) takes internet voting to court.
  213. Wettstein says the city (and council) seems split 50/50. Perhaps not good to proceed with that even split.
  214. Piper says this issue comes down to the core principles of our democracy, and they heard from delegations that those principles can’t be met
  215. Allt says democracy is not about convenience, it’s about engagement. Perhaps that’s where the focus should be.
  216. Downer says it’s difficult for many of us to be in the position of the disabled. Moved by Howcroft’s words about independence.
  217. Downer says she can’t take that right away from people like Howcroft. Online voting supporters, I think you’ve found a flipped vote.
  218. Gibson says staff has been most impressive after council throwing a curve ball.
  219. Gibson says the convenience argument is still valid, a lot of busy parents, or people that can’t afford sitters.
  220. Point of fact: voter turnout was 43 per cent in 2014.
  221. Gordon says he’s finding it very confusing that b/c there’s flaws in paper ballots we should accept another system with flaws.
  222. Adds that the public is keen at learning more, but council has to a proverbial gun to their heads.
  223. Gordon says that there were a lot of people that voted b/c of vital issues, not b/c it was “cool” to vote online.
  224. Gordon says some on council are dismissing those that did the research to urge caution.
  225. Noted the ones in favour were short, and often had insults for those against.
  226. Gordon also notes he’s never been accused of being cautious.
  227. Billings: It would be a disservice and injustice to take this away after it being offered in 2014.
  228. “I’m feeling frustrated because accessibility is so important and I can’t see taking it away,” Billings.
  229. Amendment fails 6-7 (Billings, Downer, Gibson, Guthrie, MacKinnon, Van Hellemond voted in favour)
  230. The main motion for tabulator use passes 12-1 (Downer against).
  231. Bell wonders about accomplishing greater accessibility w/o online voting…
  232. …Would like council to write to the province about creating secure process for people w/ disability to vote.
  233. Downer can’t support that b/c it goes against human rights code. Cant design separate system for people w/ disabilities, its discriminatory
  234. Bell motion passes 7-5 (Van Hellemond not longer in the chamber)
  235. O’Brien says there’s limited ways for council to weigh in. They’ve voted against internet voting, now he’ll have to decide how to deliver.
  236. Sorry, #Guelph. By a 6-7 vote, your council has rejected maintaining accessible online voting for the 2018 municipal election. 😞
  237. Notices of motion up next, just a vote on the validity of the motion to be discussed in committee next week.
  238. Wettstein’s motion is to suspend notices of motion until a policy’s developed.
  239. Vote to send motion to committee fails. Missed the count, but pretty decisive.
  240. Meeting adjourned. That’s a wrap! Thanks for following.

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