A plebiscite is a way to measure public sentiment but municipal councils are not legally bound to act on results of such questions tacked on to the municipal election ballots.
Fort Frances Clerk Glenn Treftlin said a “plebiscite”—the questions included on the ballot—usually zeros in on issues council wants to get a feel for on where the public stands.
“[But] council is not bound to follow the wishes of the voters so to speak,” he noted.
“As is the case with any plebiscite, they’re not binding on any action on council’s behalf,” echoed Ian Smith, with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing regional office in Thunder Bay.
A “referendum,” on the other hand, is usually associated with something that is required to be put on the ballot. And after the results are tallied, the council would have a certain amount of time to implement it.
There also is no specific deadline spelled out for when a question can be included on the ballot.
“It’s up to each council,” noted ministry spokesman Jaye Wood.
But she also stressed they had to give enough notice to the voters to make them aware of any possible questions they might face when they go to the polls.
Administration and Finance manager Darryl Allan didn’t anticipate there would be much added cost—aside from extra paper—for including such questions on the Nov. 10 ballot.
Allan noted because the three proposed plebiscites—two on gaming issues and the other on a municipally-run and funded bus service—coincided with the municipal election, staff, advertising and such already were in place.
“If you had a special plebiscite or referendum outside of the municipal election process, then, yeah, it would cost a lot,” he added.