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Rossi pledges term limits for city's elected politicians

Mayoral candidate Rocco Rossi sits in a bus before visiting the CNE with a group of children from the Catholic Settlement House day care in Toronto.

Darren Calabrese/Darren Calabrese/THE GLOBE AND M

After promising voters that, if they elect him, he'll try to ensure they have the power to kick him out before his term's up, mayoral candidate Rocco Rossi pledged that as mayor he'll ensure politicians don't overstay their welcome.

Mr. Rossi said Thursday he wants to put term limits in place for the city's elected politicians - 12 years for councillors and eight years for mayors. Like recall legislation, however, this isn't something the city has the power to do on its own: It would require the province's consent, and Premier Dalton McGuinty has said the issue isn't on his agenda.

Mr. Rossi said he'd try to change that.

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"The great thing about elections, particularly long ones, is you get to talk about policy and you get to mobilize Torontonians to talk about it. And I think that energy around those issues will move the province. ... The premier said not too long ago that mixed martial arts wasn't on the agenda, and suddenly it became on the agenda," he said.

"It has everything to do with what I'm hearing at the doors and people feeling that they're turned off voting because they keep seeing the same people over and over again. There's such a huge power to incumbency. ... It's important to ensure that we get fresh faces, fresh ideas and fresh energy at council because we have to break out of what's turned into a bit of a culture of mediocrity."

Incumbent councillors usually face a significant advantage when running for re-election, thanks in part to general voter disengagement from city hall. Voters don't know much about city politics, but when they vote they're more likely to vote for the name that jumps out at them first.

Mr. Rossi also promised to introduce online voting, something his rival deputy mayor Joe Pantalone has also pledged to do. Both candidates cited abysmally low voter turnout among the city's youth as a substantial reason for letting voters cast their ballots online. Mr. Rossi said it would also help seniors with mobility issues.

Markham introduced online voting in 2003 and found that although it raised voter turnout, a poll following the 2006 election found that 80 per cent of online voters had voted in the previous election. Markham's 2006 voter turnout was still 37.6 per cent.

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