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NATIONAL Toronto’s culture of engagement

Just 24 hours after delivering his controversial 2018 pre-election budget last week, Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa dropped into NATIONAL Toronto’s downtown office to explain it.

His is a big spending budget and one that predicts billions of dollars in deficits for the next six years, breaking a key Liberal promise of balancing the books.

Mr. Sousa was unapologetic, however, saying he has built “prudence” into this budget. His government made a deliberate choice to go back into deficit to support Ontarians. This is not about buying votes in advance of the June election, he argued.

Those who attended his briefing – clients and friends of NATIONAL – can make up their own minds.

NATIONAL is helping with that.

With the Ontario election quickly approaching, NATIONAL is in the thick of critical public policy debates around the choices Ontarians will be making in June.

In just one week, for example, members of NATIONAL’s team were involved in several high profile public policy events, including the budget briefing.

Staffers supported a major summit on “rethinking” sustainability. It included sessions debating the future of work, Artificial Intelligence, cities, infrastructure, transportation and transit – all key election issues for Ontarians.

In addition, NATIONAL was part of the team working at a conference that looked at issues around hydro and electricity pricing. Again, the cost of electricity will be a major conversation during the election campaign.

NATIONAL’s Toronto office is engaged – our office is populated with people who are curious, serious about changing the province and world, and whose future depends on outcomes of elections, such as the Ontario campaign.

Sadly, however, voter turnout in elections is low. Just over half of voters cast ballots in the 2014 Ontario election – and this was as increase from the 2011 campaign when 48 per cent of those eligible to vote did.

Ontario has one of the lowest voter turnouts in the country.

Traditionally young people do not turn out to vote but this may be changing. Voter turnout among young Canadians – age 18 to 24 – increased dramatically between the 2011 and 2015 federal elections – from 38.8 per cent to 57.1 per cent.

There is a push by Elections Ontario to get young people out for the June election. Let’s hope it works and that young Ontarians cast ballots in droves.

Democracy is a responsibility and it must not atrophy.

At NATIONAL we will continue to be engaged.

And so, participating and working at major issues conferences and providing a venue for the Finance Minister to give a post-budget briefing, as we did last week, are part of NATIONAL Toronto’s ethos to be informed and to help inform.