Election day is a few days away and across Ontario, some Ontarians have used advanced polling as an opportunity to cast their vote early. The majority has yet to vote and may consider voting on election day. Some are undecided, and others may be apathetic to the importance of casting a vote municipally. This year a couple of issues are consistently seen across Ontario as issues of importance. The question remains: Will these issues drive voters to vote on October 24 or will we see a turnout like 2018 hovering at an average of 40% across Ontario?
Municipal elections and whom you choose to vote for can shape everything you do on a day-to-day basis. According to Enid Slack, director of the University of Toronto’s Institute of Municipal Finance and Governance: “From the time you get up in the morning to the time you get to work or school, you’ve used municipal services.”
The conversation around affordability has only become more prominent over the last 12 months and has dominated political discourse at all levels. The cost of living has skyrocketed, the housing market remains difficult for first-time home buyers, and with the looming fears of a recession, many people want their elected officials to provide a concrete plan for what they will do to best support their constituents.
Affordability was a key pillar during the provincial election in June. Voters were keen on supporting parties and candidates that attempted to provide them with options to decrease the financial burden that everyone experienced following the pandemic and global geopolitical tensions.
Housing supply and rising interest rates make the idea of buying a home unattainable for many—something every municipality must deal with. Voters are interested in knowing how municipal governments will work to expedite approval processes to accommodate an influx of newcomers, and what types of affordable housing will be available, and at what cost.
Accessibility through Transit-Oriented Communities
With the cost of buying a home being out of reach for many in the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA), families and individuals are being forced to contemplate moving away from where they work in order to live. The COVID-19 pandemic created opportunities for flexible work options. The last two years saw people relocating to rural municipalities, knowing they could afford a home and continue to work remotely.
As we return to a face-to-face environment (at least part-time), access to transit is critical for those who have escaped the city yet need to return to their place of work. Dispersing the population out of city centres can only be done effectively if adequate transit-related options are in place for an efficient commute. Whatever transportation method you use, municipalities play an important role in determining how affordable your transportation options are. Voters will be looking to their municipal candidates to see what strategies they have in place to eliminate gridlock, provide realistic transit alternatives, and develop transit-oriented communities—thereby connecting transit, housing, and communities.
What is your role in this election?
Voter fatigue has plagued the turnout for the last two elections in Canada—federally in 2019 and provincially in June 2022.
Your local municipality is responsible for property tax, power, water, waste collection, transit, emergency services, and more. Your council pays for these programs and services through taxes, user fees and transfers from higher orders of government. In addition, it is these funds that allow for transit expansions, new affordable developments, road repairs, and new schools and community centres that will all have a direct impact on your day-to-day cost of living.
The Mayor, City Councillors, and School Board Trustees you elect will also have to liaise with the provincial and federal counterparts in your community. Every level of government makes up an important piece of a puzzle required to get things done.
Read about your local candidates, ask them questions, and most importantly if you haven’t already—remember to vote on October 24.
Anyone can vote in a municipal election who, on the day of the election, is 18 years of age or older, a Canadian citizen; and either a resident of the municipality or a property owner or tenant or the spouse or partner of an owner or tenant in the municipality. Your name must also be on the voters’ list to be able to cast a ballot.
——— Ceara Copps-Edwards is a former Manager, Corporate and Public Affairs at NATIONAL Public Relations