Photo by Catherine Goce
In about a month, cities all over Ontario will hold their municipal election, elections which will dictate the political landscape for these cities for years to come. The results of this election can bring all sorts of changes to the neighbourhood and yet the city offers little to students to participate, further exemplifying that the city of Hamilton doesn’t care about McMaster students.
Voting stations are scattered all throughout Westdale and Ainslie Wood, mostly at churches and public schools. The voting station for McMaster University’s address, 1280 Main Street West, is at Binkley Church, which is 1570 Main Street West, far away from any major student residences.
For first-year students living in on-campus residence, putting a voting station on campus would not only allow them to vote with ease, but it would also help foster an interest in municipal politics and stress the importance of participating in the electoral process at all levels of government.
It’s not as if having a voting station on campus is unheard of; during the 2015 federal election, McMaster University had a voting station which allowed students to vote on campus. I was a first-year student at the time, and I distinctly remember my classmates excitedly voting for the first time because of the convenience.
There is also little evidence of any sort of outreach program by the city. There has not been any major social media campaigns promoting the election and outside of some postering in Westdale and Ainslie Wood, there is no trace of the election in these neighbourhoods outside of candidate campaigning. The McMaster Students Union has launched its usual voting campaigns, but the job of getting students invested in municipal politics should not fall on the student union.
The Municipal Election is Monday, October 22 – in addition, there are 5 ADVANCE poll dates available for voters. Full Election details: https://t.co/tt4eeHHe9x. #HamOnt #HamiltonVotes18 pic.twitter.com/4rcLntjLa1
— City of Hamilton (@cityofhamilton) September 20, 2018
McMaster students time and time again prove that they’re politically engaged; we consistently have one of the highest voter turnouts for our student union elections and have a multitude of candidates at every level of student politics. There are even two recent McMaster graduates running in the municipal election.
The city of Hamilton has a contentious relationship with McMaster students, as evidenced by their rather extreme reaction to last year’s Homecoming block party in Westdale. During the whole frenzy surrounding that event, the city seemed to have forgot that the party was immediately cleaned up the next day by a group of volunteers.
This year, the city of Hamilton increased policing in student neighbourhoods, despite there being little evidence of such a party happening again.
Compared to other universities, such as Queen’s University and the University of Western Ontario, McMaster students are downright boring. Could you imagine the number of volunteers that would be necessary to clean up Western’s FoCo or any other similar event? McMaster volunteers were able to clean up Dalewood Street in a single Sunday.
McMaster students are an important part of the Westdale and Ainslie Wood community, and yet they are blamed for issues like landlord negligence, made obvious through the city’s decision to increase by-law policing in Ward 1, despite multiple students pointing out that by-law maintenance usually falls under the landlord’s jurisdiction.
The city of Hamilton does little to limit the movement of talent away from their city, and instead antagonizes students. Putting voting stations on campus would not only allow more students to vote in this upcoming election, it would also act as an act of good faith; the city offering an olive branch in the form of the electoral process.
Like a lot of McMaster students, I enjoy living in Hamilton. It’s been my home for over three years now and I would prefer to stay here when I graduate. But the city’s failure to even attempt to engage young people in municipal politics only illustrates that our voices are not important to them. If the city expects students to stay in Hamilton, they’re going to have to completely revamp their approach to municipal elections.