By Angela Dittrich
As young adults, we experience a lot of exciting and important milestones — getting our driver’s license, attaining legal adulthood and entering university, college or the workforce. An often overlooked milestone is becoming a voter, or rather, becoming individuals with a rarely-exercised right to vote.
McMaster University students are a vital part of the Ward 1 community, and yet we continuously fail to show up to the polling stations. And before I continue, yes, you can vote here. Not only can you vote here, you should — whether you live in residence, in a student home, or commute from another part of the city.
On October 22nd, 2018, The Municipal Elections will take place to determine the new Mayor and Ward Councillors for the Hamilton area. Get your voice heard by voting is upcoming election. #MacVotes https://t.co/Q9arEqrdc0 pic.twitter.com/kALkZgbmTw
— McMaster Humanities (@mcmasterhum) October 12, 2018
Hamilton, for better or worse, is your home for on average four years of undergrad, and potentially beyond. Electoral issues such as housing, transit, and safety affect every one of us on a daily basis. If we speak up and elect a councillor willing to listen, we can influence real change in this city. This election, I urge you to consider some of these major issues, evaluate what matters most to you, and make certain your opinion is heard.
With 25,000 undergraduate students and only 4000 beds on campus, navigating through off-campus housing, landlords, and leases is part of the typical McMaster student experience. Unfortunately, there are homes packed to over-capacity, absent or negligent landlords and rising costs of rent which create levels of stress beyond what students should be experiencing.
As well, safety has become a major concern for many student housing neighbourhoods due to an increased number of break-ins this year. We are much more than university students; we are members of this community. We need to elect a councillor who will make housing a priority, hold landlords accountable, and address our safety concerns to make our neighbourhoods a better and safer place.
One of the most defining features of this election is transit. The fate of our proposed light rail transit system hangs in the balance as Doug Ford threatens to revoke the promised provincial funding. While transit is not the most exciting issue, it significantly impacts our everyday lives. McMaster would house an LRT terminal, providing us with a faster and more reliable way to get around and explore the city. The McMaster Students Union has taken a pro-LRT stance, and if we want this project to succeed, our Ward 1 councillor and mayor must be on board.
A more current issue is the Hamilton Street Railway. In 2017, students voted to increase tuition fees in exchange for expanded HSR service. However, last fall, there were over 200 hours of missed bus service each week, to the point where students could not rely on public transit to arrive to their exams on time. McMaster students are the HSR’s largest rider group, contributing over $4.5 million annually, yet we are constantly overlooked in times of financial stress. By voting, we show the city that our transit needs must be valued, and that the level of service provided needs to match our financial contributions.
If you’re still unsure, think about it this way — your voice is just as powerful, just as important, and just as valued as those who have lived in Hamilton for decades. We are all impacted by at least one key issue in this election: housing, transit, safety, the environment, student relations, student job opportunities, or economic growth.
But voting comes with great responsibility. Take the time to research the Ward 1 and mayoral candidates, as well as their stances on the key issues. Many young adults feel like their vote doesn’t matter, and unfortunately, by the way we are viewed by most of city council, that feeling makes sense. But this can change if we vote.
Go out to lunch with your friends and swing by the voting station. Talk to your classmates about why you’re planning to vote. Make a post on social media about your voting experience or issues that matter to you. We should all leave a place better than we found it, and making your voice heard in this Hamilton election is an incredible first step. On Oct. 22, make your vote count. See you at the polls, Marauders.
For information on Ward 1 councillor candidate platforms:
Questions on how to vote?