By: Chris Litfin
Who are we voting for?
Perhaps you’ve heard that there are municipal elections in Ontario on Oct. 27. You may have noticed the plethora of lawn signs, the people in suits knocking on your door, or the three-ring circus that is Toronto’s mayoral race. If you haven’t, you aren’t completely to blame.
Not only does the municipal election get very little play on the major media outlets, there are no less than six distinct races in each ward: Mayor, Ward Councillor, and Trustees for the English Public, English Catholic, French Public, and French Catholic School Boards. Even for dedicated watchers of local politics, it’s enough to make your head spin.
Hamilton’s municipal government is made up of one mayor, 15 councillors each representing a ward, and an army of bureaucrats. You get to vote for the mayor (one of twelve candidates) and one of the ward councillors. McMaster is in Ward 1, which includes everything west of Queen street and east of Dundas below the escarpment, so unless you commute, you will be voting for one of the six candidates for Ward 1 councillor.
Why should you care about Hamilton politics if you are from, say, Vancouver? Simply put, after McMaster, the City of Hamilton is the organisation you interact with the most on a daily basis. Want more buses late at night? Want the bike lanes on Sterling plowed during the winter? How about a program to make sure that the student house you rented from that sketchy landlord is actually safe? All of those things are municipal responsibilities.
The school board trustees are where it starts to get complicated. As a legacy of confederation back in 1867, most areas in Ontario are covered by four distinct school boards. Thing is, you only get to vote for one of them; which one you vote for depends on whether you have “education rights” for something other than the English Public School Board. Long story short, unless you went to a Catholic/French/French Catholic high school, probably don’t have “education rights” and so will be defaulted to the English Public School Board.
In any event, in Ward 1 there are five candidates running for the English Public School Board and two for each of the others. If you think that the race for School Board Trustee is unimportant compared to Mayor or Councillor, you are dead wrong. Think about it: roughly 90 percent of you are a product of Ontario’s education system. Didn’t like something about your experience? Now’s your chance to do something about it.
The sad fact is that university students often don’t vote: for proof, just look at the dismal turnout for many of the elections held on campus. But there is a bigger problem here than the fact that university students are apathetic. As far as politicians are concerned, if you don’t vote, you don’t exist. Why should they spend time on some student-friendly initiative when they won’t see any benefit from it on election day? Aside from all the doing-one’s-civic-duty rhetoric, it’s in your own self-interest to vote. On Oct. 27, let’s all be self-interested and take the ten minutes to put three Xs on a piece of paper.