Decisions, decisions!

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Election time is nearly upon us! One of my favourite things about being connected to the community this election period has been receiving inquiries about when the candidate Q&As will be printed. This confirms first and foremost that people care about their local community, and that they understand the importance of choosing a local government who will best represent us when making decisions that matter. 

A common misconception is probably that municipal elections are insignificant since we are not electing a representative to the Premier or Prime Minister. Nothing can be further from the truth. While provincial legislation applies to matters such as education and healthcare, and federal legislation covers ground such as criminal law, foreign policy, and various federal programs, municipal governments are responsible for policies that we see on a daily basis. Roads, parks and other recreational amenities, infrastructure upgrades, and waste and recycling services are just a few examples of those day-to-day things that local governments control. These are things our property tax dollars pay for (and yes, those who rent their homes pay property taxes indirectly through their landlords), so it is important for a local government to spend wisely. There is only so much money to spend. 

One empowering aspect of a municipal election is that every vote really does count – a lot. In terms of the provincial and federal governments, North Dundas shares its representatives (MP and MPP) with the rest of our riding, which has a population of about 104,000 people. Municipal elections are truly local, and the population of North Dundas is just under 12,000 people. Of course, not all of these people in either jurisdiction are eligible voters, but looking simply at the ratio of the two populations, it shows that each individual vote in our municipal elections has almost nine times the voting power vs our votes in federal and provincial elections. Nine times!

Elections can look far different in different municipalities, and people across Ontario will be choosing their next local government on October 24. Municipal elections can also be somewhat confusing because there are different positions to vote for – Mayor, Deputy Mayor, Councillors, School Board Trustees – so each voter completes multiple votes. This year in North Dundas, nobody has run against incumbent Mayor Tony Fraser, or new Councillor-turned-Deputy Mayor Theresa Bergeron. With School Trustee positions also acclaimed, North Dundas has an easier job in this election than voters in some other locales. We must simply pick three Councillors out of six candidates. 

The answer to the question of how to pick which candidates get your three votes heavily relies on your beliefs and priorities. Many candidates have been speaking about the importance of water infrastructure. Different candidates live in different parts of the Township, so it is possible that their priorities are affected by this. Some candidates may feel that local roads need some tender loving care, while others think that we are making good progress on fixing the worst roads and should therefore stay the course. There may be candidates who believe our waste management practices are working, while others disagree. Some candidates probably think there are plenty of local opportunities for residents of all ages to get out of the house and get some exercise or have some fun, while others feel that more recreational opportunities should be a priority. Each candidate has a different background which can affect value placed on things such as local commerce, community events, environmental sustainability, and population growth. These types of issues and priorities are important to focus on when choosing candidates. Which candidates have priorities that align most closely with your own? When it comes to electing local government representatives, that is the most important consideration. 

Since I began with a note about curious readers waiting for the candidate Q&As, I suppose I should point out that they are in this issue! Flip the pages and you will get an idea of what each candidate stands for. However, word-limited responses to four general questions cannot totally define a candidate or their priorities. To my knowledge, all six candidates have been out talking to residents, campaigning and hoping to be one of North Dundas’ key decision makers in the four years ahead. Much like we expect our representatives to be available to hear our concerns and ideas once elected, it is also reasonable to want to talk to them before the election, to hear how they would lead if elected. Don’t be shy to look your candidates up – visit their websites, call them, email them – it is the dedication of the voting public that makes democracy work. A strong local government starts with an informed vote. There may only be a few days left until election day, but this fact will only give candidates more ambition to connect with as many local residents as possible. 

Advance voting has already commenced, with the voting period concluding on October 24 at 8 pm. There are no paper ballots available – voting must be completed online or by phone. However, online voting can be completed in person at the Township office, located at 636 St. Lawrence St. in Winchester, on a few key dates including the October 24 official election day from 10 am-8 pm. The local branches of the SDG County Libraries will also have internet voting available during regular business hours. Information on accessing the internet and telephone voting can be found on your voter card which you should have received in the mail (you will also need the PIN printed on it). If you have not received one, it is urgent that you get in touch with the Township office. 

Democracy is for the people, by the people. Don’t waste your chance to be heard. Nothing speaks louder than a vote!

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