Agree with me or disagree with me, I urge you to vote in the upcoming municipal elections or else you are letting me and other voters make decisions about your life.
What follows is a column I wrote that first appeared on the Wonderful Waterloo forum that explains why your vote is important with a link to where you can find all the information you need about voting no matter where you live in Waterloo Region. I expect to contribute more columns to that forum in the future.
Missing! Your voice at City Hall
Did you vote in the last municipal elections in 2006? Whether you did or not affected our lives over the past four years. The people elected have been making decisions on your behalf.
These include many issues that have sparked spirited debates such as:
- decisions on school boundaries and closures
- the increasing use of roundabouts
- the shape revitalizing downtown Kitchener is taking
- plans for rapid transit
- storm water management fees
These issues and many others had people flocking to council chambers and packing meeting rooms. I suspect that many of the people concerned could not be bothered to vote in the last election since only 27% voted. In some cases, concerned citizens were able to influence decisions by having their voices heard on an issue. In many more cases, it was too late.
Whether you voted or not affected the cast of players who made these decisions. A higher voter turnout could have elected a substantially different set of decision-makers. Would they have made different decisions we will never know for sure but they certainly could have. A single vote at a council or a board meeting could make a huge difference to your life. The question is: Did you play a role in determining the person with the deciding vote?
Maybe you decided not to vote but you have been happy with all of the decisions by local government. That is unlikely but maybe you are truly satisfied. Consider yourself lucky. What if the people voting had elected people who had a different perspective on what makes your municipality and Waterloo Region a better place? Are you really willing to take that chance again?
In short, by not voting your voice is missing in the most important stage of local decision-making—the election of the people with the ultimate responsibility for making the decisions.
This year a couple referendums are being held where your voice could directly make a difference:
- In both Kitchener and Waterloo, voters are being asked if the two cities should open merger talks
- And in Waterloo, voters are again being asked to decide whether the water should be fluoridated.
In an effort to try to increase voter turnout, a loose coalition has formed under the banner WaterlooRegionVotes.ca. Coordinated by anti-poverty coalition Opportunities Waterloo Region, the group is trying to get the word out about the importance of voting. Particular emphasis is being placed on low income groups which historically have the lowest rate of participating in elections but the desire is to increase the number of voters across the board.
The centerpiece of the effort is the WaterlooRegionVotes.ca website which provides a single resource to connect voters from all parts of Waterloo Region with the information they need to know about voting. It provides information about how to vote in each municipality on October 25 or in advanced polls and who can vote. All Canadian citizens who is at least 18 years old can vote where they reside or own property. It includes information on voting as it relates to post-secondary students (who can vote in their hometown and where they live for school), people experiencing homelessness and those who need to vote by proxy.
If you want to make sure that your voice is heard in the election, you can vote in advance poll. Anyone can and you don’t need a special excuse. Check the website for links to advance voting in your area. One note of caution if you live in the core of Kitchener and you do not have a car or are experiencing homelessness, there are no advance polls in the core in advance of election day. You must make your way out to one of five community centres which is something not many of those people are likely to do.
Your vote matters
In one local race in 2006, a candidate won by 11 votes. Just a dozen more people voting for the second place candidate could have changed lives. Maybe a good choice was made maybe a better choice existed. The point is by not voting, you let other voters determine who is making decisions about your life.
Will your voice be heard at City Hall, in the Regional headquarters and around the table at the school boards? The most important time to do it is now. Be sure you get out to vote!
Visit WaterlooRegionVotes.ca to learn more.