WR & Howe: How to Get Involved this Election Season

The start of May marks the start of not one, but two, elections. As the provincial election is kicking into high gear, nominations are opening for this fall’s municipal elections — I urge you to make your voice heard. 

Vote on or before June 7 in the provincial election. Vote on or before October 22 in the municipal election. A single vote can make a difference. Just ask Frank Etherington who won by one vote in 2010 when he became a Kitchener city councillor.

Our most important responsibility as citizens is to vote. Yet, voter turnout is trending downward. Only half of us voted in the last provincial election. At the municipal level, which has the greatest impact on your day-to-day life, less than one out of three people in Waterloo Region voted in 2014. If you don’t vote, other voices make the choice for you.

Initially, do as much research as you can or need to in order to make an educated choice. That could be as straightforward as identifying one issue that you care about, doing half an hour of research and making your mind up on that issue.

Better yet, make a commitment to get to know the candidates and the issues. Reach out to them and talk to them. Phone them with your questions. Attend meetings where you can meet and hear them. Particularly ones such as those organized by the Social Development Centre of Waterloo Region that feature conversations on key issues rather than debates.

Additionally, all campaigns require volunteers. If you have identified a candidate, party or issue that you care about, get out and help. While you can live every moment of a campaign by dedicating all your free time, you can also help out for just a few hours, or anything in between. Your level of involvement is up to you.

Volunteers are needed to knock on doors, put up signs, distribute literature, get out to vote on election day and more. You may also be able to get involved in researching policy, answering voters questions, or coordinating some part of a campaign such as volunteers. The stronger a campaign is the more likely it is to receive votes.

I’ve included the municipal election in this column because it’s between now and late July that we will find out who is interested in serving on municipal councils and school boards. They are not backed by parties and funded entirely by donations without receiving any tax credits. These candidates can definitely use help making people aware of why they are running and how they think they can make a difference.

Or maybe you believe you have something to contribute? Think about it. We could definitely use more women, more people of colour, more people with disabilities and others who can help our elected officials be more representative of our population. And we always need people who can demonstrate that they know the issues and have a record as community builders.

In conclusion, yes get out and vote but that’s not the end of being an engaged citizen. Continue getting involved in issues that you care about or that affect your life in between elections. Keep making your voice heard.