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10 reasons to vote in upcoming Ontario municipal elections

This Article is By: Mike Martin    On  Sep. - 13, 2006

10 reasons to vote in upcoming Ontario municipal elections

Health, safety, education, neighbourhood, environment are all local issues.

Dateline: Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Straight Goods Online Newsmagazine

by Mike Martin

After a much too short summer of blistering heat waves and even more scorching news from the war that we have somehow gotten ourselves in and now don't know how to get out of, my thoughts are now turning to issues closer to home. Back to the world of garbage incineration versus landfills; of light rail transit versus widening our narrowing traffic lanes.

In other words municipal elections. Even though most of the candidates have already been campaigning for months, it is only in September that anyone else pays any attention to them. So it seems fitting that my first column back to work at Straight Goods should focus on the importance of municipal politics to workers and their families. Here (recycled from three years ago but IMHO still relevant) is my column from those other dog days. ...

It is true that Canadians as a whole are losing faith in their elected politicians, and with some of the antics that our elected representatives carry on with, it's hard to blame them. Meanwhile, when elected officials oversee the expenditure of billions of dollars, you just can't walk away from the importance of these elections. You should definitely have a closer look at the people who are running to help spend these monies in your community.

   What your neighbourhood looks like today could be changed tomorrow by one zoning by-law amendment. 

Here are 10 good reasons to vote in the November municipal elections.

1. Your vote could make the difference in who gets elected.
Don't take my word for it. Ask Al Gore or John Kennedy or thousands of other candidates for public office who won or lost by a few votes. In the Canadian Federal election of 2000, four ridings were won by less than 100 votes. That's why they say every vote counts.

2. Your health could depend on it.
While funding for hospitals and medical personnel comes from the federal and provincial levels, many community health services are actually provided through your municipal or regional governments. And if you have an accident or emergency, who ya gonna call? Ambulance services are provided by your municipality.

3. Your safety and security could depend on it.
What is the biggest operation of local government? Usually it is police and fire protection. The level of service provided in these areas is directly decided by local politicians.

4. Your neighbourhood could depend on it.
Dense urban growth, suburban sprawl, big box delight, speed bumps, traffic lights, parks and recreation facilities. What your neighbourhood looks like today could be changed tomorrow by one zoning by-law amendment.

5. Your property values could depend on it.
Decisions on the location of sewage treatment facilities, institutional properties, group homes, even pig farms are made at the local level. Something may not smell right in your neighbourhood unless you vote.

6. Your environment could depend on it.
One big issue in front of many municipalities is the use of pesticides. How much green space does our community need? Can we afford to cut down more trees to make way for more development?

7. Your taxes could depend on it.
Read my lips. You will have new taxes. It is almost inevitable. The size and scope of these new levies will be determined by your newly elected councils. Their first tasks will include what services to cut and by how much. Soon you will hear — and you heard it here first — "That will not be enough to deal with our budgetary situation," or "The situation is much worse than we thought."

8. Your children's education could depend on it.
In Ottawa where we have survived two provincially-appointed supervisors, more midnight madness than Zellers at Christmas time, and an on again off again school closure debate, a newly-elected School Board will make some crucial decisions about our children's education in the next few years. They will be looking at more than just school closures and bussing decisions — in fact, everything from A to Z in the education system will be on the table. Who are you going to trust with that responsibility?

9. Your recreation could depend on it.
Whether you walk your dog, swim at the pool, skate on the outdoor rink, belong to a community garden or just visit the library with your kids, your leisure time could be greatly affected by who gets elected in November. We all know there is more to life than work, but we may not be able to afford to do anything if user fees are introduced or increased for public facilities.

10. Your community may depend on it.

If the other nine reasons haven't yet convinced you, then thinks about your rights as a citizen, think about the public good, think about community involvement. Do it for your own self-interest. Just so that when they bulldoze the soccer field where you walk your dog to put in a senior condo development, you can strut over to your neighbours and tell them that you voted against the Councillor who supports this project, and what the heck did they do?!? Vote for your own self interest. Along with about 40 percent of the rest of the eligible voters, you'll feel good about it.

Mike Martin is an Ottawa-based writer and consultant specializing in communications and wellness issues.