The election is just days away. In fact, if you are choosing to be technologically savvy, you can already vote online or by telephone using the PIN that should have been provided to you by mail in mid-September.
For me, following this year’s election campaigns in both North Grenville and Merrickville-Wolford has been very interesting. As a voter in my late 20s, I have voted in a municipal election only a couple of times. I should have ticked my first municipal election ballot in 2010 in Ottawa as a student at Carleton University. I say should because I can’t even remember if I voted. If I did, it wasn’t an educated decision to say the least. Same goes for the 2014 election, I think I remember covering a mayoral debate at Carleton University and voting for Jim Watson, but I couldn’t tell you which councillors I voted for. They were just faceless names on a page to me. I probably chose whoever’s name I thought sounded the coolest. Way to exercise your democratic rights Hilary.
Fast forward to 2018; my first municipal election as a North Grenville resident. Thanks to writing for the North Grenville Times, I have had the opportunity to meet many people in the just under four years I have lived here. It struck me as I was sitting at the all candidates meeting at the municipal centre a few weeks ago that I have met and talked to every one of the candidates for mayor and council. I have either covered events they’ve been a part of, worked alongside them, or simply had the opportunity to meet them in one of my favourite coffee haunts.
For once in my short life as a voter I feel like I will be making a well-informed decision. Not only that, I feel like I KNOW who I am voting for, not just their policies and campaign promises, but them as people. I feel good about who I am choosing to vote for, and powerful in my ability to effect change in a way that I never have before.
Although I do thank my job for giving me the opportunity to get to know many of the candidates, I don’t think this is a privilege that is just awarded to people in the media. As residents of a small municipality like North Grenville or Merrickville-Wolford, we have the ability to get to know who we are voting for on a different level than those who are voting in big cities like Ottawa or Toronto. This is one of the privileges of living in a small municipality. The people running are our neighbours, business partners and friends. It is not uncommon to run into them at the grocery store, restaurant or on the street.
Although municipal government is our country’s lowest tier of government, one can also argue it is the most powerful at effecting change. The decisions made around the municipal council table can have a more direct impact on you as a resident than any bill passed at the provincial or federal level. Look at the legalization of marijuana for example. The federal government made the decision to legalize it, but it is municipal council that will decide whether it will be sold in shops in the municipality.
Living in rural Ontario hasn’t always been my dream. But this election has shown me what a true privilege it is to live in a small municipality. It is up to us as residents of small-town Ontario to realize this privilege and make a true, informed decision on election day. Make sure those names on the ballots have faces, platforms and personalities attached to them.
Although I know I have voted before, this election feels different. I feel like I am truly exercising my democratic right to choose, and I wouldn’t change that for anything.