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Municipal elections matter and so does your vote

By Abeer Khan

Have you ever been stuck waiting 45 minutes outside in the cold for a bus that is supposed to run every five minutes? Have you encountered steep, head-shaking potholes or walked past an overflowing public garbage can? Or have you tried to use a bathroom or drinking fountain in a public park only to find out it was locked or out of service? These are all issues that the municipal government is responsible for managing. And in the last eight years or so, they have not been managed well. 

If you walk outside, there is litter everywhere. People don’t have access to basic services like a washroom in a park that should be open to them and to other members of the public. There is an alarming housing crisis pushing the poor, the young and people of colour out of the city. Every day, Toronto is becoming more and more unlivable. 

This can all change (fingers crossed and in small steps) this coming week on Oct. 24, when Toronto heads to the polls for the municipal election—one that will be crucial for our city. In this week’s editorial, my aim is to give you, Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) students, the run-down of the elections, where you can vote and why it is important that you do. 

Toronto Election TL;DR 

This year’s election includes many candidates, including incumbent mayor John Tory, who is seeking a third term in office. On Monday, five candidates, including Tory, Gil Penalosa, Sarah Climenhaga, Chloe Brown and Stephen Punwasi participated in an election debate. Here is a look at some of their platforms: 

According to Tory’s website, he plans to continue moving ahead with LRT lines across the city, including the ailing Eglinton Crosstown LRT, which has been under construction since 2011. He also has plans to support small businesses and keep property taxes below inflation, despite the need for more revenue in a city with a growing population that is still feeling the impacts of the ongoing pandemic. Tory also has a five-point plan to build homes faster in the city, per his platform. 

One of Tory’s more prominent challengers is Gil Penalosa, who moved to Toronto 23 years ago. He says over the last eight years, the city has become less equitable, sustainable and lost its sense of unity, according to his website. Penalosa says Toronto needs a “bold leader” and has plans to make the city more sustainable and invest in housing and neighbourhoods. 

Another candidate is Sarah Climenhaga, a lifelong Toronto resident who has been a part of grassroots organizations related to city “greenspaces, children, transit improvement and pedestrian safety,” according to her website. Her vision for the city includes making public spaces “life-enhancing and welcoming,” creating a business-friendly environment and allowing for anyone who wants to provide housing for others to do so “quickly and easily,” according to her platform

Chloe Brown is also running for Toronto’s mayoral position. Brown is a policy analyst who has worked across all sectors to “connect governments, employers and service providers to create solutions for public services and opportunities,” according to her website. She has three “big ideas” for restoring democracy: restoring democracy to public board leadership with direct community investments in the workforce; fostering ecosystems for personal development, environmental sustainability and work-life balance and creating stable and simplified tax rates, according to her platform

For the full information on each mayoral candidate, visit their website where their personal bios and platforms are all publicly accessible for you to read. 

Why should you vote? 

Voting is a privilege that we are all lucky to be afforded in this country and despite what you may think, your vote actually does count. 

We are heading into this election on the back of a provincial contest that saw the lowest voter turnout in history, with only 43.5 per cent of eligible voters in Ontario casting ballots, according to preliminary Elections Ontario results. 

This upcoming election is not one any of us should sleep on because what happens in our city impacts every one of us, whether we know it or not. From taking transit to walking on the sidewalk, municipal decisions are responsible for how long commutes are or how bumpy our roads are. Every part of our everyday lives can be impacted by municipal decisions. 

As young people, it is our responsibility to vote to better our city, despite low youth voter turnout. Elections Canada surveyed youth aged 25 and under and posed the question: “It has often been observed that young people are less likely to vote than older people. Why do you think this is?”

One frequent answer was that youth don’t believe the government represents them or cares about their needs and issues. While this is a fair criticism, participating in elections and engaging with the candidates running, who actually do align with your beliefs and views, can fix this issue. Another answer the survey frequently got was that youth feel politics does not affect them. 

For every TMU student reading this, I can confidently say this is untrue. If you took the subway today or had to dodge the horrid construction on College Street in order to get to class, politics has already affected you. 

The question now is: will you let politics affect you in a positive or negative way? 

Our news story this week spoke to many TMU students who said they didn’t know about the election or did not feel engaged enough to vote. But being apathetic to municipal elections allows for the same candidates and people to continue running this city like they have been for the past eight years, leaving little room for improvement. 

If you want to see real change in the community, read up on candidate platforms, have conversations with fellow citizens about the city’s problems and find a candidate that fits your vision of Toronto because this is your Toronto. 

Where to vote

Municpal elections matter and so does your vote

There will be a polling station on campus at the Student Campus Centre. 

Polls will be open on Oct. 24, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. In order to vote, you need one piece of identification that shows your name and a qualifying Toronto address. For more information on where to vote based on your riding or for further inquiries, you can visit the ‘How to Vote’ page on the City of Toronto’s website.

We hope to see everyone eager and ready to vote next week. Remember, your voice matters and your vote will count!

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