GREATER TORONTO – Most of our readers have probably already noticed that municipal elections are once again upon us, with a set general election date of October 27th, 2014. For Ontario residents, that means heading to the local electoral office to help select your area’s Councillor, School Board Trustee, and Mayor, as well as – wherever applicable – a Regional Councillor.
For those new to Ontario, the process of voting can seem intimidating. With that in mind, we’ve prepared a quick guide to participating in the upcoming election – and key issues for homeowners to research before casting their ballots next Monday.
The Basics: Voter Eligibility and Where to Cast Your Ballot
In order to vote in Ontario’s municipal and school board elections, you must be a Canadian citizen and at least 18 years of age. Those who wish to cast ballots must also be able to prove that they reside in the ward where they want to vote.
Most eligible residents should receive a voter information card in advance of the election, which contains instructions on which polling station to use. Residents who have not received a voter card, but believe they are eligible to vote, can add themselves to the voter list in one of two ways:
- On Election Day at the polling station, by providing proof of residency (e.g. driver’s license, insurance policy);
- Contacting the municipality to request an update of the voters’ list, in advance of the election date.
In order to allow residents to confirm the accuracy of their voter information, the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) offers a helpful online Voter Lookup tool.
How do residents figure out which ward they’re in, and where to vote?
Most cities and municipalities will have a ward map that you can view online to determine which ward is yours (see, for example, the City of Markham’s newest version reflecting updated boundaries). For those not sure which polling station to report to, most municipalities offer an online tool that you can use to check, such as the City of Toronto’s MyVote and Mississauga’s Where to Vote.
Key Election Issues for Current and Aspiring Homeowners
If you own your own home or are planning to buy one within the next few years, there are a couple of key issues to keep your eye on as you research the candidates seeking election in your neighbourhood:
Transit infrastructure spearheaded by the municipality can take on many forms, from humble bike lanes to multimillion-dollar light rail connections. It has also become arguably the most contentious debate item in the 2014 City of Toronto municipal election, while continuing to play a key role in races around the city’s surrounding suburbs.
While investments in an area’s transit options – especially major ones such as the Eglinton Crosstown LRT – can be expensive, they also tend to boost home values in the surrounding neighbourhood. For homeowners, it’s a smart move to evaluate local candidates’ transportation priorities accordingly.
If the city foots the bill (or part of it) for any major investment, the bulk of funds used are generally drawn from property taxes – the city’s main source of revenue. When checking out candidates’ election platforms, it is always a good idea to balance proposed initiatives against the impact that their costs may have on your property taxes over the long term.
Improvements to school programs, policies, and facilities are often brought about by the efforts of school board trustees – who are charged with attending Board meetings to represent the concerns of their constituents.
While trustee candidates may not receive as much media attention, local school quality plays a major role in any neighbourhood’s real estate desirability – so the school board race is one you will want to keep an eye on if you own property.
For more general information on municipal elections, we encourage you to visit the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing’s online information page – featuring a helpful and downloadable PDF guide for voters.