Why some Hamilton-area residents are choosing not to vote in this municipal election

Municipal elections in Ontario are less than two weeks away, but not everyone plans to submit a ballot on Oct. 24.

While turnout in June’s provincial elections hit an all-time high with 43% of eligible voters casting their ballots, municipal elections often see even less engagement.

According to figures from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), the overall voter turnout in the 2018 municipal elections in Ontario was 38%. In Hamilton, the participation rate in 2018 was also 38%.

CBC Hamilton spoke to several people who have decided not to vote in this year’s municipal elections – to understand why some are opting out of local elections – as well as organizations working to see more eligible voters engaged at the municipal level.

Hassaan Naeem, 27, resides in Ancaster with his parents and currently works from home, developing software.

Naeem said he has lived in the Hamilton area for over a decade, with stints in Waterloo and Toronto while attending college.

CBC Hamilton spoke with him in Ancaster on October 5. Asked about his thoughts on the upcoming election, he said he didn’t know there was one.

Naeem said he had voted in the last two federal elections, but not in the provincial elections and was unlikely to vote in the municipal elections. He said he thinks the federal government has more power to influence issues that are important to him, such as canceling student debt.

« All hot topics, like student debt, tend to relate to federal issues, and very little to municipal issues, so I’d say I’m not too much, » he said.

Samantha Reusch is the Executive Director of Apathy is Boring, a non-partisan political engagement group based in Montreal. (Submitted by Apathy is Boring)

Samantha Reusch, chief executive of Montreal-based nonprofit Apathy is Boring, says eligible voters like Naeem, ages 18 to 34, are more likely to live between multiple municipalities because they frequent a college or university. This may affect whether they end up voting.

« Sometimes there can be administrative barriers where they don’t know where they are registered, » she said, adding that those voters might not feel connected enough to their new communities to vote municipally. .

Apathy is Boring works to engage this age group at all levels of politics across the country. Reusch says young voters may lack motivation to vote — sometimes because they may feel that candidates aren’t addressing the issues young people care about, and young people may not feel that » elected officials or candidates make… an effort to raise awareness” with them.

Naeem said he hasn’t given much thought to why he doesn’t vote in municipal elections.

« It kind of amazed me why I was never involved, » he said, reflecting on his engagement. As a cyclist, the role of the municipal government in building cycle paths piques his interest, he added.

The McMaster Student Union has worked to engage young students in the municipal elections, through social media posts, promoting the campus “on-demand poll” on October 18, and organizing events such as an upcoming town hall debate on October 18. 17.

« You ask a question, you don’t get a definite yes »

Jo Anne Stoddart, 63, lives in Burlington with her 85-year-old mother. Stoddart said she’s voted in most elections, but isn’t sure if she will this month.

« I’ve always believed in voting, » she said, adding that she was disillusioned with voting at the municipal level and believes other levels of government have more influence over political decisions, especially in planning and development.

A woman in her sixties wearing a pink shirt smiles.
Jo Anne Stoddart said she has voted regularly, but this year maybe not. (Submitted by Jo Anne Stoddart)

« [Municipal elected officials] plan something and then the government, the provincial government says, “No, we want it to be a lot bigger. » »

Stoddart said she was concerned about the city’s growth. She’s not against building more condominiums in Burlington, she says, but thinks the city is building too many at once and doesn’t think about the impact it will have on downtown infrastructure. .

Stoddart said she was also reluctant to vote because she believes politicians don’t give clear answers.

« It feels like you ask a question, you don’t get a definite ‘yes,' » she said, adding that she sometimes felt like they blamed others for decisions.

Some feel left out of the conversation

For others, the decision not to vote can be even more complex.

Katrina Chaisson is a resident of East Hamilton and a Mi’kmaq. She said she doesn’t follow politics, and the last time she voted was at the federal level, after then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper tried to end home delivery service of Canada Post.

« My mother told me to vote, God rest her soul, and I voted once, » she said.

Other than that, Chaisson said she felt issues affecting her, like homelessness and missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, weren’t discussed enough by this year’s municipal candidates. .

“They need to do more for indigenous people,” Chaisson said.

Tera Cardinal advised Apathy is Boring on how political candidates can better connect with Indigenous peoples across the country.

“Indigenous people are not engaged by politicians,” said Cardinal, who is Cree and works as an Indigenous student advocate at Mount Royal University in Alberta. « They kind of expect us not to participate. »

« Indigenous people didn’t get the right to vote until 1960 and residential schools didn’t end until 1996, and I can guarantee you they didn’t teach the residential school voting process, » she said.

The Hamilton Regional Indian Center hosted an event in late August where all municipal candidates were invited to speak with the urban Aboriginal population of Hamilton.

HRIC will also have its own advance polling station on October 21, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

A poster with a drawing of a native, with information on when and where you can vote on the right side.
The Hamilton Regional Indian Center hosted a discussion on mayoral candidates and will be hosting an anticipatory poll for the urban Indigenous community on October 21. (Hamilton Regional Indian Centre/Facebook)

Violetta Nikolskaya, Senior Program Analyst for YWCA Hamilton, helps organize Reaching for Power, an annual conference that began in 2020, which she says is « an opportunity to engage queer, trans and other Black, Indigenous people , women of color and gender diverse people in civic engagement.

“A lack of representation [in elected positions]…causes people to see themselves unrepresented in politics and therefore [they are] not inspired to participate,” she said.

Nikolskaya said the YWCA also tries to engage homeless people, another demographic that often doesn’t participate in voting.

« One thing we’re doing is making sure all of our collective living spaces, including our transitional living program and our overnight shelter, have access to vote, » she said.

« For the rest of Hamilton, this is absolutely an election they should vote in because their voice really matters, » she said.


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