Costas Menegakis writes: Voting Matters!
By Costas Menegakis, MP Richmond Hill
We often hear people speak about the importance of voting. Knowing what level of government does what however, can often be confusing!
As your Member of Parliament (MP), I look after issues of a national scope, such as citizenship and immigration, employment insurance, natural resources, crime legislation, national defense, international trade, Veterans affairs, foreign affairs and international development.
The provincial level of government looks after programs that are delivered within the province such as education, health care and social services.
As a Canadian citizen living in Ontario, you will have an opportunity to vote in the upcoming Provincial Election on June 12 if you are at least 18 years of age on Election Day.
You will select the candidate, and the provincial party they belong to, that you believe will best represent your interests as your Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP).
You will also have an opportunity to vote in a municipal election on October 27. Held every four years, you will be voting for Mayor, councillor, regional councillor (if you live outside of Toronto) and school board trustee.
It may be confusing; however, it is worth putting in the time to find out which level of government you are voting for, what the issues are and what the candidates or parties stand for. After all, one way or another, it will affect you!
As a federal Conservative Member of Parliament, I stand for lower taxes, family values, a strong economy and job growth, building the infrastructure we need, looking after our youth (our future leaders), making government more efficient and living within our means. These are all values shared by my provincial progressive conservative colleagues.
Attending local debates, visiting the candidates’ website and reading their policy platform, contacting their campaign office and asking for responses to the questions on issues important to you, and attending meet and greets are just some of the ways you can get better informed.
It is also important to know what you need to take with you to the poll on voting day. Each election will have different rules as to the eligible identification needed in order to cast your ballot.
According to Elections Ontario, to be eligible to vote in the upcoming Ontario Provincial Election, and your name is on the Voters List, or you have a Certificate to Vote, you will need one piece of identification with your name (which must match the name on the list) such as a birth certificate, Canadian Passport or Social Insurance Number Card. If your name is not on the list, you will need to obtain a Certificate to Vote, and provide one piece of identification that includes both name and residential address such as an Ontario Driver’s Licence or Ontario Photo Card.
Federally, we are making improvements for the next election, expected in 2015, to ensure fairness and accountability, and to improve voter turnout. Legislation called The Fair Elections Act will address the decline in turnout over the last 25 years. We simply need to do a better job of motivating electors to vote.
There are two things that drive people to vote: motivation and information. Motivation results from parties or candidates inspiring people to vote. Information (the “where, when and how”) is the responsibility of Elections Canada. After the last federal election, young non-voters reported that not knowing where (25 per cent), when (26 per cent) or how (19 per cent) to vote played a role in their decision not to vote. Half of Canada’s youths (and three quarters of aboriginal youths) are unaware that they can vote early if they are not available on Election Day.
Indeed, Elections Canada has stated that, “The most important access barrier [to youth voting] was lack of knowledge about the electoral process, including not knowing about different ways to vote.” The Fair Elections Act will require Elections Canada to communicate this basic information, while parties do their job of voter motivation.
It is my hope that parents and community leaders will also communicate the importance of voting to the younger generation. Interest in politics and political knowledge are two of the best predictors of who will vote and who will not. Talking to our young people about politics, and giving them opportunities to get involved, are two of the best ways to motivate them to vote and to help shape the country they want.
Should you be a member of a youth organization, or know someone who is and would like me to speak to that group about politics and civic affairs, kindly contact my office to arrange. Above all, please take the opportunity to exercise your democratic right as a Canadian, and be sure to vote!
Costas Menegakis is the Member of Parliament for Richmond Hill and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. He can be reached by phone at 905-770-4440 or through his website at www.costasmenegakis.ca.