Late last year, a friend of mine involved in local politics asked if I had ever considered running for municipal council. She outlined a number of reasons she thought I would be a strong representative for residents in ward 9. Of course, it’s clear now that I took her advice and am running to be our next ward 9 councillor. The journey so far has connected me to a number of local organizations who encourage and support women to become more engaged in local politics, including running for office.
One group that provided both the inspiration and the information needed to run for local politics was the Women’s Municipal Campaign School which offered two days of workshops in the Region. Not only did I learn a lot at these sessions, but I was welcomed into a supportive community of passionate women dedicated to helping more women run and get elected.
Through these connections I then became involved in starting a local chapter of Equal Voice, a multi-partisan organization "dedicated to electing more women to all levels of political office in Canada." I was elected as co-vice chair to the steering committee and I have contributed to establishing the direction for the local chapter.
Once I filed my nomination papers in May, I started talking more seriously with other women who are running this fall. We are now a group of 15 women who connect regularly, through social media, attending each other’s campaign events, or even attending fun, local events in our community such as Music Bingo at Descendants (pictured left).
And this past January I marched with many others in the Women’s March Canada in downtown Kitchener. This began my connection with an organization that offers a wide variety of supports and education, including a desire to see progressive women run in local politics. They are currently compiling a list of such candidates and posting it to their website. Here’s my profile on that page.
An essential component of our democratic system is the representation of all citizens. Everyone deserves to have a voice at the table. Our current local councils do not yet have gender parity. More women on council is one step we can take to better mirror the demographics of our community. I am proud to work with organizations like those mentioned above to support more diversity on our local councils.
If you would like to meet some of the amazing women running locally this fall, consider joining us Tuesday evening for a meet-and-greet event. Find out details here.
The issue of low voter turnout is often raised during election campaigns. This is very common during federal elections where voter turnout has hovered around 60% for over a decade.
However, there is much less attention paid to low voter turnout in municipal elections, which hovers around only 25%! Too few citizens exercise their right to vote in elections that affect many aspects of citizens’ daily lives. Though local issues can seem mundane compared to national and international issues, they affect our homes and neighbourhoods and shape our regular routines in many ways. So it’s important that more citizens voice their choice for the representatives who will make critical local decisions over the next four years.
What can be done to get more people to the polls on October 22? It’s certainly a complicated issue with no simple solution. However, we can start by getting informed about where and when to vote. I’ve posted much of this general information on my website under “Voting”.
You can also find out your specific voting information. Go to voterlookup.ca and enter some basic information to ensure you are registered for this fall’s election. Doing this soon means you will receive a voter card in the mail with your exact election day voting location. Simply being informed about how to vote encourages people to cast their ballot.
Citizen engagement is a key part of my election platform. I hope engagement continues between elections, but getting out and having your say on election day is a key step. And there’s reason to be optimistic we can improve voter turnout: the rate increased significantly in both the last federal election and the recent provincial election. Let’s work to see that trend continue in this fall’s municipal election.
Find out about voting, make a plan to do so, and encourage friends, family and neighbours to get out and vote this fall.
Engage Kitchener is a website where citizens can provide feedback to the City of Kitchener on a wide variety of issues and topics. Past survey topics included the urban tree strategy, budget priorities, and customer service improvements. The city is looking to hear from more residents about current municipal issues. I am working toward a city that is more inclusive, engaged, and supported so I appreciate Kitchener’s ongoing efforts to increase its level of engagement.
Seeking to engage with residents throughout my campaign, I have attempted to open up many lines of communication. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and on my website. You can email, call or text as well. You can always chat with me in person at the many events and meetings I attend. And soon I’ll be at your doorstep as I begin canvassing!
You can also sign up for my newsletter. Each newsletter includes a more in-depth look at a current local issue. Past newsletters have focused on why I am running, Kitchener’s neighbourhood strategy, and development in our city. My newsletter also announces upcoming local events and highlights some of the events and meetings I have recently attended.
I believe it is essential for citizens to engage with their local political candidates and elected officials. It is also important for residents to understand municipal issues that impact them. On that note, I hope you will sign up for my newsletter and engage with me online and in person.
Planned upgrades to Sandhills Park in ward 9 currently involve a process new to the City of Kitchener: participatory budgeting. This process invites resident involvement in decision making by first allocating municipal funds to a particular project, then letting residents decide the shape of the final outcome.
The city sought input from residents through three different public meetings as well as online surveys and voting. Priorities for the park were identified through this process. Those involved in the Sandhills Park improvements chose a natural playground, perennial gardens, as well as a community event space.
It is exciting to see Kitchener willing to utilize innovative processes such as participatory budgeting. I believe participatory budgeting helps create the type of city I want to see, one that is inclusive, engaged, and supported. By offering a variety of ways for citizen involvement in this budget allocation process, the city hears and includes a wider variety of voices and opinions. Engaged neighbours provide input, feedback, and vote on next steps. The city supports residents by funding the new park improvements.
I applaud the city’s participatory budgeting pilot. Continued feedback from residents about the process will help guide its effective use and possible expansion into a wider range of future projects.
The City of Kitchener wants to hear from you so they are offering a series of workshops. These drop-in sessions are happening this week and next at a variety of community centres and are open to all Kitchener residents. They want your input on topics such as:
Workshop 1: June 19th 4:30-6:30pm at Chandler Mowat Community Centre
Workshop 2: June 20th 5-7pm at Stanley Park Community Centre
Workshop 3: June 26th 5-7pm at Victoria Hills Community Centre
Workshop 4: June 28th 5-7pm at Downtown Community Centre
It’s election day across Ontario today. Perhaps you have had a chance to vote already today or in the advance polls. If not, hopefully you have a plan to do so before polls close at 9pm this evening. However, numbers suggest that many of us won’t exercise our right to vote. Voter turnout in the 2014 provincial election saw a slight increase in turnout with 52% of us voting. However, the previous 5 elections saw a smaller and smaller voter turnout with only 48% of residents voting in 2011. And the turnout for municipal elections is consistently much lower.
I understand that some of us feel discouraged by the state of politics today. Perhaps you don’t feel like your values and interests are represented by those running. However, let that motivate you to become more engaged in politics, not less! I encourage you to look at each party’s platform and choose the candidate who most aligns with your values. After election day, stay involved. Connect with your elected officials and share your interests and concerns. The only way political systems are going to improve is by each of us speaking up and taking action. Please vote today.