Each vote can make a difference, make yours count this week

Your voice matters this week.

While it might be easy to dismiss the impact a single voter can have in a municipal election, one just has to look back four years to Greater Napanee when Mayor Gord Schermerhorn retained his seat by just three votes. It’s not hard to imagine that some who sought change stayed home and later wished they’d made an effort to support challenger Robert Dorey. It’s also not inconceivable to think Schermerhorn’s backers stayed home thinking their candidate would prevail and received a bit of a scare. Communities in Prince Edward County have had their share of nail-biters over the years as well.

It might be easy for people to shy away from election campaign as they think the politics and drama aren’t for them. Maybe, it’s just easier to go about the daily tasks of life and not think too much about the bigger picture. The reality, however, is these contests have so much to do with our experience. Local politicians make decisions that can directly affect people’s bank accounts when they set taxes, water and sewer rates, and fees for services like garbage collection, recreation facility use, and permits.

These same people are also the ones who have to plan and budget effectively so their residents can enjoy the quality of life they want where they’ve chosen to live. Is your road driveable? Will an ambulance get to your home in time with the clock ticking? Are there jobs and shopping amenities close by? Those are all concerns that a councillor deals with. Similarly, a school board trustee must make decisions that affect the resources our children have at their disposal to learn and to become productive members of community down the road. Their jobs are important and the commitment is large. Particularly with recent advances in technology, voting is extremely quick and can be done in relative ease — often, without leaving home.

It’s a shame, then, that with such an easy duty and so much at stake that the average municipal turnout in Ontario in the last municipal election hovered around 43 per cent. Collectively, we can do much better, and the amount of candidates running in races for several positions around this part of the province provides hope we will.

Deciding to go to the polls is one thing. Another is being an informed voter and looking to create representative bodies that will be best suited to lead and provide vision over the next four years — and, really, beyond, because of their potential input into strategic planning that often looks at a 20-25 year window of a community’s future.

Now, perhaps more than ever, there are many resources for voters and tools for candidates to get their messages out. Social media has expanded the scope of information available and provided a chance to access candidates that has not been possible in the past. There’s still time to do research and make connections before deciding.

All candidates should be commended for putting their names in for consideration. Inevitably, some will be more suited to their roles than others. With a new provincial government and a 24/7 business environment that doesn’t pause, there won’t be a lot of time for learning on the job. It’s up to voters to find candidates with the relevant political and business experience to drive positive change and growth. Voters also have the challenge of selecting candidates that represent a wide cross-section of demographics and interests. It’s no easy task, but it is such an important one. The candidates have done their part. Now it’s up to us as the electorate to use our voices and make a difference.