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Get engaged politically

By  Kathleena Henricus, Youth Speak News
  • June 22, 2022

Ontarians went to the polls just over three weeks ago., with the Progressive Conservatives elected with a mass majority, but this election featured record-low voter turnout, with less than half of eligible voters showing up to the polls.

It is frustrating and disheartening to see such high voter apathy. Voter disenfranchisement is a real, systemic issue — especially when voters do not see representative options in their political candidates while being plagued with personal losses, rising inflation and day-to-day economic struggles. The desire to care evaporates when everything seems bleak.

Political disengagement feeds on the belief that the only voice we have is our vote, and the only chance we get to participate in politics occurs once every several years. The truth is whether you are a year away from election day, or three weeks past, there is never a better time to get engaged and get informed than now. Here are some easy steps you can take, wherever you live and whenever your provincial election is happening:

1. Get to know your MPP /candidates:

Social media and digital news has quickly become the way candidates and elected members disseminate their platform, release information and encourage their constituents to get to know them better. A quick Google search will unearth dozens of local news articles and profiles, candidate websites, scandals, past jobs, political history and more. While this is a great way to figure out who you’d like to vote for, it is also a powerful tool in getting to know your representative, what they believe in and what they are voting for on your behalf. Even following your local representative and provincial legislature on social media is a great way to integrate being informed into your regular social media routine, without any added effort!

2. Follow the hot-button issues:

A great way to determine if you are satisfied with your current representative or future lawmaker is to search for how they plan to vote on upcoming bills and become knowledgeable about the ideological approach on issues like education or environmental protection. It is often very easy to determine how your representatives will vote, especially if they belong to one of the major parties in your riding, by checking out their party’s platform.

3. Contact your representative:

This is the most hands-on option, but a vital tool in political engagement. Whether you want to support a candidate or express your vehement disapproval of how they are/aim to represent your riding, contacting your candidate via telephone, e-mail or at in-person events is a critical part of the political process. As a constituent, you have every right to face time with your representative and to hold them accountable for their actions, past and intended for the future. The power of many rising up to express their consent or dissent starts with the one, and the more pressure for accountability our leaders feel from us, the more thoughtful and transparent they must be to receive our vote.

Although voting is a critical step in the political process, if you didn’t vote or are still ineligible to vote, it does not mean you are entirely removed from the political process. If you go to school, work, play, ride the bus, go to the library or shop in the place you live, you are entitled to fair representation and to be heard by your delegate.

If the provincial election has not yet occurred in your province, I urge you to get informed and vote for the person who will best represent you and your fellow citizens’ best interests locally or provincially. And if the election has already taken place, start looking into who exactly is voting on your behalf. While the political landscape for the next several years has already been determined at the ballot box, you can still do a lot to influence your day-to-day reality.

(Henricus, 18, completed her first year of studies at Western University in London, Ont.)

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