The provincial election is coming up on June 2, and it’s a critical opportunity for us as youth to hold our elected officials to account. If you’re worried about things like how you’ll afford a place to live, how you’re going to pay for tuition, how you can access mental or physical healthcare, or how we can tackle the climate crisis, you should be paying attention to this election.
I’m sure a lot of us are feeling election fatigue, especially from the last federal election. However, this upcoming provincial election is really important because provinces have jurisdiction over lots of areas that particularly affect our generation, such as healthcare, education, and infrastructure. You may not realize it, but the provincial government has directly affected each and every one of us, and their actions have real consequences: think, for example, of Ontario’s COVID response. Ontario responded very differently than other provinces with regards to lockdowns, vaccine rollout, and mask mandates.
For those of you who need a refresher on the Canadian governmental system, recall that Canada is a democracy with three levels of government: federal, provincial, and municipal. Each level of government comprises elected officials who represent a geographic area of voters with populations of about 100,000 people. Federally and provincially, these areas are called ridings.
Each level of government is also responsible for different aspects of policy and legislation. For instance, the federal government oversees international trade, national defense, and citizenship. Provincial governments have jurisdiction over education, healthcare, and energy. Municipalities are responsible for zoning laws, water services, and public transportation.
There are four major parties running candidates in this election: the Progressive Conservative Party (PCs), the Liberal Party, the New Democratic Party (NDP), and the Green Party. Right now, Doug Ford’s PCs hold the majority of seats in Parliament (76 out of 124 total), with Andrea Horwarth’s NDPs as the Official Opposition (40 seats). Recent polls project Steven Del Luca’s Liberals will pull ahead of the NDP, with the Conservatives expected to continue to hold onto their majority. Here in Waterloo, we’ve been represented by NDP Member of Provincial Parliament Catherine Fife since 2012.
If elected, the Conservatives pledge to invest in Ontario’s electric vehicle manufacturing sector, build highways and other car infrastructure, and cut taxes. The Liberals promise to create a universal home care guarantee, repair and rebuild schools, and introduce $1 transit fares. The NDP pledges to expand OHIP coverage to include mental health care and dental care, make long-term care fully public, and build 250,000 affordable homes. The Green Party states they will increase mental health spending to 10 per cent of Ontario’s healthcare budget, require a minimum of 20 per cent affordable units in large housing projects, and achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2045.
Of course, politicians vying for our votes will promise big things to win the election, but we’ve seen countless examples of elected officials breaking their promises and not delivering what they campaigned on. It’s easy to start to feel disillusioned with the whole system: why bother if nothing will change once they’re in office anyway?
I know it seems bleak at times, but I firmly believe that elections are a crucial chance to collectively tell politicians what we want. There are definitely big obstacles to overcome, such as voter disenfranchisement or our flawed first past the post system. However, there is power in numbers: as young people (Millennials and Gen Z), we form 40 per cent of eligible voters — the largest voting bloc in the country. In university cities like Waterloo, we have an outsized impact. It only takes looking at an electoral map of Ontario to see how pockets of youth coming together to vote can make a difference. During the 2018 election, this resulted in the election of NDP and Liberal candidates amidst a sea of Conservative ridings.
There’s so much that’s broken in our system and so many people that get left behind. I pay attention to politics because I fundamentally care about our planet and the people on it. I want to choose politicians who will not only make our lives better now, but also make the right choices to create a better future for coming generations. I believe that when we come together, we can build a movement that’s impossible to ignore.
That’s also why I decided to run for the Green Party in my home riding in Mississauga this summer. I’m running because I care deeply about my community, and couldn’t stand by and let another election pass without standing up for what I believe in. I’m worried about the climate crisis, rising unaffordability, education, and the mental health crisis, all issues I’ve heard my friends and peers express their concern about too. I want to use my platform to advocate for my community, especially for young and diverse people, drawing from my own lived experience — a perspective that’s so rare to find in government.
No matter which issues are top of mind for you, I implore you to read into each party, get to know your local candidates, and most importantly, get out to vote on or before June 2. The fight for change doesn’t start and end with this provincial election, but it’s as good a time as any to get started.