An office at Ottawa City Hall awaits council members elected in the municipal vote on Oct. 24. Photo credit: Connor Lalande

With Ontario municipal elections quickly approaching on Oct. 24, many Algonquin College students have questions regarding municipal politics.

Some students admit to feeling uninformed about the function of municipal elections, the wards they live in and the candidates who are running.

A lack of familiarity with the candidates running is often a barrier to students getting involved within municipal politics.

“Because I don’t really follow along,” said Tori Peixoto, a first-year computer systems technician student, “I’m really not sure what they’re talking about right now.”

Kassie Williams, a first-year practical nursing student, agreed.

“I don’t think I’m going to vote, just because I don’t know too much about the people that are running,” Williams said when asked about the upcoming election.

This is not to say that students are apathetic toward municipal issues. When asked what she would like to see candidates address within their campaigns, Williams noted the need for improved transportation services.

“I think they should make it more accessible and more user friendly,” said Williams.

With students’ interest in municipal issues not necessarily lining up with their knowledge of the 2022 municipal elections, here are five things students should know prior to voting on election day, including information about voting in Ottawa.

What is a municipal election?

Municipal elections are the process in which members of a particular community select those who will be representing them within municipal government. Held every four years on the fourth Monday of October, the elected positions include mayors, councillors and school board trustees.

Mayors and councillors sit on a city council that makes important decisions on how municipal affairs will be conducted. In contrast to federal and provincial governing bodies, municipal councils are localized and are strictly concerned with the city, town or region that they are representing.

Municipal councils oversee services such as garbage and recycling, recreation amenities and transportation systems, and accordingly are influential in the everyday lives of those they represent.

In similar fashion, school board trustees are elected members of a school board advocating for the community’s desired direction for public education. The 2022 Ontario Municipal & School Board Elections Guide defines a trustee’s role as “to maintain a focus on student achievement, well-being and equity and to participate in making decisions that benefit the board’s entire jurisdiction while representing the interests of their constituents.”

Who is eligible to vote?

In order to meet voter eligibility requirements in the province of Ontario you must:

– Be 18 years of age or older

– A Canadian citizen

– Qualify to vote in your municipality

According to Ontario’s 2022 Voters’ Guide, qualification to vote in municipal elections can take on a few forms.

Resident electors are those who live in the municipality that they are voting in and are the most common type of municipal electorate.

In contrast, non-resident electors are those who do not live full time in a municipality, but own or rent property there.

Lastly, having a spouse who owns or rents property in a municipality that you do not live in qualifies you to vote in that municipality under the spouse of a non-resident elector distinction.

Can I vote in more than one municipality?

Under the resident, non-resident and spouse of a non-resident elector qualifications, it is possible to vote in multiple municipalities. If you qualify for two or more of these elector distinctions, you are permitted to vote in multiple municipalities.

According to Ontario’s 2022 Voters’ Guide, students are also given special consideration when attending school while living away from home.

“If you are a student and consider your ‘home’ to be the place where you live when you are not attending school” the guide states, “then you are eligible to vote in both your ‘home’ municipality and in the municipality where you live while attending school.”

How do I register to vote and what do I need on voting day to cast my ballot?

Eligible voters who are currently on the voters list were mailed notification letters by the City of Ottawa’s Elections Office throughout late August and September of 2022. If you have not received a notification letter and want to confirm you are on the voters list, you can use the City of Ottawa’s Election Office voters list tool to confirm.

With the Sept. 16 deadline for voters list revisions passed, if you are not currently registered on the voters list you can add yourself at your desired voting place on election day.

According to the City of Ottawa’s information for voters, “electors will be required to present a piece of identification in order to receive a ballot at their voting place.” While photo identification is not required, the piece of identification must show both your address and name.

How do I find more information on my ward and who is running?

The City of Ottawa’s election office provides voters with a list of candidates running in their ward. After typing in your address, you will be provided with a list of candidates running for each position, in addition to their contact information and, if available, their campaign websites.

On Monday, Algonquin College’s Ottawa campus will be hosting a municipal election fair at the Student Commons (E Building). Mayoral, councillor and school board trustee candidates have been invited and will be available to speak to students about their platforms.