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An election resource from the Centre for Public Ethics at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary.

An Election is Coming!

On Thursday, June 7, 2018, Ontarians will go to the polls to elect their next provincial government. In 2015, nearly half of eligible Ontarians did not vote. Only 52.1% of the 9.2 million eligible voters cast a ballot —that's down from 74% going to the polls in 1971.1

The democratic paradox is that while there are more direct elections worldwide than ever, voter participation is declining globally.2 Your vote matters! Voting is a civic responsibility. For communities of faith, it is the way we can address together important public ethical issues and build better communities.

Faith communities have a non-partisan role to play in the political process.

Germany's Otto von Bismarck famously defined politics is the art of the possible. “For faith communities, politics is the art of making what is necessary for all life’s flourishing possible.”3

When it comes to justice, peace and the sustaining of creation, faith communities cannot be "politics-free zones." Elections are an important moment to put into practice what we believe.

Which Level of Government Does What?

There can be confusion about the types of issues being decided during federal and provincial elections. Canada’s three levels of government have different responsibilities. This difference matters because there are some issues beyond the jurisdiction of the government voters happen to be choosing in any given election. And in some issues, such a climate change for example, the federal government may sign an international agreement to reduce greenhouse gases. But the provinces will carry out many of the measures needed to implement it. The following table illustrates, in broad terms, who does what.

How Government Responsibilities Are Shared4

Federal Government

  • National defence
  • International relations
  • International trade
  • Citizenship and immigration
  • Indigenous affairs
  • National health care, national housing strategy
  • Postal services
  • Money and banking system
  • Marriage and divorce
  • Criminal law/federal prisons
  • Employment insurance
  • Census
  • Federal taxes
  • Transportation and safety
  • Telecommunications

Provincial Government

  • Education
  • Health care policies and delivery
  • Social assistance
  • Support for persons living with disabilities
  • Natural resources and environmental protection
  • Energy production
  • Property and civil rights
  • Transportation and public transit
  • Provincial police/jails
  • Land-use planning
  • Provincial economic development
  • Immigration (shared responsibility)

Municipal Government

  • Property and education taxes
  • Municipal parks and recreation
  • Land-use planning and zoning
  • Libraries
  • Delivery of social services
  • Emergency services (police and fire services, etc.)
  • Garbage removal and recycling
  • Public transit
  • Local economic development

Ready or Not, Here it Comes

How are you preparing to vote in June? The Centre for Public Ethics is offering a series of short election resources to help you and your community prepare for June 7.

There will be many issues facing the electorate. In this collection of resources, we have identified three issues that are particularly important for faith communities:

  • poverty
  • climate change
  • right relations with Indigenous peoples

We have also provided links to more resources. We have included some specific questions, on each of these issues, that you can ask candidates. We have also suggested ways you can participate in the preparations for this election; ways to make candidates hear your concerns; and ways to help members of faith communities cast a more-informed votes.

A Prayer for Ontario

For creation where many long for the good earth, clean water, and a clear sky,
For food where many are hungry,
For a home where many are homeless,
For a livelihood where many still can't find work,
For neighbours and friends where many are lonely,
For enough for all where some have too much,
We pray for wisdom to discern justice, to work for peace and to sustain God’s gift of creation.

For leaders offering to lead this province,
For Kathleen Wynne (Liberal), Vic Fedeli (Interim-PC),
Andrea Horwath (NDP), Mike Schreiner (Green Party),
For all willing to stand as candidates in their ridings
Especially we remember... (Insert name of candidates in your riding),
For all the families of candidates and for those who work to support them,
We give thanks and pray they may be guided by wisdom, compassion, civility and a
commitment to the good of all, especially the most vulnerable among us.

Notes

1 “Only about 52 per Cent of Electorate Cast Ballots in Ontario Election – The Globe and Mail,” accessed Jan. 10, 2018.

2 Abdurashid Solijonov, “Voter Turnout Trends Around the World” (Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, 2016).

3 This quote is attributed to David Pfrimmer who has made those observations at various gatherings including the ISARC Religious Leader's Forums at Queen's Park, Nov. 18, 2015 in "What is the Meaning of this ISARC?"

4 “Canada’s Three Levels of Government| Discovery Portal,” Legislative Assembly of Ontario | Discovery Portal, Jan. 18, 2012.

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