Hamilton Votes: What You Need to Know about the Municipal Election

Justin Eisinga | Reporter

Every four years, citizens across the country come together to take part in one of the most important duties that exists in modern society. The outcomes of this event affect the everyday lives of each person living in Canada. The significant occasion that is the municipal election may be the most important bastion of democracy we have left. As Preston Manning puts it, “The state of democracy in the country as a whole is closely related to the state of democracy at the local level.”

 The decisions that are made at the local level really do impact our everyday lives. Whether it is the maintenance of roads, the provision of public transit, or the removal of trash, municipal politicians are responsible for the health and wellbeing of the places we live. Unfortunately, in Hamilton’s 2010 municipal election, only about 40 per cent of eligible voters turned out to have their say in how the city is run. This year, on October 27, candidates are hoping this will change.

Candidates have taken to diverse platforms to get the word out to the diverse demographic that makes up Hamilton. From Twitter to Youtube to the old-fashioned public debate, Hamilton’s political wannabes have rolled out all the stops to get their campaign promises out there.

 This year, with crucial transit decisions taking centre stage, the hope is that the voter turnout increases. What’s the big deal with public transit? On the table is a billion-dollar investment that would see Light Rail Transit built from Eastgate Square in Stoney Creek all the way to McMaster University in Westdale.

 Ever since the current mayor, Bob Bratina, announced that he did not intend on running for the top municipal seat again, several front-runners have emerged in the competition for his seat of power. It comes as no surprise that one billion dollars has created quite the divide between the leading mayoral candidates.

 One of these candidates, former mayor Fred Eisenberger, has emerged as a top pick, and not just because of his past experience running the city’s political machine. Eisenberger is running on a platform built on attracting new business and encouraging citizen engagement. As for public transit, Eisenberger is in support of Light Rail Transit, but wants to create a more thorough consultation process with Hamilton residents to determine the right way forward.

 Brad Clark, a former Conservative MP and recently the city councillor for Stoney Creek, is not on the same page as Eisenberger. Clark is completely opposed to Light Rail Transit, opting for a beefed up version of the current bus route that spans from Eastgate to McMaster. Other campaign highlights include a promise to find ways to save tax dollars and a commitment to improving the delivery of public services.

 The most progressive of the leading candidates is Brian McHattie. With a background in planning and community development, McHattie has a bold vision for Hamilton. A city councillor since 2003, McHattie has put all of his weight into supporting Light Rapid Transit. Aside from this, McHattie is intent on creating a more transparent and open city hall while also focusing on building stronger and more active neighbourhoods in the city.

 Now that you’re educated on the mayoral race, you may be wondering how, where, and even if you can vote. The good news is that as a student, you are able to vote in both your home city and in Hamilton. If voting in Hamilton’s election is something you are interested in doing, you won’t have to go too far. There will be a polling station set up at Meadowlands Fellowship Christian Reformed Church from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday, October 27. All you need to bring with you is a piece of identification with your name, indicating your Hamilton address; if your ID doesn’t have this address, just bring some mail or correspondence that does.

 Be an active citizen. Engage in the political system as much as you can. Don’t forget that your vote actually does make a difference, especially at the local level. You never know when you might need to talk to your own city councillor about an issue that’s close to your heart.