Heads up! Elections in municipalities across Ontario are coming up on October 22nd. Why should cottagers care? Because local governments make decisions about issues that are vital to cottage communities. Because it’s your right as property owners in cottage country. And because those elected officials are spending your tax dollars. Research by FOCA, the Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations, shows that waterfront property owners “pay over $800-million in annual property taxes, forming the backbone of many rural municipal budgets.” Further, cottagers “steward 15,000 kilometres of shoreline in this province; that’s more than 10 times the shoreline of Lake Ontario.” So get your voting pants on! Here are some things you need to know.
1. Are you a Canadian citizen and at least 18 years old? You can vote in a municipality where you own or rent property. If you live in the city and your house is your residence (you’re only allowed to have one residence), you can vote there. And if you have a cottage, you are considered a “non-resident elector” and can also vote in that municipality. If you are the spouse of a non-resident elector, you also get to vote in that riding. (If it’s your brother’s cottage, say, and you have use of it, that doesn’t count. You’re not a non-resident elector.) But…
2. If your cottage is actually owned by a trust or a business, then you are not considered to own the land and are not eligible to vote. And…
3. If your home and your cottage are in the same municipality (rare, but possible), you only get one vote, and you have to vote in the ward where your residence is.
4. You can find out if you are on the voters’ list at voterlookup.ca. If you are not on the list, you have until the close of voting on Oct. 22 to apply to your municipal clerk to have your name added. You must have proof that you are eligible to vote to do this.
5. You may not be able to go to your cottage municipality to vote in person on election day (it’s a Monday). Investigate what alternative voting methods your municipality has decided to use: advanced polls, mail-in ballots, voting by telephone or Internet.
6. If you are voting in person, remember to bring the appropriate ID, which must show your name and address. Examples include: an Ontario driver’s licence or health card (with a photo); a mortgage, lease, or rental agreement; an insurance policy; a utility bill. A Canadian passport is not valid for identification because you write your address in it yourself.
7. You may also be able to appoint a proxy to vote on your behalf. The proxy has to also be eligible to vote (so, for example, one spouse could vote for both partners). One proxy can vote for multiple eligible family members (spouse, sibling, parent, child, grandparent, or grandchild), but a proxy appointed to represent a non-family member can only represent that person and no one else.
8. Nominations for candidates for positions being elected are now closed. Inform yourself about who is running and where they stand on policies that matter to you.
9. Some municipalities are also asking policy questions on the ballot. The Town of Parry Sound, for example, is asking: “Are you in favour of the fluoridation of the public water supply of this municipality?” You could have a say about important local issues: infrastructure (roads and bridges, water supply, sewage treatment); garbage and recycling programs; police, fire, and other essential services; zoning and land use.