The level of government that most affects you daily is much closer to home than Queen’s Park or Parliament Hill.
Although the provincial government determines the powers of municipal governments, municipal governments in Ontario are responsible for providing many of the services we rely on.
In Canada, 83 percent of the municipal government revenue is raised through local sources.
The majority of funding for Canadian municipal governments comes from property taxes.
Additional funding sources include the sales of goods and services, fines and tax transfers from the provincial government.
Unlike our periodic interactions with federal and provincial levels of government, our interactions with municipal government are daily and constant.
By interactions, I am not only referring to interacting with a public servant about resolving a problem or receiving a government service, but also the municipal infrastructure and services that have a direct and significant impact on the quality of our day-to-day lives.
The municipal services connected to your house or place of business, the infrastructure throughout the wider community, waste collection, the transit services you utilize, the roads you drive on, the automated traffic control you depend on, the police and fire services that stand ready to assist you, these are just a fraction of the things we constantly rely on to go about our daily business in an efficient, safe and productive way.
But they are also examples of our constant interaction with municipal government.
Even though municipal government is the level of government which has the most direct impact on our day-to-day lives, it also suffers from the lowest level of voter turnout in elections.
In the 2010 municipal election, 59,439 people were eligible to vote. Ballots cast totaled 28,320, or just over 47 percent of eligible voters.
In an effort to improve turnout, municipalities across Ontario have tried a variety of different ways to bring more people out on election day, but most have met with limited success.
Nevertheless, the Sault Ste. Marie turnout is a good base from which to build upon for this year’s upcoming municipal election.
I myself have been working at the grassroots level with other ratepayers to think of creative ways to re-engage the citizenry on important municipal issues and where we fit in when it comes to municipal affairs.
The efforts are aimed at not only spurring more citizen engagement at municipal election time, but also in between elections.
It is understandable that people are busy with work and family commitments. Many choose to devote what little extra time they have to important voluntary activities.
When you add all of those things together, there is not a lot of time left for municipal affairs.
I salute all those citizens who voluntarily contribute their time and skills to help make this a better community on a variety of fronts.
Let’s hope 2014 becomes the turning point for an even wider and continuous citizen engagement in municipal affairs.
What do you think?
What kinds of concerns do you have? How can you get involved to help inform representatives about what to do?
Have you ever contacted your local government about an issue in your neighborhood?
Join the discussion!