Ontarians get set for election day

With election day fast approaching on Oct. 6, voters must give their final considerations to what has been described by many as a fairly uneventful provincial election campaign.

Advance poll numbers are giving early indications that voter turnout may be on the rise, something which Elections Ontario communications co-ordinator Alicia Fowlie attributed in part to the “more days and more ways to vote in this election.”

In the Kitchener-Waterloo riding — which contains both Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo — as of Oct. 3, 6,740 people voted in advance polls, according to Elections Ontario. This is in comparison to 3,683 in 2007. Provincially, numbers were up by over 173,000 more ballots cast in advance.

Elections Ontario has been taking a different approach this time around in an attempt to reach more registered voters. People are able to ask questions and obtain information through their Facebook and Twitter campaigns, as well as through their website, wemakevotingeasy.ca.

Fowlie claimed that an important initiative has been reaching out to students. Elections Ontario was at the Laurier campus twice this semester to help raise awareness on voting requirements and procedures.

“We really want students to be aware of what it is that they need to bring with them to cast a ballot,” Fowlie explained. “And this is particularly important for students who may have just moved to the electoral district, because they need to provide … documentation that proves they live in that riding.”

The comprehensive list of acceptable documents, which includes utility bills, lease agreements and Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) documentation, can be found online.

“We really see voter turnout as a shared responsibility,” said Fowlie of the key role played by Elections Ontario, in addition to political candidates and the media.

“But ultimately,” she continued, “I think it’s up to each individual voter to go about and get the information that they need to make an educated vote and to make sure that they know when and where and how to participate.”

However, contrary to what the polling numbers may suggest, WLU professor of political science Barry Kay expects to see voter turnout decrease even further from the historically low figures that came out during the 2007 provincial election.

“What’s stood out [in this election] is that nothing has stood out,” said Kay. “There have been no issues that have really resonated with significant numbers of Ontarians.”

Although he acknowledged that the typically important issues of health care and unemployment have retained their focus, similar party platforms have led to a fairly consistent voter distribution.

“There isn’t a great deal to differentiate the parties on any of those issues,” Kay explained.

“And as a result the notion that those issues are likely to cause significant numbers of Ontarians to move in one direction or another isn’t very great.”

The Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion and Policy, better known as LISPOP, an organization which Kay is a board member of, is anticipating a minority Liberal government. It projects a distribution of 47 Liberal seats, 39 for the Conservatives and 21 for the NDP.

This prediction aligns with the past month’s polling trends.

“The public opinion polls, and that’s something I sort of follow very closely … have hardly changed at all, at least through the month of September when the campaign has more or less been on,” Kay said.

One area which has been a source of contention between parties is education, particularly in regards to tuition.

The Liberal platform outlines a 30 per cent tuition cut, while the NDP plan focuses on a two year freeze of tuition fees.

“One would think logic suggests university students votes are at play because of those issues, but younger people just don’t vote in the same proportions,” Kay commented.

“If I was a student I’d certainly be paying attention to that issue.”

Provided they are able to display proper documentation, Laurier students who live in residence will be able to vote on Oct. 6 in the Concourse.

Other polling stations around WLU include St. Michael’s Church at University Avenue and Hemlock Street, and MacGregor Public School on Central Street in Uptown Waterloo.

Any questions about voting and election day can be directed to Elections Ontario or the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union.