Two weeks ago, I became concerned at the increasing number of cars speeding up the road I live on, so I emailed my local councillor. Within a day, her staff had responded. Within a week, there was a traffic survey being conducted on my street.
The councillor in question was voted in by me four years ago, and is paid by me, through my taxes. This is the person who I am going to call about snow removal, playground safety, fire and police protection, animal control -and more. Plus, as a member of council, this person will be voting on issues that affect families in the entire region- like whether Dartmouth should be called Halifax, whether Halifax should have high rises on every downtown corner, and how we can widen the Hammonds Plains Road.
Do I care who gets this job? You bet I do!
On October 15th, 2016 there’s a municipal election for the entire Halifax Regional Municipality. Online voting starts at 8:00 am on Tuesday the 4th. Here are 10 things you should know about the upcoming municipal election.
1. Know Halifax Regional Council
Halifax Regional Council is comprised of the Mayor and 16 Councillors. A City Councillor (formerly called an Alderman) represents the concerns of his or her district in Municipal matters such as transit, recreation, fire, police, civic events and waste management. Councillors also sit on boards, committees and commissions, and community councils, voting on issues that affect the entire municipality. The job is a paid position.
2. Know Your Municipality
Do you know what district you are in? Following a shake-up in 2012, the former regional districts became fewer, and much bigger. Currently, there are 16 polling districts in Halifax. The complete list of candidates is listed online at Halifax.ca. Click here to see who is running in your district. (Then, why not check their website to see what they stand for?)
3. Acclaimed Candidates
Some candidates ran uncontested and so they already have the job. (Nice, eh?) The acclaimed candidates for 2016 Halifax Regional Council are: Bill Karsten (District 3), Lorelei Nicoll (District 4) and Steve Craig (District 15), Tim Outhit (District 16)
4. The School Board Election
As well as voting for council, you will choose your regional representatives for The Halifax Regional School Board. Note that School Board districts are different from the municipal districts. There are only 8. Each school board district is made up of two municipal districts. You can see the districts here.
If you are from the African Nova Scotian community, or are the parent or Guardian of a student that identifies as African Nova Scotian, you can ask for a ballot to vote for the African Nova Scotian Representative for the School Board. Likewise, if you are a Canadian French language speaker who received your own education in French, or whose other children are currently in a French-first program, you can vote for a Representative for the CASP (Conseil Scolaire Acadien Provincial). Note that French-first does not mean french immersion.
5. Residency Requirements
To be eligible to vote in this election, you must be 18 years of age. You must be resident in the Province for six months before the election, and be a resident of Halifax Regional Municipality on the day before the election. You must also be a Canadian Citizen. This is a sticking point for some candidates, like Councillor Waye Mason, who, along with Mayor Mike Savage, believes that Permanent Residents of Canada should be able to vote in municipal elections in Halifax.
6. How to Vote
Online or by Phone: By the time you’re reading this, many people may have already voted- and you can too! From Tuesday, October 4th at 8:00 am until October 13th at 7:00 pm, you can vote in advance electronically or by telephone, by using the PIN on your voting card, which you should have received in the mail.
Advance Polls: On Saturday, October 8th and Tuesday, October 11th, you can vote at an advance poll. Click here to find your advance polling station
On Election Day: Head to your polling station on Saturday, October 15th between 8:00 am and 7:00 pm. Click here to find your polling station. By the way, if you need a drive to the polling station, just contact any candidate. Most will have a team of drivers on hand to help you get to the polls.
7. I Didn’t Get a Voter Card
If you are on the voter’s list, you will have received a voter card in the mail. To vote online, you need this card, which contains a a unique PIN number. You can click here to check if you are on the voter list or call HRM’s Voter Hotline at (902) 490-8683. If you forget the card, or do not have a card on the day of the election, you can swear an Oath of Qualification that you meet the residency requirements to be a voter. Under new regulations, you do not need ID to vote!
8. Supporting Your Candidate
Do you want to get involved? Many candidates will be seeking practical support leading up to the October 15th election. Some candidates may still be looking for support on election day: scrutineering, or running voters to the polls! Or, if you really believe in a candidate, you can take a sign on your lawn.
9. If you Live in an Apartment Building
Did you hear a knock on your door? Under the municipal Elections Act, a candidate or candidate’s representative may enter any apartment building or other multiple residence during reasonable hours for the purpose of campaigning. It’s against the law for your landlord or superintendent to obstruct this process!
If you are in a building and you want to take a sign, the elections act states that “no landlord or person acting on the landlord’s behalf may prohibit a tenant from displaying election advertising posters on the premises leased by the tenant”. They can however, control common areas and have a say in the size of your sign. This is why you might see some window signs on apartment buildings.
10. If you Live in the North End of Halifax
You may be saying “Um…what? I just voted!”. Yes, you did, but that was a Provincial by-election in the Provincial riding of Halifax-Needham. That was because NDP Maureen MacDonald stepped down as MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly). In her place, you elected NDP Lisa Roberts, who won by a landslide. But that’s Provincial politics, not city politics, so now we’re asking you to forget it ever happened. (In fact, the voter turnout at that election indicates most of you forgot anyway!). Nope, the October 15th election is not a repeat. It’s new, it’s local…and it’s about people, not parties!
Another set of blurred lines in the North End of Halifax that two unsuccessful candidates from previous Federal and Provinical elections are having a stab at the Municipal game. District 8 Candidate Irvine Carvery is still warm from the 2015 federal election, while in the same district, Chris Poole is a Liberal who ran against NDP Maureen MacDonald Provincially in 2013. There are actually 7 candidates in this district, but our money is on Lindell Smith, who has both youth and experience on his side.
So Get Out There and Vote!
Voter turnout is traditionally low in local elections. Does this mean that families don’t care? I don’t think so. I think that it’s just a case of people not knowing when to vote, or possibly feeling under-informed; not knowing the facts.
The most important thing is that families DO get out and vote. Next time you have a problem, wouldn’t it be nice to know that the person on the end of the email was someone who you elected?
Get Involved. Have your say. Vote today!