Why Vote?

By Gigi Ciarlandini

It’s a fresh new day in Toronto, in a post election world. As nobody could have predicted, on Monday, October 24th, John Tory was re-elected and will serve Toronto for another four years. I’m sure that this comes as a shocker to everyone reading this article. 

John Tory found himself opposing a very particular set of opponents on Monday. A Colombian environmentalist and urbanist, self-described as a dreamer, and a field of other mostly unknown candidates. The dreamer, Gil Penalosa, was the only candidate who stood a participating chance (Not even a fighting chance) over Tory. His appeal was hard to find for many Torontonians considering his plans which included scrapping Billy Bishop Airport, combined with low name recognition throughout the city. The third place finisher, Chloe Marie Brown, scoring just over 30,000 votes, quite frankly didn’t even have an online presence. In a city as influential, diverse and important as Toronto, why were our citizens confronted with one possible choice for mayor?

Questions like these had posed further questions outside the York South Weston voting location on Falstaff Avenue. “So why vote when you know the outcome months before the day of an election? Why utilize my civic duty when it won’t end up mattering?”

As much as one can reason through such arguments, we set a dangerous precedent through this cynical, albeit logical way of thinking. Toronto proper, a city of 3 million people, has 3 million different unique opinions and circumstances. Each of these individual ballots represent the interests of one to together create the results for all of us. Voting is dependent on those who have the power to vote. It’s the entire nature of the democratic exercise itself. This is where the subscription to cynicism feeds into the eventual results that some fear. This year, the majority of Torontonians chose not to exercise their right to vote. A mere 29 percent voter turnout was recorded at the polls on Monday. No municipal election has returned lower results in Toronto’s history.  In a city as important as ours, only three of every ten eligible voters cast a ballot. Pair this dismal turnout with very few options, and you get minimal enthusiasm for our election, and minimal incentive for new candidates to run in the next election. One can not expect change when they are not willing to be part of the change itself. 

In the case of York South Weston, Toronto’s ward 5, each vote made a major difference. Incumbent Frances Nunziata, holding her position since 1988, held on by a minimal margin of 65 votes against progressive candidate Chiara Padovani. One floor of an apartment building, one changed the next four years of legislature within the borders of the 401, west to the Humber river and down all the way to Dundas Street. With greater than a 29 percent turnout, York South Weston may have seen a different set of results this morning. Each vote, even in seemingly uncompetitive elections, has the power to make a difference. In order to bring new candidates to the main stage in future elections, that people can feel confident voting for, we must demonstrate our ability to turn out to vote.

After all, your choice lies with you, and your choices determine the fate of the rest of us.