If young people don’t vote, ‘older generations get their way.’ Get started with this election primer.

Here's what your vote counts for in Ontario - and why you should care 

Zain Khurram
Zain Khurram, a high school student from Scarborough with a sign he created volunteering for TTCRiders at the University of Toronto Scarborough. Khurram is passionate about youth political involvement and wants to inspire young people to make their voices heard. (Jenna MacGregor/Toronto Observer) 

The Ontario provincial election is taking place on June 2. But do voters know exactly what they’re voting for before they head to the polls?

“It’s not taken seriously most of the time, and it should be, this is our future,” Zain Khurram a high-school student and first-time voter from Scarborough, said.

Khurram volunteers for transit-advocacy group, TTCriders, collecting signatures and encouraging Scarborough residents to demand better transit services from local and provincial politicians.

Despite his enthusiasm for political change, he doesn’t think this passion is reflected in the majority of his peers. 

“It’s just a lack of education, a lack of teaching the students that yes, your vote can make a difference, because many think it doesn’t change anything, that it’s already decided.”

The Ontario election system can seem complicated, and often leaves many wondering where their priorities should lie. Understanding how your vote counts can make the decision much easier. 

The electoral system in Ontario

Ontario elects members of the provincial parliament (MPPs) using the single-member plurality system, often referred to as “first-past-the-post.” The province is divided into 124 electoral districts, with six in Scarborough alone. Each of these districts has its own race and elect one member of the provincial parliament.

If you are unsure of what electoral district you are in, you can find out here.

How first-past-the-post works

On election day, your ballot will have the names of the candidates running in your district, as well as the party they belong to. The person with the most votes will then become the Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP).

Ontarians do not directly vote for the premier. Instead, it is the party with the most elected members across the electoral districts that forms the government – and that party’s leader then becomes the premier.


Riding vs. province: which matters more? 

The electoral system can cause conflicting feelings about what to prioritize when voting. Perhaps the candidate you believe is best for your district does not belong to the party you believe is best for the entire province. 

There are many outlets that can help you familiarize yourself with the different parties and their platforms, which can provide a sense of clarity as to what you would like to see both your local and provincial government achieve, if elected.

“More often than not, the party wins out,” said Larry LeDuc, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Toronto, in an email interview.  “But occasionally, an attractive local candidate may succeed in winning some votes, even if their party is unpopular.”

This means candidates belonging to smaller parties who “have some special appeal to younger voters, either because of social issues or personal qualities” could win in their riding. 

How leaders influence their parties

“I think if you are a policy-oriented person, you are best advised to vote with the party that best represents your interests,” said Livianna Tossutti, associate professor of political science at Brock University, in a phone interview.

“Because our system is so leader-dominated, both in the federal and provincial level, the party leaders really have a say in the direction the party takes in terms of its policy and, if it gets elected, its legislation,” Tossutti said. 

What does an MPP do?

Local representation, however, is also important and should be factored into your decision. According to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, MPPs ​​are “elected to represent the concerns of their constituents regarding provincial responsibilities at the Legislature and in their ridings.” 

This means that your MPP should play a large role in bettering your community by listening to your concerns, which should be taken into consideration when voting. 

A well-informed decision requires an understanding of the parties’ platforms and promises. Knowing what powers your local and provincial governments each have will make it easier to understand where your priorities lie.

Focus on what matters to you

Understanding how the government affects your area and day-to-day experience does not require a political-science degree, just a love of your community. 

Tossutti recommends focusing in on issues that you care about so as to not get overwhelmed by the large scope of political conversation.

“First think about what matters most to you, what issues do you care about, become familiar with that issue and think about what you would like to see a government implement,” Tossutti said. “Then do some research on party platforms and see what parties values and policies are most aligned with your interests.”

If you are a first-time voter, or someone who considers themselves uninterested or overwhelmed by politics, finding the resources that work for you can help the process. Information that is compacted and easily accessible can provide information that is understable and less intimidating, while still allowing you to make your own informed decisions.

“When you don’t know, or you don’t vote, that’s how the older generation get their way, they get whatever they want,” Khurram said.

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Posted: Jun 1 2022 12:10 pm
Filed under: Election FAQs News Politics Vote On Scarbz