Immigrants get involved in municipal elections

posted on September 27, 2018

By Canadian Immigrant Magazine |

Gautam Nath runs for mayor of Toronto, and other Canadian immigrants seek seats in the upcoming municipal elections
You may have had a knock at your door recently by a candidate for city councillor or school trustee or even mayor! These local politicians are looking for your vote in the upcoming municipal elections this fall in Vancouver, Toronto, Manitoba, P.E.I., and other parts of Canada.

If you’re a new citizen, are you going to vote?

It’s your right to vote, but did you know there tends to be a low turnout for city or municipal elections in Canada? Canadians tend to be less interested in municipal politics than they are in federal or provincial politics, yet municipal policies can have a large impact on your wellbeing, according to the Canadian Index of Wellbeing.

Decisions made at the municipal level can impact your day-to-day life even more than decisions at the provincial and federal level. Issues such as schools, community, recreation, jobs, culture and transportation are all affected by the decisionmakers at your local city hall.

Although permanent residents can’t vote, voting in all elections is a right and responsibility of Canadian citizens. So, if you are a new citizen, don’t delay in voting in your first election.

Getting involved in municipal elections
As a citizen, you could even consider getting more involved in Canada’s democratic process, like several Canadian immigrants who have decided to run for a seat in the municipal elections this year.

Notably, Gautam Nath, a well-known voice and volunteer in Toronto’s immigrant community, and a past RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant (2011), has launched a campaign for mayor of Canada’s biggest city.

“For the last 10 years, I have been volunteering in giving back and helping Torontonians go the extra mile, and this was reflected in being recognized by the Top 25 award in 2011. That motivated me to give more and led to my receiving the June Callwood Outstanding Achievement Award for Voluntarism in 2017 and, more recently, the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers,” says Nath.

“These milestones made me realize that my passion lies in making Canada and specifically Toronto a better place. So that led me to put in a stake for the top slot, the slot of CEO of Toronto.”

Nath comes from a corporate background, and his vision is to bring that business mindset to how the City of Toronto is run. “I have a 10 point action plan that focuses on building sustainability for Toronto, not just enabling vibrancy for today but for the next generation,” he says. “These action points bring economic vibrancy and takes our city to the next level, holding our own among the best in the world.”

Although Nath recognizes that he is not one of the main contenders in the mayoral race, he thinks running for what he believes in is important. “Yes, I am part of the tier two level, but we have to give people a choice. The top two candidates are from either a political or a bureaucratic background and we need a change so a corporate background should be considered. After all, it is the corporations that, in reality, run the world and fund it all, so having a strong experienced candidate from a corporate background could bring a difference to running the city.”

Get out and vote or volunteer
Whoever you vote for, Nath says it’s important to take part in municipal elections. “As a member of your city, it is important to vote for the ideology that you believe in, as the future direction of the city is led by its leadership. Most people are lethargic and refrain from stepping out thinking that their one vote will not make a difference, but it actually all adds up.”

And if you’re not yet a citizen, you can still get involved through volunteering, he says. “Immigrants bring skillsets that really help candidates especially as we need volunteers who care. In my campaign, more than 75 per cent of my volunteers are permanent residents who believe in my direction and want to help in making a difference,” says Nath.

Making an impact on city council
Two other RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrants are also running in municipal elections for city council seats. New politician Trish Mandewo is running in Coquitlam, B.C., while Godwin Chan, already an experienced municipal politician, is running for re-election as a city councillor for Ward 6 in the GTA.

“As a strong believer in community involvement, I want all residents to be a part of the conversation when discussing and planning our city,” says Mandewo. “I will promise to work hard on addressing issues that impact our community.”

Chan wants to continue making an impact on his local government with another term. “With proven results working with diverse parties to turn visions into actions on the important projects such as the Yonge Subway Extension this term, I believe I deserve to be re-elected as your strong voice on council to get things done and continue championing issues that matter to residents in Ward 6.”

Like Nath, Chan encourages all citizens to just get out and vote. “In my view, voting in municipal elections is important as local governments handle daily needs for citizens. For instance, municipalities are responsible for providing clean drinking water, keeping roads in good repair, running public transit, maintaining recreational facilities such as parks and sports fields, shoveling snow in the winter, delivering protection services like police, fire and emergency services,” he says.

“Compared with federal and provincial elections, voter turnouts for the municipal elections have been low. It is hoped that voters would realize that it is important to have their say on their preferred candidate to deliver an effective and efficient local government.”

Chan adds: “It is my belief that strong local communities make a strong Canada.”

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