Politics should be 2018 focal point given importance of elections

The beginning of a new year provides a great signpost for reflection and for anticipation. On many fronts, it appears 2018 is going to be filled with intrigue.

Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un are ratcheting their nuclear rhetoric just before the world turns its attention to the Korean peninsula for the spectacle of next month’s Olympic Winter Games, a number of major international trade deals are about to be renegotiated, and the much-discussed roll out of legal marijuana in Canada draws nearer. The Buffalo Bills are even primed to play playoff football. Of course, there’s also those stories no one could predict, like 2017’s high-water crises or the stream of allegations that turned Hollywood and America’s celebrity world on its ear.

With all that ahead, it may be important to stress two dates in the coming year that are worthy of remembering and putting some effort into — June 7 and Oct. 22. On those days, Ontario residents will be able to go to the polls to choose the provincial and municipal decision makers that greatly influence their lives for the next four years.

Often, not enough people engage themselves in the electoral process and, typically, voter turnout is low. Some may point out that’s a commentary on disenfranchisement with the system they’re presented with or the lack of viable choices in candidates. They may have a valid point, but in a democratic society, change comes from within and ballots are the public’s most direct method to influence change.

Provincially, the economy is shaping up to be one of the most important issues. Will the Liberals’ gambit to raise the minimum wage earlier this week be seen as a step toward fairness, or will it be considered a job killer? Which of the three parties has the best plan to counter aggressive business tax reform recently instituted in the United States? And, what of that pesky hydro file? Will the government’s promised 25-per-cent rate cut put money back into taxpayers’ pockets, or is it going to saddle generations with unwanted debt bills? Can Ontario afford to spend on its crumbling infrastructure? Can it afford not to? Each of those questions will have a direct impact on most people who can vote.

Beyond that, the next provincial government is likely going to be tasked with the most major reforms in needed services like health care and education in well over a decade.

The municipal election is also nothing to sneeze at. Local politicians now handle multi-million dollar budgets and they’re the ones whose decisions hit closest to home for many.

They decide which roads to fix and who gets winter maintenance at what time. They also set property tax rates, fees for utilities, and budgets for municipal services like libraries, halls, and recreation centres. The successful candidates in this race are also the ones rubber stamping bylaws dealing with new developments, land uses, and noise.

There’s a popular refrain that people “just aren’t into politics.” Perhaps they have good reason. If anything, however, this is the year to buck that trend. A little interest and involvement leading up to these elections could make the next four years much easier to bear. It’s a worthwhile pursuit.

-Adam Bramburger