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Hot Topics Mastering the municipal election

David SiegelIt’s too bad more people don’t pay attention to municipal elections, David Siegel says. They’re the ones that hit closest to home.Siegel is a Brock Political Science professor and director of the Niagara Community Observatory. Even though voter turnout in municipal elections is low and getting lower, he said, their issues most impact our day-to-day lives. Candidates, freed from the party lines that bind their provincial and federal counterparts, can speak from the heart.Siegel has been quoted in the media lately about the Oct. 25 municipal election. He shared some of his thoughts with The Brock News.Are we getting better or worse at voting in municipal elections?We’re getting worse in terms of voter turnout, but we’re getting worse at all three levels of government. We’re also getting worse in terms of participation in political activities. For whatever reason, people aren’t participating in politics as much as they were a generation ago. A lot of people have speculated about why that’s the case but I don’t think there’s a clear answer.What issues matter to people in municipal elections?Taxes certainly matter to people. Beyond that, it depends on the individual municipality. In this election in the Town of Lincoln, the issue is what’s going to happen to the fairgrounds. In Niagara-on-the-Lake, there’s lot of interest around the jet boat pier. Every municipality has a different issue, which is why it’s never boring.What determines who people vote for locally?One of the problems in municipal elections is there are lot of elections going on at same time. People have to keep track of a lot of names. Federally or provincially, you’re voting for the party that you like. In municipal elections, in St. Catharines, for example, you’re voting for six regional councillors, mayor of St. Catharines, two local councillors and people running for school board. To make it more confusing, you’re probably seeing lawn signs for people you’ll never vote for. They’re in a different ward, or they’re running for a different school board than the one you support. You see lot of names you’ll never see on your ballot. So it can be very confusing for a voter.Do you have any predictions for Toronto mayoral race?I don’t like to predict elections because you never know what’s going to happen. I think a lot of people are surprised with Rob Ford’s showing. He’s tapped into a certain vein – people who feel left out, people who feel alienated. There is no incumbent in this particular election. Ford has done a very good job of getting himself known in community and that’s part of the struggle any politician has. He’s quite flamboyant. He’s running against people much more staid and not nearly as flamboyant. He’s done a number of things right and it looks like he’s the frontrunner.What has he done right?He has a very simple message that taxes are too high and they – whoever “they” is – are not listening to us, whoever “us” is. Other people have talked about the need for roads or the need for bike lanes or the need for a tunnel. Other people have been all over the place. Ford has a message and he pushes that message.Local election links:Niagara RegionSt. CatharinesThoroldNiagara FallsNiagara-on-the-Lake“Hot Topics” is a segment where Brock experts comment on current events in their areas of expertise. To suggest a Hot Topics item, contact [email protected] read more