Okay, Toronto, we’re officially ass-deep in an election season the entire world seems to be watching. The campaign period for mayoral and city council races has lasted 7 months so far, with almost 3 more to go. The mayoral front-runners will be keeping busy with a jam-packed debate schedule. Meanwhile, there are over 250 candidates running for city council across Toronto’s 44 wards. Given that we only just recovered from a whirlwind provincial election, plus recent by-elections in some ridings, many of us are probably experiencing some serious civic engagement fatigue.
But the thing is, Torontonians need to step up now more than ever. We owe it to ourselves to make informed choices on October 27th. We deserve things like decent places for our residents to live, commuting times that don’t make us want to stab our eyes out, and leaders who truly represent our diverse needs and values. And, while the mayoral race often takes centre stage, the future of our city depends upon the votes of all city council seats, only one of which will be occupied by the mayor while local councillors will hold the rest.
At Women in Toronto Politics (WiTOpoli), we’re developing an online tool called the Position Primer which we hope will make it easier for Toronto residents to make educated decisions about who should be their next city councillor. By entering their postal codes on the Position Primer website Torontonians will be able to access an easy-to-read chart comparing their ward’s council candidates. Over the next several weeks, our team will be surveying city council candidates on topics such as transportation, affordable housing, childcare, employment, public services, infrastructure, taxation, poverty and newcomers. We’re also asking candidates to identify one issue of their choosing that they feel is particularly important in their ward, and let residents know how they feel about it.
Running a campaign requires capital, and not every candidate is loaded with it. Our survey will provide an equitable opportunity for all candidates to showcase their ideas, regardless of how much they have to spend or how well-known they may be. While candidates’ usual talking points may only cover certain topics, the Position Primer will allow candidates and residents alike to consider a wide range of issues that affect our city. By creating an intuitive, one-stop resource for city council races, we hope to slather a soothing digital balm on election fatigue (which is kind of like a sunburn, only nerdier) and help residents gain confidence in their civic decisions, paving the way for a stronger and more representative voter turnout. And even after the election, Torontonians can use the Position Primer to hold councillors accountable for their platforms and keep tabs on city council.
But, of course, there’s a snag: responsive web design and killer marketing doesn’t come cheap. To that end, WiTOpoli recently launched a crowdfunding campaign to bring the Position Primer to life. Equipped with a savvy outreach strategy, our team will help the Position Primer reach every corner of the city while building key connections with community organizations in wards with the lowest 2010 voter turnout rates. Now that we’ve officially surpassed our $8,000 target, we can’t wait to put our plan into action. Any additional funds we raise before our campaign closes on August 22 will help us beef up our marketing and outreach so the Position Primer can be Torontonians’ go-to electoral information source.
As a grassroots organization, we have been pretty stoked about the support we have received thus far – the “dancing ladies” emoji has made more than a few appearances in our group emails since we launched the campaign. The excitement sparked by the Position Primer is a true testament to our city’s enduring interest in improved civic education. We hope our Position Primer will provide a unique entry point for political engagement, allowing Torontonians to reflect on their priorities for 2014 and make informed choices on election day. Help us make it happen by visiting our IndieGogo campaign and spreading the word!