Municipal Voting Checklist: Where to Find Information

Before the election period, make sure you’re on the list of voters.

1. Municipal government responsibilities

The powers of municipal governments are determined by provincial governments. For example, municipal governments in Ontario are responsible for providing many of the services with their boundaries that you rely on daily, such as:

  • Airports
  • Ambulance
  • Animal Control and By-law Enforcement
  • Arts and Culture
  • Child Care
  • Economic Development
  • Fire Services
  • Garbage Collection and Recycling
  • Electric Utilities
  • Library Services
  • Long Term Care and Senior Housing
  • Local Road Maintenance
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Public Transit
  • Planning New Community Developments and Enhancing Existing Neighbourhoods
  • Police Services
  • Property Assessment
  • Provincial Offences Administration
  • Public Health
  • Side Walks
  • Snow Removal
  • Social Services
  • Social Housing
  • Storm Sewers
  • Tax Collection
  • Water and Sewage

It may be difficult to measure candidates for your city against all these issues, so consider picking 3 issues that matter most to you, or most to your area and comparing candidates’ platforms against those.

2. Municipal candidate platform checklist

The next step is to read about the candidates and their platforms and weigh them against questions such as:

  • Do they have a website?
  • What are their priorities for the community?
  • How much detail does their platform include about the issues and their priorities? Are they specific or vague about what they want to accomplish?

Members of council

  • Do their priorities align more with their own interests or those of others?
  • Do their priorities align more with the underprivileged or the privileged?
  • Are they more focused on cutting costs or providing social services?
  • Do they address the root causes or the symptoms of issues such as homelessness and affordable housing?
  • Do they have a website that includes their thoughts on
  • Do they support defunding the police, or increasing police funding?
  • Do they acknowledge or reject the existence of climate change?
  • Do they consider access to green spaces, walkability and services to be a right or a privilege?
  • Are they aware of what services fall under municipal responsibility vs provincial and federal?

School board trustees

  • Do they have experience working in schools?
  • Do they know what students and teachers actually need?
  • Do they acknowledge current levels of provincial education funding?

3. Candidate background check

Candidates are politicians and thus can be performative – it’s on us to hold them accountable to what they say they care about. It’s easy for them to talk the talk, it’s a lot harder for them to walk the walk.

Once you’ve narrowed down the list of candidates to the ones whose platforms most align with your priorities, it’s time to do some searching to find out how these candidates act.

Here are some ideas of where to look:

What are they posting about on social media?

Find the candidate’s campaign and personal social media profiles and see what sort of things they’re sharing and what their takes are on those topics. Then search their name to see what others have been saying about them.

What has been published about them?

What politicians/parties have they donated to?

What candidates and parties, if any, they have supported in past elections:

Federal political donations

Here’s how to search the database:

Provincial political donations

Here are the political contribution lookup tools for each province:

What businesses and organizations are they part of?

Businesses and organizations they may be a part of or have an ownership stake in that they have not disclosed:

What does the community think?

Check or ask about the candidate in your community’s subreddit or Facebook group(s) to hear their stories and experience with the candidate.

Incumbents background check

How did they vote while on council?

For incumbents who have been on council and looking to get re-elected, the best source of information are their voting records which show how they voted on specific motions brought before council.

If council’s voting records are not easily accessible in your municipality, you can add your community to Open Council and help record their votes to make them publicly available on this website. Don’t worry, it’s pretty easy to do.

How did they conduct themselves while on council?

Watch council meetings and review meeting minutes on the municipality’s CivicWeb portal eg.

For more sources of information, see Open Council’s Candidate Research Process

Who donated to their previous campaign(s)?

Find their donors in the previous election by searching the municipality’s website for: “Financial Statement – Auditor’s Report Candidate – Form 4“.

These statements, sworn to be accurate by each candidate who stood for election, disclose names, home addresses, the date of the contribution and total contributions of all individuals who contributed $100 or more to the campaign. In Ontario, each individual is legally bound to contribute no more than $1,200 to any municipal candidate, and no more than $5,000 to all candidates in a municipal election.

Follow the money. Who are their donors and what might they want the candidate, if elected, to accomplish for them?

There may not be a perfect option

You may find that none of the candidates perfectly align with your views.

Voting is like taking public transit vs. buying a car for your own personal use. You’re not looking for the “perfect” choice that will take you exactly where you want to go, and be a reflection of your values and personality.

You make the choice that gets you closest to where you want to be. It won’t be perfect, but it’ll be the best option available.

If you’re waiting for candidates that inspire you or are “perfect” choices, you might be waiting a very long time to cast a ballot. And in the mean time, you’re leaving the decision-making up to other people for whom “good enough” is good enough.

While voting for the least worst candidate might feel hopeless, no vote is the same as a vote for the person you like least.

You always have a voice, and every vote does matter.

Do you follow municipal politics?

If you have done some or all of this research into your local candidates or members of council, we would greatly appreciate it if you shared it with us so we can add it to this site for other members of your community to see so they don't have to reinvent the wheel. You can send us files, images and text here. Thank you!

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