Voter turnout reaches historic lows in 2022 Ontario municipal election

Nov 11, 2022 | GTA News, News

Weeks after the Oct. 24 municipal election, numbers of voter participation have started to roll in and the number is lower than in previous elections.

Preliminary numbers from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) show Ontario’s overall voter turnout for the 2022 municipal election at 36.3 per cent turnout across 301 of the 444 municipalities that held local elections.

Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, points out that this year, voters seemed unsure and unenthusiastic regarding who to vote for.

“There is less deference to authority by the public and more distrust about politics and politicians,” Wiseman said. “Turnout goes up when there is an appetite for change like the 2015 federal election and when races are competitive and no incumbent such as Toronto mayoral election in 2014.”

Turnout for municipal elections has historically been lower than the numbers seen in provincial and federal elections but has stayed relatively within the same numbers.

Peel Region saw historically low numbers last month. Voter turnout in Mississauga was 21.8 per cent and 24.5 per cent in Brampton.

Law student and Brampton native Kev-Anna Williams said she didn’t vote in this year’s election, as she feels the issues she cares about are more directed to federal concerns.

Brampton resident, Kev-Anna Williams poses for the camera

Brampton resident, Kev-Anna Williams, 20, said she didn’t vote in this year's municipal election because she got caught up in school and she felt like she isn't engaged on locally issues Photo credit: Kev-Anna Williams

“I know a lot of my friends who didn’t vote,” she said. “Younger people tend not to vote as frequently as older people and I think that’s probably because people my age may feel they really don’t have very much at stake in a municipal campaign.”

When asked about the election, Williams told Humber News it came as a surprise to her.

“If I’m being completely honest, I forgot about the election,” Williams said. “With life and school it wasn’t even on my mind until election day and by that time I had no information about any of the candidates that I didn’t bother with voting.”

Lack of awareness about voting seems to be increasing among many young post-secondary students.

College and university students have been encouraging students to vote in these elections by advertising and promoting students to come to campus to vote at all levels of government elections.

Christopher Waddell, a professor emeritus of journalism at Carleton University and a former CBC Parliamentary Bureau Chief, told Humber News it’s more difficult for municipal candidates to receive votes.

“Most municipal campaigns are not party related, they’re just campaigns of an individual person running,” he said. “It may be hard for candidates to keep themselves organized, have enough supporters to be able to go over and do things like try to set up and try to do campaigns on university or college attendees.”

Waddell also said voting is now very accessible across Canada. Voters can cast a ballot before election day through a call, a text, or by mail-in ballots, as well as online.

Ontario has allowed internet voting in municipal elections for almost two decades, and nearly four million people were eligible to cast ballots online in last month’s elections but didn’t.

“There are more and more opportunities for people to vote. So it’s not like, ‘Oh, I wanted to vote today, but, you know, I got tied up. I had to walk my dog,’ people seemed to be taking advantage of that,” Waddell said.

“Polls are going up. But that doesn’t mean that the overall number of people that are voting is going up,” he said.