Everytime there is an election I can’t help but stop and feel grateful for those who fought for my right to vote, and the upcoming provincial election has not been an exception. On June 7th Ontarians will head to the polls for the provincial election and I am so grateful I will be able to cast my vote.
It was a long road for many to gain the right to vote. In 1916, Manitoba became the first province to allow some women the right to vote, but it wouldn’t be until 1960 that all women in Canada had that same right. There were restrictions on many different groups of people including Asian-Canadians and Indigenous peoples until that time.
Without access to the vote, many of these groups’ needs were ignored by the Canadian government. Until women and people of colour gained the right to vote, there was no incentive for candidates to even begin to consider what their unique needs might be. Now that we do have the right to vote, it is our responsibility to hold candidates accountable.
I remember turning 18 and being so excited that I could finally vote. However, since I turned 18, I can hardly recall an election or campaign that truly prioritized issues facing women and other marginalized communities. This year, there has finally been focus on a major issues facing women and those living in poverty - free daycare. This is an incredibly important issue that affects women in a big way, and as someone who hopes to have children, I think about often. When families can’t afford daycare, more often than not it is the mother who stays home with the children and puts her career on hold. As was pointed out in this article published by The Huffington Post, “child care costs are a huge barrier to women's paid workforce participation… [and] the longer they're out of the workforce, the worse it gets. Yet, the more women who have paid work, the faster the economy grows”. Free daycare is an issue that affects women’s work life, their family life, and their overall ability to contribute to their communities.
If women continue to show up, vote, and engage in the electoral process I believe we can keep pushing forward issues that matter to us and to our communities.
Getting involved in your local, provincial, and federal elections is important not just to ensure that your voice is being heard, but it is important to the overall health of our democracy. The truth is, we can’t count on someone else’s vote to represent our needs - we have to get out there and vote for ourselves.
When I think about how hard the Canadian foremothers fought to give me the right to vote, I feel a responsibility to them and their legacy. I am empowered to vote to make sure my needs are heard and to make sure I am represented in all levels of government.
If you aren’t sure how to vote in the upcoming election, you can find out by clicking here.