This year will Ontario will have two important elections: a provincial election in June, and a municipal election in October. We have the opportunity to bring our issues, our concerns and our comments to candidates ahead of these elections, to make sure the importance of water is recognized in their campaigns.
We must be prepared for change: expect new faces will appear in the legislature; possibly we’ll see new ministers, new aides, new deputies, and even perhaps a new government in power. Water agencies and associations will once again need to quickly establish relations with Queen’s Park, make or renew contacts, put ourselves in the forefront as advocates to be engaged when the next government comes to legislation and policy-making.
We face the possibility similar upheavals in the municipal sector: new councillors, new mayors, new directions. Both lower-tier and regional governments will be affected. And even when incumbents are returned, we should expect changes in position, in responsibilities and committee appointments.
Regardless of who gets elected, we need to be ready to help: to educate, inform and guide them and their committees. We need to remind returning politicians about their responsibilities and liabilities in the water sector, and that they can always turn to the OMWA for assistance and guidance.
For newcomers, we need to make sure water management, water legislation and related issues don’t get buried in all they need to learn and absorb. We must ensure water remains on their political radar not just as they take office, but over the next four years of their term. We will have to educate them in what we do, how we can help, and explain why they should be members.
Water authorities, municipal and utility staff should be starting now to assemble their educational materials, to prepare seminars and workshops, update websites, and to plan for facility tours for new councils. These can also help candidates prepare themselves and be able to answer questions on the stump about their water utilities and services. Be prepared to offer advice and support for those candidates who are dedicated enough to come looking for information before the election.
And most of all, encourage both candidates and council members to participate in, and join, external organizations like OMWA, because together we have a stronger voice when we sit down with the province.
Elections can be stressful, but they can also be opportunities to bring our message to the forefront of new governments.
One Water: One People; we are all in this together!
President, Ontario Municipal Water Association