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Ontarians Should Complain Less and Vote More

by: Miheret Damcha

If you chose not to vote in the 2022 Ontario provincial election, I don’t want to hear you complain. I don’t want to hear about rent prices going up when you could have had a say on June 2, 2022. Low voter turnout is an issue that damages our sense of democracy, while delegitimizing the government that is voted in.

Why Voting Matters

In the past, Ontario has had low voter turnout, but this one was the lowest. The province was able to get a measly 43.5% of the eligible voters to the ballot. This is problematic for several reasons.  For one, the low voter turnout shows how disengaged people have gotten from their government. If people cared about government and the policies it implements, more voters should have showed up. For instance, the Ford government rolled back rent control policies for new buildings which meant unaffordable rent prices for many people.

Speaking of civic engagement, voting is one way to check the powers of government. Elections give you a say on who gets to be in power. How are we keeping politicians in check when no one shows up to vote? History shows that higher turnouts are bad for incumbents which shows that votes can speak to power. You can see this in the 2015 federal election, which had 68% going to the polls, to unseat the Conservatives.

Democracy Woes

Democracy advocates are saying that low voter turnouts harm our democracy. The non-profit Democracy Watch states that the low voter turnout is a sign of a crisis. The low voter turnout is an indicator that shows that the government is not truly representative of the province. If only half the province shows up to vote, the results will only reflect the needs of those voters. This leaves marginalized groups that are not able to vote, including the homeless population unable to have their say. If democracy is based on the majority, the low voter turnout is the antithesis of the concept.

Numbers Don’t Lie

Looking at those numbers, I can see why there are some people who have no problem with the low voter turnout. For example, Premier Ford boldly claimed that the province chose a clear winner. Despite losing the popular vote, the Progressive Conservatives did win a majority government. But the other parties did get 60% of the vote, which should make people wonder the validity of Ford’s statement.

The Other Side

More should be done to get voters to the polls. Fraser Institute argues that political parties should do more to mobilize more voters. The think tank claims that the problem lies with the parties, not the electoral system. While political parties should have better platforms to mobilize voters, you can’t ignore the numbers. It is understandable why people would feel disfranchised to vote when the winning party has less votes than the other three combined. Why should they vote when the results won’t match with who actually wins. Some type of electoral reform is needed to make sure all votes matter.

Simple Issues Require Simple Solutions

There should be more done to bring voters to the ballots. The Ontario government should create informational campaigns to educate the public on how to vote and who is eligible to do so. Many young adults don’t vote because they believe that they are not registered. Homeless individuals also are eligible to vote, but have no permanent address, so it’s harder for them to vote. Informational Campaigns could help educate the two groups about their eligibility, to improve voter turn outs.

2026 Hopes

Low voter turn outs hurts our democracy, delegitimizes the winning governing party, and impacts the greater public through the policies that is enacted. Ontarians are capable of stepping up. It is time we do just that and get our voices heard. In 2026, I hope to see everyone eligible take the chance to become a catalyst for change.

Where is the ‘Safe’ in the Safe Third Country Agreement?

By: Mariana Guevara Hernandez

Canada is known to be a refugee ‘friendly’ country: in 2023 (Jan – Oct), 112,780 asylum claimants were processed. However, Canada is not as ‘friendly’ towards refugee seekers who have first arrived in the U.S. This is due to an agreement, known as the Safe Third Country Agreement, between the U.S and Canada, which requires the refugee seeker to make their claim in the first ‘safe’ country they arrive at. 

However, not every asylum seeker wishes to stay in the U.S.A. for different political, economic, and social reasons. This agreement has only pushed asylum seekers to risk their lives trying to cross the U.S.–Canada border through irregular passing rather than staying in the U.S.

Instead of seeing refugees risk their lives trying to cross the border and forcing them to live in a place they do not feel comfortable in, the Canadian government should remove the Safe Third Country Agreement.

The Safe Third Country Agreement was signed between Canada and the U.S. in 2002 to manage access to the refugee system better and regulate the crossings at their shared land border. This agreement states that the refugees must ask for protection in the first country they arrive at, with some exceptions. Currently, Canada defines the U.S. as a ‘safe’ country. Therefore, if refugees arrive first in the U.S., they are forced to make their claim there and may no longer do it in Canada.

The original agreement stated that refugees would be rejected at official port crossings. This created a loophole where refugee seekers started crossing through unofficial ports of entry such as Roxham Road, Québec. In March 2023, this loophole was amended, and the agreement now covers the whole land border.

The Roxham Road case is often used as an example of why the agreement should be upheld. Before the amendment, the province of Québec saw an increase in the number of refugees they received. In 2022, 64% of asylum claims were made in Québec, which strained the education, housing and social systems. People claim that without the agreement, this would happen again, and refugees wouldn’t have a good quality of life.

However, this only happened because of the loophole in the agreement. If it were to be removed, the refugee intake would not concentrate on just a port of entry, but it would be distributed through the whole land border, and an official port of entry would be able to handle this.

The reality is that the irregular crossings have not been stopped; in 2023, 22,316 asylum claims were made by irregular crossers. What has changed is that refugees have chosen to cross through more dangerous parts of the border, willing to risk their lives. Like the story of Seidu Mohammed, who, fearing deportation in the U.S., almost froze to death and had to have his fingers amputated due to the frostbite he suffered once he managed to cross the border. Without the agreement, maybe Seidu would still have his fingers today.

Furthermore, the situation in the U.S. has clearly changed over the years. There has been a rise in polarization and xenophobia over the years. Their immigration policies have also changed, and the way that the U.S. has been seen to deal with immigrants is less than ideal. With the news breaking of the poor conditions of their detention centers, holding children in cages, mass deportation and the separation of families, it is understandable how asylum seekers would not longer feel safe there.  Yet, Canada keeps turning a blind eye.

As stated by the general secretary of Amnesty International Canada, the agreement endangers asylum seekers and puts them and their rights at risk.

People should not need to risk their lives just because it was ‘easier’ for them to arrive in the U.S. Asylum seekers should be able to choose where to start their new lives after uprooting their previous ones. They should feel safe in the new country and not have to decide to keep risking their lives because they arrived in ‘the wrong country.’ Canada should show its support for refugees by removing the Safe Third Country Agreement.

Addressing climate change through A Carbon Tax

By Abdi Ayana

The evidence is irrefutable: the earth has warmed during the industrial era. Unless we act immediately to reduce emissions, we will face the worst consequences of climate change caused by carbon emissions. And the most effective and efficient tool to mitigate carbon emissions is a carbon tax, which is a charge placed on greenhouse gas pollution mainly from burning fossil fuels.

Canada: One of the Worst Polluters

Canada’s National Observer asserts that earth’s average surface temperature has risen by about 1.0°C since 1880 and this warming is largely caused by human activities. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased from about 280 parts per million in 1880 to 410 ppm in 2019. Carbon dioxide, the most dominant greenhouse gas is produced by the burning of fossil fuels, industrial production, and land use change. Globally, almost 80% of greenhouse gas emissions from human sources come from the burning of fossil fuels and industrial processes. Activities that contribute to emissions include: driving vehicles, electricity production, heating and cooling of buildings, operation of appliances and equipment, production and transportation of goods, and provision of services and transportation for communities.

Canada is one of the top ten global emitters of climate pollution. In 2021, about 28% of Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions came from the oil and gas sector, 22% from transport, 13% from buildings and 11% from the heavy industry sector. As a result, the analysis by U.K.-based Carbon Brief studies cumulative emissions since 1850 says Canada is responsible for 2.6 percent of the world’s total carbon emissions and as a result bears greater responsibility to align itself with a climate-safe future. Temperature has increased in all regions of Canada and in the surrounding oceans. Since 1948, when nation-wide records became available, Canada’s annual average temperature over land has warmed by a best estimate of 1.7°C. As a result, Canada is warming at more than twice the global rate and the Canadian Arctic is warming at about three times the global rate.  

Impact of Climate Change

Greenhouse gases from human activities are the most significant driver of observed climate change which in turn is having impacts on the environment, health and the economy.

Environmental Impact

  • Average annual temperatures are expected to increase
  • Snow, sea ice and glacier coverage will decrease resulting in rising sea levels and increased coastal flooding
  • Heat waves are likely to increase in frequency and severity, resulting in higher risks of forest fires
  • Many wildlife species will have difficulty adapting to a warmer climate and will likely be subject to greater stress from diseases and invasive species

Health Impact

Economic Impact

  • Agriculture, forestry, tourism and recreation may be affected by changing weather patterns
  • Human health impacts will place additional economic stress on health and social support systems
  • Damage to infrastructure such as roads and bridges caused by extreme weather

The Solution: A Carbon Tax

A carbon tax is the most efficient and powerful method of combating global warming and reducing air pollution, according to a new report from the International Monetary Fund. Under a carbon tax, the government sets a price that emitters must pay for each ton of greenhouse gas they emit. Businesses and consumers will take steps, such as switching fuels or adopting new technologies, to reduce their emissions to avoid paying the tax.

Taxes on greenhouse gases come in two broad forms as explained by C2ES:

  1. an emissions tax: based on the quantity an entity produces
  2. a tax on goods or services: a carbon tax on gasoline

This has already proven to be a success in British Colombia where a carbon tax was introduced in 2008. Analyses suggest that the policy has reduced emissions by up to 15%. Meanwhile, provincial real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by more than 17% from 2007 to 2015 outpacing the rest of Canada. Furthermore, per-capita gasoline demand dropped by 15% between 2007 and 2014.

Climate change is here to stay and its impacts are unavoidable. A carbon tax is proving to be the most powerful tool in the fight against climate change and the government must ensure it is comprehensive across Canada to be even more effective.