2018-2022: The term Council didn’t listen

What led to a sub 30% voter turnout in Milton's municipal elections? At some point the impression council stopped listening.

By Laura Steiner

I’ve been struggling to understand why 71% of eligible voters didn’t vote in this municipal election.  The only thing that makes sense is that at some point, before anyone realized it, Council collectively stopped listening.

It goes back to the 2018 election marked the first for new ward realignment.  A consultant outlined three options to accommodate 4 new council seats.  The recommended option was one that saw council grow to 13 to balance future.  The one they chose saw council cut to four wards, with each ward now represented by 1 local councillor, and 1 Regional & Local Councillor.  You’re already setting an agenda where you tell future residents, their votes don’t count as much as those who live in the community, so why should they get out and vote?

Consistently Milton residents have talked about the historic downtown, as a source of pride, its revitalization a source of constant discussion about how best to implement it.  Heritage Milton going from a citizen-led committee to an “ad hoc” committee advising the Town of Milton.  Heritage, and the downtown came up at all-candidates meetings given by the DBIA, and Destination Campbellville this election.  The Town isn’t listening to what residents want.

Developments are subjected to public meetings under the planning act; they serve as a forum for residents to speak on how developments will affect their area.  I remember sitting at the press table during one about the Durante development located on the northwest corner of Bronte St and Main St. West.  The speakers, mostly residents had carefully prepared speeches full of reasonable arguments about how these towers might be the wrong height.  One resident even questioned the wind speed through there because of the elevated CN track.  They did not argue against development, only that this might be the wrong kind of development for that area.  And it’s been approved. It was as if residents spoke up, but nobody listened.

When elected officials don’t listen, then residents get angry and stop caring.  It leads to disengagement in the entire process, which is bad for everyone because it leads to fear, and divisions. My advice to the new council? Start listening again, because that’s how you begin to improve voter turnout.