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Labour Views: Participating in Elections

Oct 12, 2022

The City of Yellowknife municipal election takes place next week, though many residents have already started submitting their ballots via mail. In December, eight NWT hamlets will be holding elections for mayors and councilors.

Candidates who get elected get to make decisions about public spending. They determine how much money will be spent on services, infrastructure, community events, and other things that affect our quality of life.

They will get to decide what to prioritize and what to cut back on. When it comes to the public service, municipal governments are responsible for making many of the decisions that directly affect our day-to-day lives.

As a voter, you get to choose which candidates you feel are best suited to make these decisions, which is why it’s so important to get informed, and to participate.

Unions get excited about elections. Traditionally, unions get involved in politics to champion the interests and rights of workers, to support candidates who will stand up for workers and the laws that protect them, and to promote justice and equal opportunities for all.

Rallies, protests, and job actions have historically been an effective tool for influencing politicians to promise – and follow through on – improvements to labour laws that regulate things like worker safety, overtime, and equal pay.

Workers hold a huge amount of voting power, which is why some governments and businesses go to such great lengths to convince the public that unions are just “special interest groups” that don’t work for the greater good. 

In fact, unions fight hard to hold elected leaders accountable for ensuring everyone is treated fairly and has equal opportunities to succeed.

Because of the collective strength of our membership, unions have a strong voice that we can use to press politicians to keep their campaign promises, and fight against anti-worker legislation and policies.

We can also use our collective voice to remind those in power of the value of their workers. It’s our elected officials who debate and pass the budgets that determine our public sector workers’ wages and benefits.

Public sector workers – both territorial and municipal – make up a huge percentage of the NWT workforce. Those wages go right back into our local economy and help support local businesses and organizations.

As we look at rising inflation and increased costs for NWT residents across the board, it’s more important than ever to ensure that the leaders we elect are the right ones for the job; leaders who recognize the value the of the workers who will be expected to carry out the promises made on the campaign trail.

There are many ways to get involved; you can help someone with their campaign, you can sign up to work at a polling station, or you can even run for council yourself!

But casting an informed vote is something all eligible voters can and should do.

Many candidates set up websites or social media pages where they talk about their platform, experience, and why people should vote for them. These are usually public, so anyone with access to internet can go online and read them.

Local news outlets often interview candidates and publish the responses, which is another great resource for learning about a candidate.

Last but not least, many candidates still carry on the tradition of going door to door, meeting residents through forums, or by attending events. Being able to engage in person with a candidate is an excellent way to get to know them, share your own ideas, and decide if they are the right person for the job.