Why municipal elections matter for your cost of living 

It’s not just the province or the feds. Decisions made at city hall can make your life more expensive — or ensure you have affordable access to the resources you need

Why municipal elections matter for your cost of living

October 12, 2022

Ontarians will soon head to the polls to pick the officials whose time in office will have the most direct impact on the affordability of their day-to-day lives. That’s right — municipal elections are, in some ways, more important than elections for any other level of government.

Why, you ask? “From the time you get up in the morning to the time you get to work or school or whatever, you’ve used municipal services,” says Enid Slack, director of the University of Toronto’s Institute of Municipal Finance and Governance.

Mayors and councils are where the rubber hits the (municipally funded) road in politics. The decisions they make can land you in an unsustainably expensive living situation or ensure you have affordable access to the resources you need to work and play.

Since the main source of funding is the people who live within the municipality and use its services, Slack says, “both what [municipalities] do affects people and how they pay for it affects people.”

TVO.org speaks with Slack and other experts to dig into how affordability shows up on the ballot at municipal elections — and get tools that can help you decide how to cast your vote.

What municipalities do that affects affordability

When it comes to housing, you might think about the Bank of Canada, which sets interest rates, or about the provincial government, which plays a big role in determining funding and capacity.

But with their all-important zoning powers, municipalities “are the keepers of [housing] supply,” says Leslie Woo, former chief planning and development officer at Metrolinx and current CEO of the CivicAction Leadership Foundation.

They make the rules about what can be built (single-family houses or rental apartments, for example) and where — though some have called for the province to overrule municipalities on certain zoning matters in the name of combatting the housing crisis.