Democracy is based on the idea of one person, one vote. But there is an exception: in municipal elections you can vote at home and at the cottage… and anywhere else you own or rent a residence in Ontario.
The principle is simply that you need representation where you pay taxes. Since you pay property tax on your home and on your cottage, and since each municipal government functions independently from all the others, you get to have a say in each of those governments.
Cottage voters have always been a significant voice in Muskoka elections. In Georgian Bay Township, there are eight times as many seasonal residents as there are permanent residents; in Muskoka Lakes, it’s five times. In Muskoka overall, the seasonal population is one-third larger than the residential population.
With that many potential voters living outside the riding, Muskoka and Parry Sound have taken a keen interest in helping cottage owners to vote. Mail-in ballots have been around for years, but this year Muskoka and Parry Sound municipalities have switched to online electronic voting or telephone voting.
The election takes place province-wide on October 22, but online and telephone voting begin after Thanksgiving.
Not everyone at the cottage gets to vote, even if they’re over 18. Only the owner of the cottage and their spouse will be on the voters’ list – if anyone else at the cottage wants to cast a vote, they would need to declare the cottage as their principal residence.
If you’re on the voters’ list, you should have received a voting package in the mail by now. If you haven’t, contact your municipality.
Who am I voting for?
In Muskoka, there are two levels of councillor. The Town or Township councillor represents your ward at Township or Town meetings.
Each of the six municipalities also has District councillors, who represent their entire municipality at meetings of the District council (there are four District councillors from each municipality, other than Lake of Bays and Georgian Bay who only have three each). There are also mayors of each municipality, who are elected separately. The mayors also sit on District Council.
Muskoka residents were also going to be able to vote for the position of District Chair, the person who chairs the meetings of the District Council and serves as the CEO of the District. But that election was cancelled by the new Ontario government, in the same bill that reshaped Toronto council. Instead, as for many years past, the District Chair will be chosen from the community by the members of Muskoka District Council, who will cast their votes at their first meeting.
In addition, voters will be choosing the school board trustees for whichever board they are affiliated with (public, Catholic, French or English).