By Adam Brazeau
CORNWALL, Ontario – The writ was read at the Elections Ontario returning office in Cornwall Thursday, marking the official start of the June 12 provincial election in Stormont, Dundas, and South Glengarry.
Town crier Wes Libbey began the ceremony with the traditional ringing of a bell before reading the historical document issued in the name of the Queen.
The five registered local candidates in the provincial election are incumbent Progressive Conservative MPP Jim McDonell, Liberal John Earle, NDP’s Elaine MacDonald, Libertarian Shawn McRae, and Green Party’s Sharron Norman.
Even though all the candidates have been campaigning for weeks, the writ states that the election has officially begun, and it sets out the dates for the close of nominations, and for election day.
“The opportunity to read a writ under the name of the Queen is a distinct honour that I don’t take casually,” said Libbey.
McDonell, Earle, McRae, and Green Party delegate Daniel Legros were in attendance. Norman resides in Tottenham, Ontario – nearly five hours away from the SDSG riding.
Local returning officer William Upper said the writ ceremony for the 41st Ontario general election “ties our past to the present.”
“My task here is to ensure everyone who wants to vote can vote,” said Upper. “There are 77,000 who are eligible and I hope all of them do.”
Earle spent years as an underwater explorer and documentary filmmaker unearthing the submerged stories of the Lost Villages. He enjoyed the historical significance of the event, but when it comes to his first campaign run he’s focused on a new generation.
“Today, is critical, there’s so many young people who don’t vote and don’t realize the importance that their vote carries,” said Earle.
During his latest door-to-door campaigning efforts, he’s noticed that there are a lot of new faces in the area.
“We’re encouraging them – even to the point where we will take them to the elections office – to vote,” he said.
MPP McDonell said the region’s historic connection with the birth of Ontario makes the writ ceremony a necessary throwback.
“I hope people get out and exercise their right to vote,” said McDonell.
But Ontarians have clearly lost interest in voting. In the 2011 election, Ontario hit a record low with only 49.2 per cent of eligible voters casting a ballot.
He says the lack of enthusiasm from Ontarians to hit the polls might be a sign of the times.
Upper noted that both local Elections Ontario offices have provided many ways to make the process easier, such as special ballot, assistive technology, and advanced polls.
According to the wemakevotingeasy.ca website, the Special Ballot Application will be available online until Friday June 6, 2014 at 6 p.m. Completed write-in ballots must be received by election day, Thursday June 12.
The website also indicates that on Thursday, June 12, election day, all voting locations: will have magnifiers, Braille ballot templates and other tools to assist voters who are blind or with vision loss; and will provide pens and pads to help electors who are deaf, deafened, or hard of hearing to communicate.
During the 11 days preceding election day, in returning offices and satellite offices assistive voting tools will be available that feature audio headphones, tactile buttons, large keypads marked with Braille paddles, and a ‘sip and puff’ device.
Another option is to vote in person at an advance poll, between Saturday, May 31 to Friday, June 6.
And of course, there’s always in person on election day at one of the many locations throughout the city and the counties.
“There’s no excuse (not to vote),” said Earle. “Elections Ontario has made it clear they’re going to do whatever it takes to get people to vote and we’re going to help nudge it along.”
Offices are located at 902 Second Street West, in Cornwall, and at the North Dundas Municipal Hall, 636 St. Lawrence Street, in Winchester. Both locations are wheelchair accessible.
For more information, call the Cornwall office at (613) 936-2417 or the Winchester office at (613) 774-0681 or visit wemakevotingeasy.ca.