It’s often hard to tell how much the average person follows government politics at least the municipal government. Some do more than others, some not until election time, some not at all. But politics and government play a huge role in our everyday lives, whether we are aware of it or not.
The right to vote in our democratic system brings thousands of Canadians to polls. Statistics record voter turnout, sometimes lower and sometimes higher depending on how the last government performed. Often higher turnouts are driven by the need for change; however, turnouts can also decrease as a result of discouragement.
In Canada there are three levels of government, from the top down, federal, provincial and municipal government. Municipal governments include cities, towns, villages, and the like. Some may not perceive municipal governments as being powerful since they are essentially subdivisions of their respective provincial governments. However this lowest level of government, municipal government, has a very direct impact on its community – a local council directly responsible for local services, facilities, safety and infrastructure. In fact municipalities, and how they are governed to ensure long term sustainability, do contribute significantly to the whole economic condition of the country.
In October 2010, Aurora votes were counted and as a result our current municipal government was formed, an assembly including Mayor Geoffrey Dawe and eight Councillors, John Abel, Michael Thompson, Evelyn Buck, Sandra Humfryes, John Gallo, Wendy Gaertner, Chris Ballard and Paul Pirri.
Each of these government officials also serve on a Town of Aurora, Ontario committee or board. For example, Councillor Evelyn Buck and Michael Thompson are Members of the Economic Development Advisory Committee.
The Mayor’s function is one of leadership more than final decision maker. The mayor is responsible for presiding over council meetings where decisions are put to vote and council majority rules. The mayor can make recommendations to council but unlike American mayors, Canadian mayors tend to have very little power independent of their councils. The significance of the role stems mainly from its high profile in the community.
Councillors are often mediators between the town people or businesses and town administration. They are assembled to deliberate on town issues brought forward by the public. They make decisions based on public input and their own experience. They are involved in annual budget preparation to ensure a happy medium is reached between the various needs of the town.
Legally municipal governments cannot go into deficit so budget balancing is critical. The majority of funding for municipal governments comes from property taxes based on real estate value assessments.
‘Property taxes have three separate components: A local municipal portion (Town of Aurora) a Regional portion (The Regional Municipality of York) and an Education portion (The Government of Ontario).’
Our tax dollars are used for administration, planning, development, public works, parks, recreation, special events, fire, emergency services and probably a few other things. Unfortunately, we typically see our taxes going up each year at a rate above that of inflation.
‘The 2012 Town of Aurora budget includes a 4.77% increase to the local municipal tax levy… The Town of Aurora is responsible for Fire and Emergency Services, Parks and Recreation, Building and Bylaw Services, Infrastructure and Environmental Services and Planning and Development.’
The Town of Aurora is a community of over 50,000 residents and growing. Our mayor and councillors are elected to nurture the town’s growth, listen to people, and make sound decisions to sustain the town’s viability.
As residents we can contribute to and participate in the direction, planning, and management of our town. We don’t have Parliament Hill in our town, but we can see our municipal government in action during open council meetings where Mayor Dawe and the eight councillors interact with town officials, public and businesses, and deliberate on the many important issues that affect our community.
Get involved in the municipal government.
Anna Lozyk Romeo
REFERENCES & CREDITS
 Hadley Grange Retirement Center, Photography by Anna Lozyk Romeo.
 Combined property tax rate: How the overall tax rate is determined; Aurora, Fact Sheet, February 15, 2012.
 Town of Aurora approves $72.1 million 2012 budget; Aurora, Media Release, February 15, 2012.