The cornerstone or the Canadian Municipal Election is a survey of voters and non-voters in eight Canadian cities: Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, London, Mississauga, Toronto, Montreal and Quebec. The surveys, conducted in 2017 and 2018, are largely modelled after existing federal and provincial election studies, while also taking into consideration the unique nature of municipal government in general, and our eight case cities in particular. Electors are being surveyed before and after each election, with the goal of furthering our understanding of how Canadian electors act and behave towards local elections. The sample size for the elector survey is expected to reach an estimated 15,000, making it, to our knowledge, the largest municipal election study conducted anywhere in the world.
The CMES will also be conducting pre and post-election surveys of candidates for mayor, city council, and regional council in a variety of Canadian cities. This includes most of the core CMES cities (Toronto, London, Mississauga, Vancouver, and Winnipeg), but also many other municipalities holding elections in 2018. While elected officials at the local level make up a large majority of the democratically elected officials in Canada, they are often ignored by academics, who focus on other levels of government and elections. The purpose of the survey is to fill this gap and gain a better understanding of how candidates emerge in non-partisan elections; explore the motivations to seek municipal office as well as the desire to seek higher elected office (i.e., progressive political ambition); to consider how well rooted candidates are within their community and local civil society organizations; and to study differences in campaign strategies and tactics.
Calgary Elector Follow-up Study
In partnership with University of Calgary School of Public Policy, the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, and the Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations, the CMES will be undertaking a follow-up survey in Calgary in fall 2018 with a special focus on council performance, policy responsiveness, and public policy priorities at the municipal level. The survey will incorporate responses from 2017 CMES panelists as well as newly recruited respondents, and will also involve a survey of local businesses, non-profits, and sitting city councillors. The survey is timed to coincide with the Calgary Olympic bid plebiscite (November 13, 2018) and will provide valuable data on support for urban “mega-events” such as Olympic games in Canadian cities.
Ontario School Board Trustee Study
Despite the importance of school boards in managing many of the administrative functions of the education sector within Ontario, and in shaping the public discussion on education-related topics, there is little public knowledge about the role of trustee. Indeed, we know little about the profile of candidates, their reasons for running for this office, their campaign strategies, or their broader political goals. Through surveys of candidates in Ontario’s four publicly funded boards (English public, French public, English Catholic, and French Catholic), the Ontario School Board Trustee Study aims to dramatically increase our knowledge and understanding of trustee candidates. The project will demonstrate not only the importance of local elections, but also the ways that trustee election research can inform our broader understanding of political participation in local governing bodies, and the political behaviour of candidates and citizens. The project is being conducted in collaboration with the Ontario Education Services Corporation.
Mississauga Focus Groups Study
This project aims to understand the reasons why we see low rates of voter turnout among some immigrants in Canadian elections, particularly at the municipal level. Our case is Mississauga, which is a majority-minority and majority-immigrant city, but which also has a city council that is made up entirely of white officials. Data collection for this project will be based on a series of focus groups with immigrants. This qualitative data will aim to more generally inquire about immigrants’ understanding of and interest in municipal political issues, and will also assess how immigrants feel about representation and community engagement in local politics. These focus groups will look into the barriers that immigrants face in terms of engagement, interest, and representation in local politics and will ask about ways that we can improve policies to make municipal elections more accessible to newcomers.
Winnipeg Teacher Survey
As part of our examination of school board elections, the CMES is running a survey of teachers in the city of Winnipeg. The purpose of this study is to measure the attitudes and behaviour of this sizable sub-group of the electorate, whose members are disproportionately affected by decisions made by school board trustees. We will consider whether teachers participate in school board elections at higher levels, or hold different attitudes towards education policy, as compared to the electorate as a whole. Winnipeg was chosen as the site of this study due to the fact that the city’s school boards are comparatively powerful, having the capacity to influence local tax rates.
The Electronic Elections Project
The CMES is also working with scholars from the Electronic Elections Project (EEP) to study the effects of, and public appetite for, the implementation of internet voting in municipal elections. While federal and provincial elections continue to rely exclusively upon traditional paper ballots, hundreds of Canadian municipalities have adopted internet voting for local elections. The goals of the EEP are to determine the effects of the implementation of online voting at the local level upon (1) voter turnout, (2) the composition of the voting population, and (3) attitudes towards local democracy. The EEP consists of an elector and candidate survey, similar to those run by the CMES. Scholars from the EEP are coordinating with the CMES team on both fronts to maximize the value of the data collected by the two projects.