News and announcements 10/17/2019

Nicola Moore has never voted in a federal election. This election, not only will she vote, she’s also taken the lead on mobilizing members of her community.

Joining the Hamilton Community Food Centre’s advocacy program inspired her: “When I started helping people on the ground, the idea of empowering them motivated me,” she says. She realized that when people come together, they create the power to affect change.

Nicola trained to become a peer advocate in a 12-week program offered by the Community Food Centre. As an advocate, she supports people who are struggling with poverty and food insecurity to access supports and services.

In the lead-up to the election, she’s also been leading the charge on voter engagement in the community, and giving people the space to talk to candidates about the issues that matter to them.

“You need to find out what’s most important to you, what you stand for and align yourself with a candidate who shares those same values,” she says. “Then you can connect with like-minded people to make the change happen.”

The events Nicola has been organizing are part of two pan-Canadian campaigns. The first, Vote PopUp, coordinated by the Democratic Engagement Exchange, is a mock polling station used by community organizations to demystify the voting process, help community members connect the issues they care about to the election, and create a culture of engagement.

Last election, eight million eligible voters stayed home, and people who are young, racialized or marginalized are more likely not to vote. Vote PopUps are an effort to turn this around.

The Eat Think Vote campaign, led by Food Secure Canada, has been rallying individuals and organizations to host all-candidate events on food insecurity and on other food issues.

Nine Community Food Centres and 12 Good Food Organizations from Vancouver to Charlottetown have hosted events, and feedback is moving: organizers report writing letters of confirmation of residence for homeless or precariously housed community members so that they can vote.

Eat Think Vote at Regent Park Community Food Centre

Many have said they’ve offered people their first exposure to a polling station, or their first experience meeting their federal candidates. And all of them have helped to surface important and urgent issues that ought to take centre stage this election.

People are raising concerns about the difficulty they have affording good food for their families, the skyrocketing cost of housing and child care, and the price of prescription medicine — and they’re looking to their federal candidates to take action.

Canadians’ top concern this election is affordability. While the federal government has made important investments to reduce poverty, far too many people continue to struggle with the cost of living.

In Toronto, the households in the lowest income quintile spend 88 per cent of their incomes on rent and utilities, leaving precious little left for food and other basic expenses.

In Nunavut, the cost of food is three times the national average, overstretching budgets and making a healthy diet all but unattainable. Twenty per cent of Canadians struggle to cover the cost of their prescriptions, forcing them to risk their health or to cut down on food. 

Across the country, Canadians are struggling. For Nicola, getting politically engaged around issues like food insecurity, poverty and the cost of housing, prescriptions and child care has helped her regain a sense of control, and a voice.

“I feel empowered running the Vote PopUp and the Eat Think Vote events,” she says. “They not only have me charged up, but I feel in control of the decisions that I make for my family and for my country.”

That gets our vote.