With an election approaching in the political province of Ontario June 7, the Anglican Church of Canada’s ecclesiastical province of the same name has released materials it says are intended to help its members engage in the process.
The ecclesiastical province of Ontario, which covers approximately the territory of the political province plus a swath of western Quebec, published in early May a web page containing links to a printable bulletin insert and to social media resources dealing with the election. The provincial synod created the materials, according to a statement on the web page, “to assist our people and parishes to live into God’s call for a just world where all have enough to flourish.”
In a message introducing the bulletin insert, Archbishop Colin Johnson, bishop of the diocese of Toronto and of Moosonee, and metropolitan (senior bishop) of the ecclesiastical province of Ontario, writes that two temptations often come into being during election campaigns: to vote simply out of self-interest, or to become cynical about the process and not vote at all.
“Both of these represent an abdication of our responsibility as Christians to love our neighbours as ourselves,” writes Johnson. “We are called to seek the welfare of the communities to which God has called us (Jeremiah 29:7) and to speak out and judge righteously on behalf of those in need (Prov. 31:8–9). Likewise, our baptismal covenant calls us to ‘seek and serve Christ in all persons,’ to ‘respect the dignity of every human being’ and to ‘strive to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation.’ ”
Johnson invites readers to talk with candidates and others about how a “healthy and just society” can be built; to acquaint themselves with the issues; to ask how the parties’ platforms will affect the most vulnerable; and to pray for the candidates and communicate with them their concerns.
“Finally, get out and VOTE!” his message concludes.
The insert contains a list of suggestions on how Ontario Anglicans might want to prepare for the election, including a series of recommended questions for candidates. The questions focus on two key areas—poverty and housing—that have been special priorities for the ecclesiastical province in recent years, the document states.
According to the insert, more than 171,000 households in Ontario “are on waiting lists for rent-geared-to-income housing,” with wait times averaging four years. The number of Ontarians who are homeless each night, it adds, is estimated at 12,000. It recommends that Anglicans ask their candidates what plan their party has to increase and maintain its supply of affordable housing, how their party intends to make sure people at risk of homelessness can get the supports they need to stay housed, and other questions.
The document also states that almost half a million Ontarians—one-third of them children—relied on foodbanks in 2017, and one-sixth of the province’s children live in poverty. It proposes that Anglicans ask their candidates whether they will support an increase to the province’s minimum wage planned for 2019; whether they support the idea of a basic income; what policies they and their party, if elected, would put in place to cut child poverty; and other questions.
The insert also suggests a number of other actions Ontario Anglicans can take, including organizing all-candidates meetings in their churches.
The social media resources consist of seven suggested Facebook updates and Twitter feeds—one update and tweet for each of the five weeks of the campaign; one update and tweet to be used the day the election was called (May 8); and an extra update and tweet for election week. They contain facts about homelessness and poverty in Ontario; messages encouraging those who read them to vote and otherwise engage themselves in the electoral process; and prayers.
Elin Goulden, social justice and advocacy consultant for the diocese of Toronto, says the provincial synod produced similar materials in advance of the 2014 provincial election, and in advance of this year’s vote, a number of parishes requested similar assistance with information and guidance.
The ecclesiastical province’s approach, she says was deliberately non-partisan. She notes, for example, that the 2009 Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy was supported by all three parties with seats in the legislature, so that choosing poverty reduction as a priority doesn’t necessarily favour any particular party.
“They can all have different tactics of how they would…accomplish those goals, but they’ve all, at least on paper, committed to them,” she says. “I think this is just a chance to ask them, ‘How would you bring these things about?’”
Recent polls show the New Democratic Party, under Andrea Horwath, and Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives running roughly neck-and-neck to replace Premier Kathleen Wynne’s governing Liberals, who are polling a relatively distant third.