Attend an All-Candidates Meeting

All-candidates meetings and debates are events where political candidates come together to discuss election issues before a public audience. These meetings offer the local candidates and parties the opportunity to reinforce key messages and share positions on different issues.

As a voter or member of an organization concerned about mental health and/or addictions, an all-candidates meeting offers a chance to ask questions to your local candidates, and have them make a public commitment to your issues.

Are you organizing an all-candidates debate? Check out Count Us In: Removing Barriers to Political Participation – Quick Reference Guide to Accessible All Candidates Meetings (July 2007).  This guide was published by the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario and includes detailed information about how to plan an accessible event. 

How to Find Your Local Events

You can try finding information about local all-candidates events through:

  • Local candidate headquarters or offices
  • Your MPP’s constituency office
  • Political party websites or riding association offices
  • Local media
  • Some community organizations

Asking Your Candidates a Question

While all-candidates meetings or debates typically have set questions, there is often an opportunity for members of the public to ask their own questions as well. Here are some ideas for questions to ask at your local all-candidates meeting or debate about both provincial and local mental health and addictions issues.

Provincial Questions

The Alliance has developed three priorities that they would like each political party to address:

1. Make a full range of mental health and addictions services and supports accessible to every person in Ontario, when and where needed.

2. Ensure that people with mental health and/or addictions issues have access to safe and affordable housing, with supports as needed.

3. Engage stakeholders in meaningful collaboration to provide guidance on the implementation of Ontario’s mental health and addiction initiatives.

Some sample questions you can ask that relate to these three provincial priorities include:

  • “The Ontario Mental Health and Addictions Alliance is asking Ontario’s next government to do three things: [state the three priorities]. Will you commit today to moving these recommendations forward both at the party level and in this community, and if so, what specifically will you do?”
  • “Mental health and addictions touch almost every person in this province. Will you commit today to being a champion for mental health and addictions within your party, and if so, what will you do to help ensure that this area is a priority?”
  • “There are currently huge disparities in access to mental health and addiction services across the province. In this community, people simply cannot get the services or supports they need, when they need it. [State a fact about your community]. What will you do to ensure that a full range of mental health and addictions services and supports is available to all members of this community?”

Framing a local question

As an organization or a community member, you may have concerns or suggestions about what needs to be done to address mental health and addictions in your local area. When posing a question at an all-candidates meeting on local issues, we offer the following suggestions:

  • Be specific. A broad question such as “will you support mental health and addictions in this riding” invites a vague or high-level answer. Try to narrow down your question so that the candidate is forced to give you a more specific answer. For example: “Housing is critical to recovery. What would you do to address the need for more supportive housing in this community to help people with mental illness and/or addictions stay out of hospital and live in the community?”
  • Provide context. Your local candidates may not be fully aware of the issues impacting people with mental illness or addiction in your riding. Before posing your questions, provide one or two sentences that explain the situation, so that the candidates understand the problem that they have to address. For example: “Access to services and supports for people with mental health and addiction challenges varies considerably across Ontario. In this community, for example, a young person with a mental illness can wait over six months just for an assessment.”
  • State the facts. Facts and figures are a powerful way of demonstrating the severity of a problem. It’s one thing to say that something is an issue, but it’s another to show the evidence. If you have a specific concern in your area, try to find some facts that will back it up. ConnexOntario has an e-services site for organizations which provides data on local wait times and availability of services. More general facts on mental illness and addiction can be found by entering “mental health facts Ontario” or “addiction facts Ontario” into your internet search engine. (Ensure that the facts you are using come from a credible source.) For example: “The average wait time for early psychosis intervention in [your region] is [x number] days. That is simply too long to get the help you are looking for.”

Share your experience with us

Contact us at info@vote4mha.ca and let us know what your local candidates committed to and how your experience was.