Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Elections Ontario Launches Referendum Public Education Campaign - "Understand the Question"

Elections Ontario today launched the first part of its province-wide Referendum Public Education Campaign "Understand the Question". The press release can be viewed at Canada Newswire here. It's listed below as well:

Elections Ontario Launches Referendum Public Education Campaign - "Understand the Question"

Province-wide communications program to ensure 8.5 million Ontario voters
are prepared to make an informed decision on October 10, 2007

TORONTO, Aug. 1 /CNW/ - In preparation for Ontario's October 10, 2007 referendum on electoral reform, Elections Ontario launched the first phase of its referendum public education campaign today. The "Understand the Question" campaign is designed to ensure that Ontario's 8.5 million registered voters are aware that the referendum is taking place and feel adequately informed to make a decision when it comes time to mark their referendum ballots this Fall.

At the same time as the general provincial election on October 10, Ontario voters will also receive a referendum ballot to choose whether to continue the current electoral system, known as First-Past-the-Post (FPTP), or adopt the Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP) electoral system proposed by the Citizens' Assembly. This marks the first time since 1792 that electors are being asked to consider a change to the way that Ontario's provincial representatives are elected.

"Our mandate is to ensure that Ontario voters are not only aware that a referendum is occurring on October 10, but believe they are adequately prepared to make an informed decision based on their individual considerations and priorities," said John Hollins, Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Ontario.

"Through our past experience and ongoing consultation with political science and literacy experts, we have designed a program that we believe reflects Ontario's scope and diversity, delivers impartial educational information and allows voters to become informed through a variety of mediums," continued Hollins. "It also allows us the flexibility to make adjustments based on voter questions as we move forward towards the actual referendum date."

"Understand the Question" Campaign Elements

- The Elections Ontario referendum public education website, www.yourbigdecision.ca launching today, provides voters with impartial tools to define and understand both the First-Past-the-Post and the Mixed Member Proportional electoral systems and to assess these systems against individual voter priorities and considerations. Voters may also register their email addresses for information updates as website content will be continually enriched.

- A public toll free information telephone line, 1-888-ONTVOTE (1-888-668-8683), is available beginning today to assist voters with their questions.

- A Facebook profile and group launches today to increase referendum awareness and provide another channel for voters to make information inquiries though the email address info@yourbigdecision.ca.

- A community-level French and English media relations program is underway to distribute impartial information defining both electoral systems, critieria for making a choice against individual voter priorities and identifying other "Understand the Question" information sources.

- A province-wide French and English newspaper advertising campaign and a further community and ethnic newspaper campaign in 25 languages will appear beginning the first week of September.

- A province-wide "Understand the Question" French and English radio campaign launches today and will run until August 13, 2007.

- Over 100 Resource Officers are being hired to deliver local community information sessions throughout the province. To request an information session voters may do so through www.yourbigdecision.ca, 1-888-ONT VOTE (1-888-668-8683) or info@yourbigdecision.ca.

- An online advertising program will begin in early September targeting high traffic Ontario portals of Canadian websites to encourage voters to visit www.yourbigdecision.ca for information.

- A Youtube information site and a downloadable widget (an online viral web tool) will be available later in August to raise awareness and direct voters to "Understand the Question" information resources.

- A province-wide "Understand the Question" French and English television campaign will launch in September, 2007.

- A French and English direct mail information program will be distributed in September, 2007 to all Ontario voters.

- Householders (unaddressed ad-mail) will be distributed to homes across the province immediately after Labour Day and again in the beginning of October.

About the Referendum

In June 2005, the Ontario Legislature began a process to review electoral systems. In March 2006, the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform, an independent body representing in the electors in Ontario, was created. They were asked to assess Ontario's current electoral system and different electoral systems, and recommend whether Ontario should retain its current system or adopt a different one. The Citizens' Assembly's proposal has resulted in this Referendum.

About Elections Ontario

Elections Ontario is the non-partisan agency responsible for administering provincial elections, by-elections and referendums in the Province of Ontario

For further information: Elynn Wareham, GCI Group for Elections Ontario, (416) 486-5910, ewareham@gcigroup.com; Matt Roth, GCI Group for Elections Ontario, (416) 486-5911, mroth@gcigroup.com

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