Get informed. Get involved. Go vote!

When you vote, you register your opinion on how you think the government should operate. It’s your right. Voters consistently rate health care as a top concern. Investing in strategies and programs that address public health matters is a powerful way to prevent disease and protect and promote health and well-being for everyone in the community.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused widespread disruption to our social support networks, income, education and health systems. It has forced us to recognize that equity is essential in our collective journey to a healthier country. That health and well-being are not the same for everyone, and that while we might be weathering the same storm, we are not all on the same boat. The pandemic has highlighted the discrepancies of our society – leaving those without paid sick days, living in low income or inadequate housing, with unstable employment, or with few social connections to carry a heavier burden. These unprecedented times of physical distancing have turned many physical services to virtual delivery platforms in the name of safety, but have left many without adequate connections and services, increasing loneliness, substance use, lower physical activity levels and poorer mental health. And as our world connected more virtually than ever before, it highlighted the importance of accessible and affordable internet, as well as access and ability to use digital devices to remain connected to services and loved ones.  Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer has called for leadership and governance at all levels to promote the structural changes needed to move out of the pandemic and the inequities it highlighted. (ref  Public Health Agency of Canada (2020). From risk to resilience: An equity approach to COVID-19.)

The unmarked graves of thousands of children found at residential schools this year is the first time many have been confronted with what Indigenous communities have always known about the truth of colonization. This traumatic discovery underscores the importance of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) 94 Calls to Action.  The devastating impacts of this accumulated trauma continue to impact the health and well-being of individuals, families, and communities.  Elected officials must read the TRC recommendations as a necessary first step to move forward with any meaningful change.  

And, while we are living through a pandemic, we must also acknowledge the ever pressing climate change emergency. As countries across the globe are experiencing more severe weather patterns, it is evident that the time to act to successfully reduce our climate footprint is becoming smaller. Climate change is already harming Canadians’ health, causing increases in extreme weather events, cases of heat stroke, cardiorespiratory issues, and Lyme disease from ticks that can now survive in our warmer climate. Meaningful actions must be taken now by all levels of government to take better care of our environment and our health. 

Addressing and adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic has been overwhelming.

As we look to restore and build back better for health and well-being for all, the public health matters of this election are of great importance; and there needs to be strong Federal leadership to take action on these topics, and to consider these topics in all decisions.

Upcoming Canadian Federal Election

The 2021 Canadian federal election will take place September 20, 2021.

Voters: What to consider

Governments play an important role in shaping policies that impact all aspects of our lives, including our health. Timiskaming Health Unit aims to highlight several key public health issues for candidates and voters to consider during an election cycle. Consider how the political parties understand public health issues and how they will invest in strategies and programs that support the health and well-being of all people, regardless of their economic or social status. We are counting on you to make health matter in your election journey and beyond.

Decide how you will vote by:

  • Visiting the websites of political parties and independent candidates to better understand their platform and promises.
  • Comparing your ideas and values with those of political candidates. Find out which platform you most identify with. You can use the Vote Compass to help you identify which party your values align with.
  • Asking questions to political candidates who come to your door or reach out to politicians by email and social media or at public debates.
  • Ask electoral candidates about the positions and issues that most impact your life and that of your community.

Browse this section to learn about how you can get informed, get involved, and go vote. 

Climate change

Get informed.


  • Climate change is the biggest health threat of the 21st century affecting the social and environmental determinants of health1. It is expected to result in increases in respiratory, heat-related injuries, vector-borne disease, and UV–related skin cancers.
  • Factors such as age, gender, health status, and access to resources make some people more vulnerable to climate change effects2.
  • Mitigation and adaptation actions can collectively impact climate change. Effective implementation depends on cooperation between all levels of government, industry, and individuals.

Key actions. Get involved:

1. The Canadian Public Health Association has identified actions to fight climate change and will produce immediate health benefits, reduce healthcare costs, and improve social cohesion and equity in our communities:

a. develop effective and evidence-based climate action plans that demonstrate a national approach to achieving emission reductions needed to do its fair share to keep global warming below 1.5oC

b. develop and properly fund transition policies and programs to support an equitable transition for individuals and their communities who may be impacted by the transition to a low carbon economy

c. make strong commitments to minimize the impact of climate change


Get informed.

  • The COVID-19 outbreak is worsening the already deadly and ongoing public health crisis of opioid overdoses and death. It is having a tragic impact on people who use substances, their families, and communities across Canada. People who use substances, such as opioids, cocaine, and methamphetamine, are experiencing a number of increased risks, with several jurisdictions reporting higher rates of fatal overdoses and other harms.
  • In Canada, more than 21,174 opioid-related deaths occurred between January 2016 and December 20204
  • In 2020, 6,214 apparent opioid toxicity deaths occurred (approximately 17 deaths per day), of which 96% were accidental (unintentional) 4.
  • 1,766 apparent opioid toxicity deaths occurred between October and December 2020, similar to July to September (1,716). This number represents the highest quarterly count since national surveillance began in 2016. This number also represents a 100% increase from the same time frame in 2019 (885 deaths) 4.
  • Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, 5,148 apparent opioid toxicity deaths occurred (April to December 2020), representing an 89% increase from the same time period in 2019 (2,722 deaths) 4.
  • A number of factors have likely contributed to a worsening of the overdose crisis, including the increasingly toxic drug supply, increased feelings of isolation, stress and anxiety and limited availability or accessibility of services for people who use drugs4.
  • Fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances continue to be a major concern. In 2020, 82% of accidental apparent opioid-related deaths involved fentanyl or fentanyl analogues4.
  • In June 2019, the Chief Medical Officer of Health in Ontario confirmed an increase in the presence of carfentanil in our communities5.
  • The Chief Coroner for Ontario indicated that preliminary mortality data show an increase in carfentanil-related deaths in Ontario in the first four months of 2019. Carfentanil contributed to 142 deaths between January 1 and April 29, 20195.

Key actions. Get involved:

  1. Support a proactive, comprehensive national drug strategy that includes opioids and focuses on prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and enforcement. The strategy should include policy to decriminalize the possession of all drugs for personal use and expanded funding for safer supply programs
  2. Support access to a wide range of options to meet the diverse needs of people who consume drugs.


Get informed.


  • In 2014, the annual economic costs of alcohol use in Canada were an estimated $14.6 billion, largely due to the impact on health services, law enforcement, and workplace productivity7.
  • In 2014, there were 14 800 alcohol-attributable deaths, 87 900 hospital admissions, and 139,000 years of productive-life lost in Canada. A large body of research is available on the effectiveness of different policies to reduce these harms and costs7.
  • Alcohol is the most commonly used drug among Ontarians. It is one of the leading causes of death, disease, and disability in Ontario. In 2018, there were more hospital admissions in Canada that were alcohol-related than for heart attacks.
  • Broad social implications of harmful alcohol use include injuries, violence, motor vehicle collisions, family disruption, unemployment, and workplace accidents.

Key actions. Get involved:

1. Support the development, planning, and implementation of alcohol-related interventions and other policy levers to reduce risks and harms from alcohol.

2. Support the creation of a comprehensive national alcohol strategy to address the harms of increasing access to alcohol.

3. Download Public Health Sudbury & Districts’ election primer for candidates. (PDF, 4 MB)

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  • In 2019, 3.4 million Canadians, or 10.1% of the population, lived in poverty8.
  • Basic income is a support program that provides a basic minimum income for everyone.
  • It is a cash transfer from government to citizens, not tied to labour market participation.
  • A basic income ensures that everyone can meet basic needs and live with dignity, regardless of their work status. A basic income protects households against volatility in income until stability returns9. It has the potential to ease or even end poverty10.
  • Food insecurity is the inability of individuals and households to access adequate food because of financial constraints. It is a strong predictor of poorer physical and mental health and it is a highly sensitive measure of material deprivation.
  • Seniors’ benefits are a targeted form of a basic income. Studies examining the effect of seniors’ benefits on food insecurity, including Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement, demonstrate a drop in the incidence of food insecurity when individuals begin receiving these benefits11.

Key actions. Get involved:

  1. Introduce a basic income for all Canadians by enhancing current federal programs, such as the Canada Child Benefit, Old Age Security, and the Guaranteed Income Supplement, to ensure a minimum income for all Canadians.
  2. Fully enact Opportunity for All – Canada’s First Poverty Reduction Strategy.

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Tobacco & vaping

Get informed.

  • In Canada, nearly 100 people die because of a smoking-caused illness per day17.
  • In Ontario, tobacco use is responsible 44 deaths per day34.
  • In addition to the devastating human health costs of diseases from tobacco use, the economic costs in Ontario are an estimated $2.2 billion in direct health care costs and $5.3 billion in indirect costs, for a total of $7.5 billion each year17.
  • According to the 2019 Canadian Tobacco and Nicotine Survey, 14% of those aged 15+ responded that they vaped on a daily basis13. Approximately 1 in 10 Canadians reported smoking cigarettes on a regular basis, with Canadians aged 25 and older being almost three and a half times more likely to report being a current smoker (11%) than those aged 15 to 19 (3%)13.
  • Research suggests that young people who vape are more likely to start smoking tobacco cigarettes16, compounding the already devastating impacts smoking has on the health of our society.
  • By reducing access and appeal of tobacco and vaping products, through strengthened regulatory measures such as those described below, the negative health impacts associated with these products can be mitigated.

Key actions. Get involved:

  1. Align the regulation and enforcement of vaping, tobacco products, and the industry.
  2. Prohibit the manufacture and sale of all flavoured vaping products.
  3. Prohibit promotion targeting youth.
  4. Apply restrictions to the concentration and/or delivery of nicotine in vaping products.
  5. Regulate design features of tobacco and vaping products and adopt plain, standardized packaging of these products. Additionally, require labelling to warn against the dangers of, and modification to, these products.
  6. Restrict online retail access and align with online sales of alcohol or cannabis.
  7. Increase regulatory transparency and openness, inform the public of the regulations of vaping and tobacco products, dispel myths related to vaping, and share facts on the harms associated with the use of vaping products.
  8. Increase tobacco taxes and taxes on vaping products, considering automatic adjustments to inflation, while increasing enforcement of anti-contraband efforts.

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Affordable housing

Get informed.


  • Affordable, safe, and adequate housing has a direct and significant impact on people’s health19.
  • Good housing means having a home that is secure, safe, in good repair, and free from infestation and mould20.
  • Affordable housing means having enough money to go towards other necessities like healthy food, transportation, child care, and other basic needs22.
  • Housing costs are considered affordable when they are less than 30% of your household income21.
  • More than 1.6 million Canadian households lived in core housing need in 2018, defined as living in an unsuitable, inadequate or unaffordable dwelling, and not able to afford alternative housing in their community. Seniors living alone and groups designated as visible minorities were among the most likely to be in core housing need prior to the COVID-19 pandemic8.

Key actions. Get involved:

1. Fully implement Canada’s National Housing Strategy – A Place to Call Home focusing on the following commitments:

a. committing to the announced 10-year, $55+ billion plan

b. work with provincial and municipal governments to increase new housing supply

c. addressing housing needs for priority populations

2. Initiate the development of the National Housing Council and Federal Housing Advocate roles to support continued advice to the federal government on improving housing outcomes and monitoring of the National Housing Strategy.

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Food policy

Get informed.

  • Food systems include all processes involved in ensuring a nourished society and includes growing, harvesting, processing, packaging, transporting, marketing, consuming, and disposing of food. Social, political, economic, and natural environments influence food systems.
  • Healthy, sustainable food systems promote the health of individuals, communities, and the environment.
  • In June 2019, Canada released the first-ever Food Policy for Canada to help build a healthier and more sustainable food system.
  • The Food Policy for Canada aims to ensure all people in Canada are able to access a sufficient amount of safe, nutritious, and culturally diverse food. It also envisions a food system that is resilient and innovative, sustains our environment, and supports our economy.
  • The Food Policy for Canada includes investments in areas such as local food infrastructure and reducing food waste. It also calls for action on a National School Food program and the development of a Canadian Food Policy Advisory Council25.

Key actions. Get involved:

1. Fully enact the vision of the Food Policy for Canada by addressing priority outcomes and action areas. In particular:

a. include nutrition and health as key policy drivers to ensure a sustainable food system that promotes the health of individuals, communities, and the environment

b. address the urgent challenges and unique food systems in northern and remote communities and of Indigenous Peoples24

c. continue to support and work with the Canadian Food Policy Advisory Council

d. ensure the cross-government reporting framework for measuring and tracking progress towards priority outcomes is in place

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Indigenous healing, health, and well-being

Get involved.


  • Colonization and settlement of and around Indigenous communities in Northern Ontario and throughout the country have resulted in significant health inequities for Indigenous people26.
  • Systemic racism and discrimination has resulted in marginalization in all areas of public life including inadequate access to health care and unequal distribution of resources, including income, education, employment, and housing26.
  • The social, economic, cultural, and political inequities affecting Indigenous populations results in a disproportionate burden of ill health and social suffering27. For example, an alarming 53% of First Nations on the North Shore of Lake Huron die before they reach the age of 65 (compared to 22% for Ontario overall)28.
  • Health issues that affect Indigenous people at rates much higher than non-Indigenous people include high infant mortality, high maternal morbidity and mortality, heavy infectious disease burdens, malnutrition, obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease27.

Key actions. Get involved:

1. Work across jurisdictions to provide equitable health care services to all Indigenous people. Jordan’s Principle must be upheld for children and expanded to all First Nations people.

2. Move forward the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Calls to Action, and support the efforts of Indigenous people in achieving self-determination, all while being transparent about the processes and progress in meeting these objectives.

3. Work with providers and leverage opportunities to facilitate the provision of safe living conditions that allow residents to thrive in all First Nation communities. For example, access to clean drinking water and proper sanitation infrastructure.

4. Support Indigenous culture as a determinant of Indigenous health. For example, spirituality, food, and connection to the land. When Indigenous culture can flourish, it can positively transform all aspects of life, including health.

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Mental health

Get informed.


  • One in five Canadians are affected by mental illness annually30.
  • The impact of poor mental health and mental illness and addictions in Ontario on life expectancy, quality of life, and health care utilization is more than 1.5 times that of all cancers and more than 7 times that of all infectious diseases29.
  • In 2011, the estimated economic impact on our system related to mental illness was $50 billion. Health care, social services, and income support costs make up the biggest proportion of these costs. It also cost businesses more than $6 billion in lost productivity from absenteeism and turnover30.
  • We need to equally value mental health as we do physical health, as there is no health without mental health. The mental health and well-being of Canadians is heavily influenced by the social, economic, and physical environments where people live, learn, work, and play.
  • According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, 201631, “more emphasis on holistic prevention strategies, promotion of mental wellness, increased awareness and education about positive mental health across the lifespan, and a more refined focus on the social determinants of health in culturally competent and safe manners” is required.
  • A collaborative approach, involving stakeholders across various sectors is essential to uphold human rights, improve social inclusion, and eliminate stigma and discrimination. It is paramount to the mental health and well-being of Canadians.

Key actions. Get involved:

1. Prioritize healthy public policies to develop and sustain positive mental health for all. Privilege investments impacting the social determinants of health such as social inclusion, freedom from stigma, violence and discrimination, and access to economic resources.

2.  Encourage Mental Health Parity Policies – where mental health services would receive similar funding to physical health services

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Get involved.


  • In Canada, health, social, and economic inequities exist in part due to one’s colour, religion, culture, or ethnic origin32.
  • Racism is insidious and affects the mental and physical health of people through many mechanisms such as, racially motivated individual, structural, and state-sanctioned violence; psychosocial trauma and psychological changes from chronic stress; exposure to toxic physical, environmental, and social environments; reduced access to employment, housing and education; and inadequate or unsuitable care in social and health systems33.
  • The barriers imposed by government and non-governmental systems impacting the health of racialized groups must be eliminated if we are to address these inequities in our society.

Key actions. Get involved:

1. Fully enact Building a Foundation for Change: Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy 2019-2020 with immediate efforts to:

a. work with federal departments, agencies, and programs that the federal government funds to address the effects of discrimination, including but not limited to, the review of their systems, regulations, policies, processes, and practices to identify and remove racist approaches

b. engaging racialized communities in a meaningful way to involve them in government decisions that will impact them

c. expedite the efforts related to the Anti-Racism Action Program particularly those efforts in key areas of employment and justice

d. continue efforts to work with the digital industry to better address violent extremist and terrorist use of the internet and online hate, in addition to other federal government efforts to address online harm

e. develop and implement continuous accounting and monitoring mechanisms to demonstrate steps taken to respond to these recommendations

2. In addition to the planned National Public Education and Awareness Campaign, ensure sustainable funding to support ongoing cultural humility training and other training to address racism.

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Vote! When you vote, you register your opinion on how you think the government should operate. It’s your right.

Participating in democratic processes such as voting, is linked to well-being. 

Some people face barriers to voting. Support your friends, family and neighbours by listening to their concerns, assisting them in connecting issues of concerns to the act of voting and helping them understand the voting process. Offer to support others to register to vote and to get to an elections site to cast their vote.  

Visit and click on “ways to vote’ for details on voting options. 

Read the Guide to the Federal Election or call Elections Canada at 1-800-463-6868. 

Check out other public health unit work to support engaged and informed voting: 

Public Health Sudbury and Districts (THU acknowledges adapting PHSD’s Federal Election Primer). 

Peterborough Public Health: Care. Vote. Hope. An on-line and in-person initiative to highlight social issues in Peterborough City and County during the 2019 federal election.

Canadian Public Health Association: Election 2019: CPHA is calling on the next federal government to take leadership on eight key issues.

Algoma Public Health’s Federal Election: Let’s make health matter

Southwestern Public Health’s Federal Election 2019.

Federal, provincial, and municipal elections

For information on upcoming and past elections, candidates, political parties, electoral districts, and voter registration visit the following websites:

The Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing also has municipal election resources for voters as well as for candidates.

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1. World Health Organization (WHO). (2016, March 3). WHO Director-General Keynote address at the Human Rights council panel discussion on climate change and the right to health. Geneva, Switzerland. Retrieved from

2. Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit. (2018). Let’s Make Health Matter. Retrieved from

3. Canadian Public Health Association. (2019). Call to Action on Climate Change and Health.

4. Special Advisory Committee on the Epidemic of Opioid Overdoses. (2021) Opioid- and Stimulant-related Harms in Canada. Ottawa: Public Health Agency of Canada. Retrieved from

5. Ministry of Health. (2019). Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health. Memo. Carfentanil. June 26, 2019.

6. Toronto Public Health. (2019). Expanding Opioid Substitution Treatment with Managed Opioid Programs. Report for Action. HL3.02. Retrieved from

7. Wettlaufer, A., Vallance, K., Chow, C., Stockwell, T., Giesbrecht, N., April, N., Asbridge, M.,Callaghan, R.C., Cukier, S., Hynes, G., Mann, R., Solomon, R., Thomas, G., Thompson, K. (2019). Strategies to Reduce Alcohol-Related Harms and Costs in Canada: A Review of Federal Policies. Victoria, BC: Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research, University of Victoria.

8. Statistics Canada. (2021). Canadian Income Survey, 2017. Retrieved from

9. Dietitians of Canada. (2016). Addressing Household Food Insecurity in Canada. Position Statement and Recommendations from Dietitians of Canada. Retrieved from

10. Hyndman, B. & Simon, L. (2015). Basic Income Guarantee Backgrounder. Toronto, ON: Association of Local Public Health Agencies and Ontario Public Health Association – Health Equity Workgroup. Retrieved from 248ad4b1f1c75f/alPHaOPHA-HEWG-Basic-Income-Backgrounder-Final-April2016Updated.pdf.aspx?ext=.pdf

11. Tarasuk, V. (2017). Implications of a Basic Income Guarantee for Household Food Insecurity. Research Paper 24. Thunder Bay: Northern Policy Institute. Retrieved from

12. Czoli, C., Reid, J., Rynard, V., & Hammond, D. (2015). E-cigarettes in Canada – Tobacco Use in Canada: Patterns and Trends, 2015 Edition, Special Supplement. University of Waterloo. Waterloo, ON: Propel Centre for Population Health Impact.

13. Statistics Canada. (2021). Canadian Tobacco and Nicotine Survey, 2020

14. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). (2016). Exposures to flavoring chemicals: How and where exposures may occur. Retrieved from

15. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2018). Public health Consequences of E-Cigarettes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

16. Public Health Ontario. (2018). Current evidence on e-cigarettes. Retrieved from

17. Smoke- Free Ontario Scientific Advisory, Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion (Public Health Ontario). (2017). Evidence to Guide Action: Comprehensive Tobacco Control in Ontario (2016). Toronto, ON: Queen’s Printer for Ontario. Retrieved from

18. Government of Canada. (2019, September 20). Information Update – Health Canada warns of potential risk of pulmonary illness associated with vaping products. [Recalls and safety alerts]. Retrieved from

19. Wellesley Institute. (2015). Access to housing, Federal Election 2015. Retrieved from

20. Wellesley Institute. (2012). Your Housing, 2012. Retrieved from

21. Homeless Hub. (2019). Affordable Housing. Retrieved from

22. Public Health Sudbury & Districts. (2019). Circles Sudbury Story Map. Retrieved from

23. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. (2019). Understanding Core Housing Need. Retrieved on August 15, 2019:

24. Dietitians of Canada. (September 2017). A Food Policy for Canada. Dietitians of Canada response to Agriculture and Agri-food Canada.

25. Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. (2019). Food Policy for Canada. Everyone at the Table. AAFC number: 12969E Catalogue number: A22-628/2019E-PDFISBN: 978-0-660-31301-6.

26. Health Quality Ontario. (2018). Northern Ontario Health Equity Strategy. Toronto, ON: Queen’s Printer for Ontario.

27. National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health. (2013). An Overview of Aboriginal Health in Canada. Retrieved from

28. Maamwesying North Shore Community Health Services Inc. (2019, July 18). First Nations People Should be Allowed to Retire [Press Release]. Retrieved from

29. Ratnasingham S, Cairney J, Rehm J, Manson H, Kurdyak P. (2012). Opening eyes, opening minds: The Ontario burden of mental illness and addictions report. Toronto: Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and Public Health Ontario.

30. Mental Health Commission of Canada. (2013). Making the case for investing in mental health in Canada. Retrieved from

31. Mental Health Commission of Canada. (2016). Advancing the Mental Health Strategy for Canada: A Framework for Action (2017–2022), Ottawa, ON: Mental Health Commission of Canada.

32. Canadian Public Health Association. (2019). Racism and Public Health. Retrieved from

33. National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health. (2019). Let’s Talk Racism and Health Equity. Retrieved from

34. Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. (2018, May 3) Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. Letter. Smoke-Free Ontario Strategy.