Vocalize Sarnia bridges gap between people and politicians

Troy Shantz

Katie Horvath was a student at Lambton College organizing political forums when she realized many people were disengaged, even about local issues that impact them.

At first she thought they were just distracted.

“But people were very aware of what was going on and they were just tired of being lied to,” she said. “They were tired of scandal… and they were tired of feeling like they were just a cog.”

Which gave rise to Vocalize Sarnia.

Vocalize Sarnia is a Facebook group that gathers questions from ordinary folk and poses them to members of city council. The answers are gathered and posted for all to see and discuss.

It also offers general discussion topics relevant to Sarnians, as well as questions submitted by council members for group members to answer.

The goal is to “bridge that gap between people in power and people who are just everyday citizens,” said Horvath, 27, who moderates the group, which has grown to 1,300 members.

With the exception of Coun. Dave Boushy, every member of city council and the mayor have responded to at least one question.

Topics range from e-voting and paper ballots to addiction services and the recent national media feature on “Canada’s Toxic Secret.’

Katie Horvath created Vocalize Sarnia to connect regular citizens with elected officials.
Troy Shantz

“I want people to be able to express their opinions,” said Horvath adding everyone can participate whatever their political savvy.

The forum also gives elected leaders direct access to voters and the chance to explain themselves.

“Not everybody has three, four, five hours a night to go through a council meeting, to go through the minutes,” Horvath said.

“There’s not really this easily accessible way to communicate.”

She only jumps in to moderate when a discussion veers off-topic or becomes hate-filled, which does happen from time to time.

“You can’t force people to think a certain way,” she said. “Democracy is about having to accept that we don’t all have the same opinions.”

Vocalize Sarnia has both a Facebook page and a group. The group, which features Q&As and discussion, can be visited at

www.facebook.com/groups/274223433042177