Monday, November 13, 2006

Civic duty

It seems I can't go two months without having to cast a vote in an election. Today was voting day in Toronto to elect our municipal government. (Thankfully they've changed the municipal rules and the new mayor and council will be in office for four rather than three years. That's a change for the better.) Like a good citizen, I went to the polls after work - it helps that my polling station was the school right next to the house, so it took me all of 30 seconds to get there - and performed my civic duty. Not that my vote is going to be terribly meaningful: David Miller is pretty much a shoo-in for mayor (and in fact he was declared the winner as soon as City-TV's election coverage began at 8:00; of course it could have declared him the winner six months ago, this being perhaps the dullest mayoral race that I can remember) and my riding is almost a near-certainty for the incumbent Joe Mihevc. It will also mean that my vote isn't the kiss of death this time since I happened to vote for both these guys. (More often than not, those I vote for end up getting slaughtered - not literally, thankfully.)

So why do I still vote even though it has no meaningful impact on the results? Well, we live in a democracy, a privilege that not everybody on this planet gets to enjoy (and yet one that many desire). I take my democratic rights seriously (honest!). More acutely, our day-to-day lives are probably most affected by what happens in the municipal chamber - it's important our voice is heard in electing those members that make the decisions that have a direct impact on this city. I also remember what a high school teacher once told a class I was in: he basically said if you don't vote, you really don't have the right to bitch and whine about what the government does or doesn't do.

And some votes really do count: when I last checked the results in the ward immediately next to mine, the difference between the top two was a mere 8 votes. Unbelievable. (But I've rechecked and the woman who I hoped would win, Alejandra Bravo, is now down by over 100 votes. Too bad: she's the kind of fresh voice the city needs. Municipal elections are a lot like the House elections in the US: rarely does an incumbent lose.)

So now that he's officially re-elected, I have a message for the second-term mayor: Mr. Miller, you've been given a second mandate. Your first term was ok, but there seemed to be a lot more promise than substance. Let's see you come through on some of your promises from three years ago, namely some real movement on the waterfront. Give up the island airport fight. That part of the waterfront is fucked anyway because of rampant over development. But you have a chance to make a real and lasting impact on the east end of the city with respect to the waterfront. Build some much-needed green space - space for everybody that lives in the city, and not the privileged few that desire a condo on that stretch of as-yet undeveloped land. And how about some more bike lanes while you're at it? This city has so much potential - let's see it reach it.

I want to proud again to live in this city.

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