Facing hard choices on Election Day

By PAT WATSON

Here’s the problem some of us are facing: After viewing the last mayoral debate that ran on CP24 just days before Monday’s municipal elections, there are still some voters who cannot in good conscience choose any of the so-called frontrunners.

If it were a vote on a question of trusting that each campaigner, if elected, will keep his/her promises, that factor alone would not make it an easy decision. The last politician who campaigned in Ontario on doing exactly what he promised scarred the public psyche so much that almost 10 years after his departure from elected office people here are still bitter about him keeping his word.

During the debate – and sometimes shouting match – among Toronto mayoral candidates Rob Ford, George Smitherman and Joe Pantalone, Ford, echoing the words of former Ontario Conservative Premier Mike Harris, stated that he would do everything that he promised. Is he really going to get city staff out roaming the streets to make all graffiti disappear? Is he really going to privatize parts of the Toronto Transit Commission? Is he really going to end the vehicle registration tax in January 2011, which raises $52 million a year towards the City’s budget? And is he really going to cut spending without cutting services?

During the debate, Smitherman sounded impressive as a man who has a good handle on what it means to manage the affairs of the city, especially since he has never been on City Council. But will he do what he promises?

Joe Pantalone also gave the impression of someone who knows the workings of the Council, and he should after 30 years. But after 30 years would it be better to hang your vote on the winds of change?

All the way to the end of this municipal election campaign period (and it seems to have been the longest in recent memory) the mainstream media’s choice of frontrunners, beginning when there were six of them, was overwhelmingly uninspiring. At the very least media attempts to dig up all the character defining reports of frontrunner Ford’s missteps and lawbreaking was entertaining but, nonetheless, unhelpful to our decision-making.

It has also been a point of contention that there has not been a fair amount of exposure of other candidates of which there were over 30 who might have added meaningful perspective to the campaign.

What were missing were the voices of the candidates who look like this city. It would have been great to hear someone who could be identified as a frontrunner unwaveringly committed to the mission of seeing our public transit system brought into the 21st Century; someone who would say, unequivocally, that adequate and consistent funding for Caribana was absolutely assured.

That person would give equal priority to every sector of this city. That person would lay out the plan for greater integration of immigrants new to the city. That person would also convey to voters a true sense of how much he or she truly loves Toronto and, more than that, inspire Torontonians to truly appreciate the city in which we live.

But that was missing from the most highly visible campaigners. It just seemed like they were slogging away, joylessly trying to get the job of campaigning done.

Even so, advance polls have received a relatively high turnout. That shows that despite the so-so group that has taken the spotlight, citizens truly care about what happens next for Toronto.

If we can’t get the politicians we want with complete satisfaction then at the very least the rest of us can find some good out of this relatively prosaic election campaign by committing to becoming more civically engaged. That may be the greater message for all of us at this time.

A note on (not) keeping up with the times…

Apparently, to be stay in the flow in today’s world a person has to have both a Facebook and Twitter account. A person needs to be ‘LinkedIn’. She has to have her résumé set up at her personal website and a cell phone with text messaging charged and nearby at all times. But more than that, she has to be connected to any or all of these during her waking hours. Being still for even a few moments during the day is something from another era. And now rumour has it that even e-mail is becoming passé. Some of us just can’t keep up.

 

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