Going with my conscience on this vote

By Pat Watson Wednesday October 22 2014 in Opinion
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It wasn’t an easy decision, but after careful consideration I’ve decided to cast my vote for D!onne Renée for mayor of Toronto.


So, why Renée? First, having heard Renée directly during one of the many mayoral debates that have taken place in this city, her passion and sincerity shone through. She has a clear vision for the many aspects of the city that need attention or improvement.


I cannot say that I agree with all her ideas. We don’t agree for example on what to do about public housing since I’m not in favour of continuing this experiment in ghettoizing low-income earners into subsidized housing projects. At the very least management and repairs should be divested into the hands of those who live there. But I digress.


Renée has a vision for greater citizen participation so that key decisions include grassroots input. She is very focused on poverty issues. She also avoided the cliché too many Black individuals who run for politics trot out, that they would not represent Black people if elected, but all people.


The other reason I decided to give my vote to Renée has to do with a think piece by University of Toronto professor, Rinaldo Walcott, posted at rabble.ca, ironically, on the same day that the Diversity Advancement Network, a Black organization, was hosting a mayoral debate at the end of August. Ironic, because Walcott’s article was titled “Why Black people should spoil their ballot in this Toronto Mayor’s election”.


Walcott, Director of Women and Gender Studies at U of T, argues convincingly that the front-runner candidates, and he mentions specifically Olivia Chow and John Tory, have not shown any concrete plan or commitment that addresses the core problems for this community.


To quote Walcott: “The issues that concern Black people – like accessible and affordable transit and housing – have gone missing as (Chow and Tory) each… brandish their ‘anti-racist’ credentials.”


He questions why Black people should vote for any of the leading candidates in this mayoral election, especially when so many now face the trend of being pushed farther to the fringes of the city, where transportation is inadequate and subsidized housing is falling further into disrepair. For immigrants and the poor, Toronto is starting to look like Paris in that regard.


He asks why Black voters would support any of the candidates when they have not said unequivocally that Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) has to go since it is “anti-Black and poor” and “a summertime occupying army for Black and poor people.” Or, why none has addressed the disturbingly high dropout rate among Black high school students.


Walcott, and many others, want clear answers on how any of these candidates is going to ensure that the millions the city reaps each year from the Caribbean carnival will be put back into the community.


Walcott’s answer therefore is a protest vote, or non-vote, as it were.


Voting is a civic responsibility and the cornerstone of democracy. We also have, in a democracy, the right to protest what we disagree with as it affects our vested interests. There are any number of ways to protest, including the one suggested by Walcott. The first past the post system, as it is, creates a lot of cynical voting. The last time out, of the 813,764 voters who went to the polls, more than half, 430,263, did not cast their ballot for Rob Ford. They voted their conscience for the most part. This time, to keep another Ford out of the mayor’s office, many will park their vote while holding their nose. Many, but not all.


A note on a slavish adherence to by-laws…

Hey City officials, leave flag and trinket vendor Brother Harold Garnett alone. The man has been self-employed for some 30 years, by some people’s recollection. He is not selling drugs or causing trouble. So what if he also resides in his stall. He is a colourful, some would add pleasant and very sociable, addition to Dundas Square, which could do with a bit more character, anyway. Moreover, he is a licensed vendor. When these bureaucrats show more devotion to the letter of the law than one man’s harmless endeavour to maintain shelter, we really have to wonder at the dearth of human kindness inside government.


Pat Watson is the author of the e-book, In Through A Coloured Lens. Twitter@patprose. 

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