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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Tuesday 7 October 2014

Politics Done Different: Why We Should Care

If you live in Toronto, you may be aware that there is a municipal election going on.
As candidates for Mayor, Council and Trustee all jockey for position, endorsements and votes, we're being bombarded with soundbites and potshots on the airwaves and via social media.
This one stood out for me this morning:
Doug Ford Campaign @DougFord2014  ·  12 hours ago
Tonight Mr. Tory said he doesn't support tolls, but in 2013 apologized for fighting against them

While I appreciate Doug Ford's team giving some free promotion for Why Should I Care, the civic engagement group founded by Ward 20 council candidate Terri Chu, I would suggest they missed the point.
If you actually listen to the clip, what you hear isn't John Tory talking about road tolls, but rather John Tory talking about the silliness of gotcha-politics and the corners it backs politicians into (which is exactly the stunt Team Ford attempted with their tweet).
I was there that night in January, 2012 in my role as a WSIC board member.  I was very impressed with what I was hearing from Tory - a kind of self-reflection that's unfortunately not that common in politics.
John Tory took a strong stance against the kind of simplistic populism Doug Ford tends to champion.  Tory admitted to having played the game earlier in his political career, but as he has matured as a public person, he has recognized the destructive and demoralizing nature of crass partisanship.
The reason he was there to speak at Why Should I Care wasn't for political gain - he wasn't running for anything at the time - but because he believed in the principle of civic engagement.  Tory candidly recognized that people have lost faith in the political process and suggested that less messaging and more engagement is required.
Which, of course, is why Terri Chu founded Why Should I Care, and why it's become such a popular event.  We bring in speakers from across the political divide, from the public service and from the grassroots to discuss the issues rather than pick apart personalities.
Turns out there's a healthy appetite for conversation.
Busy as we are, as bombarded by data and advertisements and political soundbites as we are, people get that the issues facing society are complex and require complex answers.  A frequent reason given for why people don't vote is because they recognize they aren't as knowledge on issues as they could be and don't want to make ill-informed decisions.
The role of leaders isn't to stoke populist emotions and polarize society, but to empower people to get informed, get engaged and be part of the democratic process every day, not just once every four years.
I give John Tory props for having the guts to chat directly with people about issues and for bringing an open mind to the table.  He takes the time to understand and communicate context, which shows a level of respect for us "folks" lacking in certain other candidates.  That's the kind of engagement we, as citizens, should be encouraging.
We can't solve our current structural problems with the same gotcha politics that landed us here in the first place.  We all need to care enough to get informed, get engaged and make a difference.

"Respect for taxpayers" is a bumper sticker.  Respect for citizens involves engagement.
If we want politicians to take their job seriously and move beyond sound-bites, we have to be willing to do the same.
"We far too often reject things before we open our minds to consider them."
       - John Tory, Toronto mayoralty candidate

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