The $415,000 Question

By Jason Menard

Another day, another City Hall fiasco. Unapproved renovation costs, sexual harassment issues, closed-door meetings, denials, double-talk, sniping – it seems one can’t wake up anymore and pick up a paper without reflexively cringing before seeing what’s next.

So what do we, as Londoners, do about it? That’s the $415,000 question, now isn’t it? For many years now Londoners have been willing to gripe about our elected officials, but when it comes down to that decisive moment, the status quo reigns supreme.

Name recognition seems to be the order of the day for London voters – last election saw all incumbents who ran re-elected. Voter apathy tops the list. In fact, just over 30% of eligible voters cast ballots last election. And who are among the worst offenders? London’s youth.

Whether it’s university students returning home from their studies, or high school grads preparing to take the next step in their lives, one of the fundamental responsibilities we have as a society – and as adults — is participation in the democratic process.

Of course, no one is actively going to get you to the polls. I’m not so far removed from that age to have forgotten how hollow “Get out to vote” messages can sound. In fact, those pseudo-hip messages specifically targeted to the youth demographic are either way off base or way too condescending.

So why should you go out and cast a vote on November 10? The pretentious answer is, “Because it’s your civic duty to do so.” But the real reason is that you can make a difference and help to shape this city the way you want it!

Stop and think about the power you – and when I say you, I mean youth as a block – hold for the upcoming election. The numbers can be in your favour! Look at the percentages we’re talking about here – only about one-third of eligible voters actually exercised their right to vote. Now, if the youth of this city – even conservatively saying 5,000 to 10,000 people — actually got involved in this process and voted for a candidate who met their needs that could have a significant impact on the final result.

Now I can hear the cry, “There’s nobody out there who cares what we think.” You know what? You’re probably right. And you know why? You don’t give them a reason to care.

As much as we’d like to live in a world where politicians have all of our best interests in mind, the fact of the matter it’s not that the squeaky wheel gets the grease –all the whining in the world won’t get you anywhere. It’s the squeaky wheel that actually has some weight behind it that will see results. They’re called interest groups because they actually can attract the interest of our city’s movers and shakers.

I’ve lived in this city for a number of years and all I’ve ever heard from this city’s youth is how backwards the city is, how there’s nothing for the youth, and a litany of things that are wrong with the city. I’ve yet to see anyone do anything about it.

Where’s the motivation for someone running for office to develop a position, or even address your needs? Why should they waste their breath on a group that’s not even going to get out and cast a ballot. However, I guarantee that if they knew that your vote could make a difference between election and obscurity, I’m sure they’d be more receptive to your concerns.

Sure it’s only May and it would seem too early to start thinking about elections, but that’s precisely the problem! Most people don’t think about elections, read what they see in the paper, then go cast a ballot – and hence the same-old, same-old council we keep getting.

Think of it as your summer project before you go back to school. We live in the electronic age, so send the candidates an email. Go see them when they’re stumping for votes. Call their offices. No matter what you do, get your voice heard and ask the questions that concern you! If you don’t get an answer, ask again. Find the candidate who addresses your concerns in a way you’re satisfied with. And don’t just stick with the “money” candidates – talk to the lesser lights, see what their ideas are.

This way, when Nov. 10 rolls around, you’ll know who – and what – you’re voting for. Maybe it will be the same-old candidate, or perhaps someone new will earn your vote. At least you’ll be making an informed decision.

And, hopefully, as voting day approaches the candidates themselves will know who they’re dealing with when it comes to plotting London’s future!

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

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