By Jay Menard
Today we go to the polls. While I’m not going to tell you for whom you should vote — and in no way would I think it appropriate to do so for wards in which I don’t live and am not as conversant in the issues affecting those residents — I think there’s a way that, no matter who gets in, we can help ensure that the true winner is the City of London.
No matter who earns the most votes in this election, it’s important to remember the following things:
There is no Right Way to Vote
If a candidate that you don’t like gets in, it’s not a failure of the system or proof that other people are too stupid to know better. Yes, you may have insider information — but that information is restricted to you and your situation.
My needs and my neighbours’ needs may not be the same, even though we live basically in the same space. Old, young, married, single, divorced, with children and without — we all have different priorities and desires. And those change as we progress through life.
They DO Get It
It’s easy to dismiss people by saying “They just don’t get it.” But to me that shows a lack of character on the person making that statement. Your unwillingness to consider other people’s needs is not everyone else’s problem. In fact, the only thing that’s not being “got” is the fact that there are a variety of perspectives, needs, and motivations out there — and a great city embraces and finds balance in them all.
I Can Help You Pack
For years, people have said, “If [Candidate X] gets in I’m leaving!”
Well, I’ll help you pack up. Listen, I’m not all that happy that our federal government is Conservative, but that didn’t send me fleeing to Scandinavia. I can accept that a plurality of people in my country chose that route. It doesn’t mean I stop working towards a better Canada.
Again, no side has a monopoly on “right.” Through negotiation, discussion, and challenging each other’s ideas (and accepting challenges of our own), we forge stronger solutions that are of benefit for all.
I have worked with people from all across political, social, and religious stripes. I don’t have to agree with them, but I respect the fact that everyone has their own needs and motivations. Instead of castigating them for it, I find it better to find common ground and attribute only one motivation to them — that they want to do their best.
This Isn’t About You. It’s About Us.
“I can’t believe that anyone would vote for…” “You’d have to be stupid to vote for…” Instead of applying your own values universally, perhaps real growth would come from trying to understand the wants and needs of those who voted for someone (and stop thinking it’s a vote against your chosen candidate).
It’s My Vote; It’s Our Election
We can often feel we know best. We do — but only for ourselves. My vote is just that — a ballot cast for the candidates who I believe will best represent my school board, ward, and city. There are over 350,000 other people in the city. My vote is no more or less important than anyone else’s. It’s important to keep that in perspective.
Be Equally Gracious in Victory or Defeat
If your candidate wins, don’t gloat. If your candidate loses, don’t pout or lash out. Act like you’ve been there before, reach out to those who voted otherwise, and try to start the process of working together. The last thing we need is a continued polarization of politics in this city — and that starts with treating everyone, winners and losers alike, with grace and dignity.
And remember, your candidate has likely been elected with only a plurality of votes from a minority of citizens. It’s not like it’s an overwhelming mandate, so treat it appropriately.
We’re All in this Together
This is the one I’m most worried about. This municipal election has been, for the most part, disgusting. Supporters on all sides have been downright insulting towards each other and candidates. Groups have revelled in their arrogance and it’s created an environment of ideological gaps that’s going to require a tremendous amount of work to bridge.
What’s forgotten is that we all need to work together. If you have spent your entire campaign attacking the personal nature of a competitor — only to have that competitor win and serve as an elected representative, I find it a little hard to believe you’ll be able to actually work with this person as an equal.
Change is Just a Word. Actions are Different
I’ve been checking out other municipal elections and there’s a common theme — everyone wants change. But that’s an empty word without the actions to back it up.
No matter who gets in, change has to occur. And, in London, it has to be at the foundation of how we interact politically. Bridge gaps, work together, and understand that every community has needs and value. One is not better or more important than the other (and I say that living in the sainted Ward 13).
We have an opportunity to make things work, but it starts at the ballot box and how we react to the results.