A Discussion on How (But Not For Whom) to Vote Tomorrow

By Jay Menard,

This isn’t going to be a blog telling you for whom you should vote.

In fact, if you read someone presenting a list of “who you should vote for” — especially if he or she is advocating outside of their Ward — I’d take that with a very large grain of salt and ask yourself, “In whose interests is this list truly made for?”

Chances are those interests aren’t yours.

It’s not even a post suggesting that you should vote (I’ve talked about my feelings on that for years). 

No, for this post I just want to share my process. And encourage you, if you choose to vote, to consider the same factors when you cast your ballot.

Ultimately, I hope you ignore the advocates and those pushing a cause or a “side.” Instead, just focus on your needs, who you feel best represents your ward, and who has a platform and ideas that align with what you want. Remember, you are giving your “voice” to someone to use (hopefully with ongoing interaction — but that’s rarely the case), so make sure you choose someone worthy of that responsibility.

Earlier this week, some friends and I were sitting around a table, having dinner, and the inevitable topic of Monday’s municipal elections came up. We represented different backgrounds and lived in different wards. We shared thoughts and opinions, we shared experiences with candidates, and it was overall a pleasant conversation.

I was asked for whom am I voting. And, honestly, I’m still not 100 per cent sure across the board. I know for whom I’m not voting for mayor. I know who I support in my Ward. And I know what I’m looking for in a candidate in general.

I won’t tell you names here, because I don’t believe that’s appropriate. I believe we all have different motivations for voting and we need to find the right candidate to represent us and our community. The needs of retirees are different than those of people with young children in their family — and to make a blanket statement disrespects the individuality of the vote. One size really doesn’t fit all.

So I won’t share my final ballots. But I will share the key tests a successful candidate has to pass.

Progressive as More than as a Label

Yes, I believe I’m progressive, but I’ll never define myself as “progressive” as the term has been conscripted locally. I believe in the power of discussion and debate. I believe no side has a monopoly on “right,” and I believe that solutions are strengthened not by shouting down or ignoring criticism, but by addressing its root causes, understanding motivations, and appreciating that we all have different wants, needs, and motivations in this city.

It has been said that religion and politics are subjects not for polite conversation. Unfortunately, we’ve combined the both and our society practices “politics” with a religious fervour, a zealous adherence to Dogma, and a desire to forge a society in one’s own image, with no room for dissent. The second one strays from “The Word,” they are excommunicated, tossed aside, and have aspersions cast upon them. And woe be the person who speaks out against the Scripture of Progressives for they will be smited with great vengeance and vitriol designed to snuff out alternative thought and subsequently damned to exclusion — or, worse, Twitter purgatory!

I believe you can want better for this city without having to drink all the Kool-Aid. I believe we can criticize plans and offer alternatives without being seen as “stuck in one’s ways” or “regressive.”

Ultimately, people want to live their lives and be happy. There is no “correct” way to do this, so a truly progressive city is one that embraces the needs of everyone — from one to 101 — and find ways to work together. The candidates I’m supporting believe in that — they embrace progressive as part of who they are, not just as a label to be weaponized.

But to achieve that goal, the candidates I choose will have to embrace the next ideal.

Truly Representative

Who are you representing, really? I have two tests upon which I base my vote: what’s your record and who are your friends?

For the former, I’m proud to be a part of a number of organizations, boards, and efforts supporting various causes in this city. One of my biggest advocacy efforts revolves around accessibility and I have the honour of sitting on the City’s accessibility advisory committee. A couple of months ago, our chair sent out an email to the four main mayoral candidates, asking how accessibility fits into their platform. She has received responses from three. The one who hasn’t responded has previously shown a lack of regard for accessibility issues. (hint — it’s not the one you’re probably thinking of…)

As to the latter, politics is a lot of who you know — and, by extension, who you owe. If, as a candidate, you’re backed by those who practice exclusion — or, worse, selective inclusion — then I have no time for you.

I want a council that actively supports a community where are are included — not just candidates who pay lip service to it. I want a council that understands that they represent not just the people who voted for them (or, likely, the people who made them their second choice), but all constituents. I want a candidate who puts the desire and needs of their Ward first — not one who uses a vote as carte blanche to impose his or her own views.

Vision Based on Facts, Not Clairvoyance

This one’s harder to quantify. People will (and have) use statistics, reports, and “facts” in whichever way they please to sell their vision. It’s nothing new. But we have some very real challenges in this city. We have dreams and ideals. And we have opposing visions of what this city can and will be.

I’m all for dreaming. I’m all for images and visions. But I’m more for building on a solid foundation. Fore example, I love the idea of Dundas Place but I’m terrified that it will be an abysmal failure because of the very real challenges we’re facing downtown with homelessness and addiction. In that case, we have one chance to get it right. Already people don’t come downtown and if we give them reasons to stay away, they will. If we can’t deliver the steak, it doesn’t matter how loud the sizzle is.

I know “fail fast” has been fetishized (and let’s take a look at how Facebook is currently benefitting from that model), but I’m more of a “do your research, learn from others mistakes, and make sure there’s a market for what you want to do” kind of guy. The candidates who are willing to discuss facts — and to legitimately encourage respectful debate and criticism in the hope of delivering a solid, well-rounded foundation — are the ones who are going to get my vote.

Your Vote is Your Voice

I encourage you, with one day left, to do all the research you can and find out who aligns to your needs. You are casting a ballot for someone to represent your interests — make sure that person deserves that honour.

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