Category Archives: Politics

The Real (Estate) Issue for Injection Site Wasn’t Location or NIMBYism

By Jay Menard

This past week, we saw a lot debate around the preferred location of a safe injection site that revolved around location, city building, convenience, and time, but that failed to address the primary need — that of the users who need support and resources.

Add to that facile Tweets, misinformation, and unrealistic timeframes for pseudo-public participation, and you had an environment that was custom-built to encourage failure.

The debate about a location for the safe injection site shouldn’t have been about NIMBYism. But, in many cases, that’s what it devolved into. For those who are quick to cast aspersions on-line, it’s an easier narrative. It’s also a false one — and the fact of the matter is that location is only at the surface of the challenge.

We need to ensure we look at the facts, not just a map, to deliver the best solution for those who need it most. Continue reading

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Accessibility in Elections: Where Were You When Barriers were Built, Maintained?

By Jay Menard

Accessibility is a great buzz word. And having people with disabilities on stage with you or featured on your campaign literature sure makes for a good photo op. But far too often, a commitment to accessibility extends beyond nothing more than tokenism — and if that’s what you’re looking for, you’re missing out on a tremendous opportunity to develop a plan that addresses everyone’s needs.

Today I had the honour of representing the Accessibility Advisory Committee at the Candidate Information Session for the 2018 Municipal Election. My topic was “Running an Accessible and Engaging Campaign.”

Much of the presentation was prepared in a document called “Count Us In: Removing Barriers to Political Participation,” which focused on how to interact and engage with people with disabilities during campaigning. But I firmly believe the majority of the work needs to be done well before you hit the campaign trail. The presentation focused on the campaign, after the fact, but if you’re going to truly embrace accessibility, that inclusion should be undertaken right from the start when you’re developing your platform.

If you were in this room talking with me, that’s a start. But I’m going to ask another question: “Where were you?” Continue reading

Trying to Influence without Disclosure? That’s Disingenuous, Cowardly Behaviour

By Jay Menard

Even though the official campaign doesn’t start until May 1st, it’s painfully obvious that election — and anti-election — season is in high gear. So do you have your secret message decoder ring on? Because it looks like, once again, we’re going to be faced with people who don’t believe that transparency includes expressing biases or conflicts.

Earlier this week, there was a comment in a Facebook chat, likely noticed by few, but it was so important and indicative of the need we should have for transparency. And it reminded me of an outstanding request, which I’ll talk about shortly.

London councillor Phil Squire called out a commenter during a discussion on the validity of a poll — basically stating that the commenter should disclose that he is working on a campaign. The commenter did identify as supporting a candidate in the future later that day. As we head into both a municipal and provincial election, that type of disclosure is vital.

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A Letter to Council: Great Cities Have Great Transit; But Not Necessarily this BRT

By Jay Ménard,

Tonight and tomorrow, our elected representatives will discuss the future of the BRT proposal. As I had a few hours to kill waiting in a hospital today, I wrote one final letter to all of them for consideration and sent it to them earlier.

I present it to you below.

“Dear councillors,

This BRT issue presents an interesting challenge for many of you. I encourage you to vote to send this proposal back to the drawing board. And I’d like to support my argument by starting by quoting one statement — and ask you to read on carefully.

‘Great cities have great transit.’ Continue reading

BRT: Who Do You Trust?

By Jay Ménard,

In the original Batman movie (no, not the Adam West, Batusi-infused one, but the 1980s reboot with the awesome Prince soundtrack), Jack Nicholson’s Joker asks, “And now folks, it’s time for who do you trust?

Now, sure the Joker was just trying to lull the citizens of Gotham into a false sense of security so he could kill them; and you could argue that Batman is a winged vigilante operating on the fringes of the law for the common good — with the tacit support of a police chief dealing with a corrupt crew. Both representing the classic ends-justifying-the-means behaviour. And that attitude certainly looks familiar in London.

When it comes to trust, the devil is in the details. And both sides of the BRT debate have been acting in less than scrupulous — and completely untrustworthy — ways.

Hubba, hubba, hubba. Money, money, money. Who do you trust? Continue reading

The BRT Crash: How We Got There and How We Drive Forward

By Jay Ménard,

When you draw lines in the sand, you create a front upon which battles must be fought.

That’s what we saw last night at the BRT public participation meeting, held at the Budweiser Gardens. It’s clear that people aren’t listening — or, I should say, they’re selectively listening. And the result is a polarization of debate.

Of course, that’s what you get when you argue for or against a “vision.”

I’m pro transit; anti BRT as it’s presented. It doesn’t mean that I’m not progressive, that I hate London, or that I’m stuck in my ways. It means I don’t think this particular BRT proposal is the right one and I would like to actually explore alternatives.

Actual exploration. Not lip service. Not a dog-and-pony show to check off the ol’ engagement box or validate a mandate. A true, proper engagement strategy that is inclusive.

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Solutions for Polarized London’s Transit Debacle? A Drawing Board and Inclusive Listening Skills

By Jay Ménard,

How do we solve London’s current rapid transit debacle? The debate is so polarized that the process has been poisoned. So perhaps it’s time to go back to the drawing board and start where we should have — listening to people’s needs.

All people, not just selected voices.

I’ve been content to discuss this matter behind the scenes, reaching out to councillors and sharing my thoughts. But I really can’t hold my tongue as the on-line and print discussion has turned to the hypocrisy of allegdly rich Londoners posting DownShift signs on their lawn.

People of privilege arguing about which people of privilege are allowed to speak about transit would be funny if it wasn’t sad. Continue reading