(Column Written for Town Crier Aug. 19)
What kind of city do you want?
At debates, this is a favourite question for mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson.
John Tory, who earlier this month announced he’s not running for mayor, told me many important issues facing this city aren’t being debated in this election. I agree.
Sure some candidates are talking about cutting taxes, the streetcars vs. subways, or how to plan and design prettier buildings, etc.
These are important issues to many of us. But Toronto is a complex, multi-faceted city with many interconnected issues that can either make us or break us.
I’m asking you to think about your vision for the city. It has everything to do with whom we chose in 44 council races and to be our next mayor.
I’m not endorsing any of the 34 mayoral candidates, which include front-runners Thomson, Rob Ford, George Smitherman, Joe Pantalone and Rocco Rossi.
Instead, I’m imploring you to think about what’s wrong with this city. For some, it’s the backlog to fix parks, roads and community centres. But don’t just look at the problems — also contemplate what’s right with this city. It could be the overall reduction in crime through a combination of enforcement and prevention.
The next council will be at the helm for the next four years, deciding whether to cut or expand police, firefighters, social workers, public health, libraries, community recreation programs, affordable housing, daycare, garbage pick-up, transit, swimming in schools, arts, culture, festivals, road repair and on and on.
So when you listen to the mayoral and council candidates in debates or at the door discussing their vision, think beyond the surface talk. What are they really saying. Think about whether the city will be a better place to live, work and play if they’re elected?
When you talk to your friends, family and co-workers about your neighbourhood, what issues come up in conversation? Do you talk about how much you love taking the kids to parks, splash pads or city-run community centre? Do you notice more cops walking the beat lately making sure the streets are safer? Is there a need for more police presence in your neighbourhood?
Perhaps you complain about how the city’s roads are rough to drive on because potholes are mounting, a bridge on your street is crumbling and buses take too long to arrive.
My advice is vote for a mayor and local councillor who don’t just tell you how bad the city is in its current state. If you find candidates lack a burning desire to improve the city, why are they running?
I’m not suggesting political candidates should have all the answers or residents should have all the solutions. But I want to see politicians with a passionate plan to make Toronto the Good the best it can be. And I’m suggesting you examine their talking points and see if it is a vision you share.
Residents often say they aren’t inspired by the people running to govern this city. I’ve had the privilege to interview some local and mayoral candidates and many care deeply about Toronto.
For my money, I want someone who will be part of the solution of making Toronto better for all of us. Remember, it’s simple to say city hall is broken and we need new faces. It’s harder to get elected and build a better city.
So what burning issue is important to you in this election?