Torontonians demand candidates respond to their issues and needs

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Last May, I resolved to start a movement to encourage Torontonians to eat their ballots on October 25. I'm not normally one to promote and encourage movements of entrenched disenfranchisement but this mayoral election had so disappointed me, eating my ballot seemed to be a better option than any other, i.e. voting for a candidate.

As I talked to others who are normally just as engaged in local politics as I am, it was clear that disenfranchisement was widespread.

I wondered why, until I went to an all-candidates debate hosted by Brian Mulroney's son Ben.

The debate more resembled a cheesy sitcom scene where family members in peril are speaking over each other arguing. Unlike a sitcom however, the comedic elements of everyone yelling was not stopped by the sad child wishing people would stop fighting, or an elderly woman pleading for sanity. No. That role was played by a failed and uninspiring former mayoral candidate (Stephen LeDrew). He shut them up by announcing the need to go to commercial rather than moralizing for decorum. This leaves the viewer unfulfilled and uncomfortable, as the moral order has remained disrupted.

I really hoped for a last minute addition to the race. When the deadline passed and the race's frontrunners remained unchallenged by a new candidate, my resolve for encouraging people to spoil their ballots changed.

With no more possibility for an election saviour to deliver the vision and sobriety to the debate for which I yearned, I resigned my frustrations and sought a more constructive venue to engage.

Somehow the frontrunners in the mayoral debate have been allowed to focus squarely on the relatively small amount of tax we pay to City Hall. Assisted by a seemingly colluded media strategy, tax cuts, tax increases, new taxes, taxes are bad and no taxes have dominated the public discourse, and unless you're willing to sift through the noise, this is the only issue one is likely to hear.

Journalists have flooded the coverage about this election with stories from night after night of mayoral debates.

In absence of dialogue that is constructive, many people connected to social justice and environmental organizations decided to force a constructive dialogue. The result was the creation of the One Toronto campaign.

One Toronto has issued a call for Torontonians to demand that candidates respond to them; respond to the issues that they care about.

Through the campaign, One Toronto has delivered a simple but important message to voters: vote for the candidates whose vision of our city is to continue to build on our strengths and not the candidates that focus on what can be torn apart.

One Toronto presented these principles as the purpose behind their movement: Fighting for a city hall that:

• Confronts the challenges of this century: climate change, pollution, urban growth and aging infrastructure;

• Welcomes newcomers into an excitingly diverse and cosmopolitan city;

• Enhances services designed to improve the quality of life for all and address economic, social and racial inequality;

• Invests in education, quality housing, and social infrastructure;

• Invests in accessible public transit and pushes it into more neighbourhoods across the city;

• Values and nurtures a vibrant cultural and arts community;

• Will create a greener economy with good jobs for all.

The campaign committee for One Toronto called for an old-fashioned community meeting on Monday, September 27. With only a few days' notice, almost 500 people packed into the seats of the Church of the Holy Trinity, behind the Eaton Centre.

The message of attendees and presenters was clear: Torontonians stand to lose a lot if the current discourse of slashing taxes, ending social programmes and cutting arts funding, is put into action at City Hall.

Torontonians are a diverse and progressive group. Fighting for equity and creating an inclusive city is embedded in so much of what unites the city.

Activists strive to build community through a variety of programs and artistic and athletic endeavours. This work normally comes to a head at City Hall.

Unlike Queen's Park or Parliament Hill, Torontonians can actually force change in City Hall, but not if city council refuses to listen to its constituents.

Toronto needs elected folks who have a vision of our city that isn't rooted in the incorrect belief that our city spends too much.

Candidates must be able to engage in debate without vilifying another person, or group of people.

In this last three weeks of the campaign, I challenge you to find out which candidates share the One Toronto vision; which candidates support ideas that go beyond the shallowness of the current campaign.

Yes, we need ideas.

In the current state of the election, if ideas were currency, we'd all be paying back a massive, collective mortgage.

Nora Loreto is editor of the Ryerson Free Press. The latest issue of the newspaper can be read here.

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