For some strange reason, it is believed that public endorsement of political candidates in local media is inappropriate. I don’t know why and, frankly, I don’t care. I happen to support the view that people should openly share their opinions about the candidates and their programs, so, I am going to do just that. This is democracy in action.
I am a retiring teacher and a dedicated resident of Dundas. In my professional career, I have collected some very successful and satisfying years that became less satisfying and less successful after the implementation of the “reform” of our education system, initiated by Mike Harris’s “Common Sense Revolution” and his high-school-dropout Minister of Education.
In my personal life, I discovered that it is practically impossible for people with disabilities, to survive in Ontario, unless they have “family money”, a strong family support, a good Long Term Disability benefit plan, or a secret cash paying job. Similarly, it is impossible for disadvantaged citizens to find a decent social housing, before they starve or freeze to death during a lengthy waiting period. These facts I have learned first-hand and I know that they are true.
My political experience is rooted in the Polish “Solidarity” movement of the 1980s, where I had a privilage to serve as a member of a regional initiating committee, a chairman of the region, a member of the National Coordinating Committee and a member of the National Commission of the “Solidarity” movement, before going “underground” during the martial law that followed. That’s where I learned my lessons in trying to improve a bad system, and later, trying to replace it with a better one.
I immigrated to Canada in 1984 and became a Canadian citizen in 1987.
Recently, four candidates in the upcoming municipal election for the City of Hamilton Ward 13 Councillor “found their way” to my mailbox. I will list them in alphabetical order: Rick Court, Danya Scime, Arlene VanderBeek, and Toby Yull. I carefully read their flyers and visited their websites. I also had an opportunity to speak to Toby Yull, whom I met personally while she was canvassing in my neighbourhood. I am not associated with any of the candidates personally, professionally, or politically.
What I am looking for as a voter is a specific program – what each candidate will do (or, at least, will try to do), when elected. Their past successes and careers, personal issues, and self-serving advertising are not that important to me.
I will now share my personal impressions about the candidates and, again, I will do it in alphabetical order.
Rick’s flyer and his website are full of very general statements, but specific commitments are, unfortunately, missing. I was absolutely discouraged, when I read on Rick’s website the following post: http://rickcourtdundas.ca/questionnaires. Rick is not willing to share his program with the voters. Rick is not willing to make any specific commitments. Rick doesn’t like “questionnaires from groups that want to determine whether or not the candidate supports their agenda” – the most important foundation of meaningful democracy based on the right of the people to make informed choices. Similarly, Rick “will not be swayed by vocal self-interest groups” – even though that is the essence of democracy. Rick wants the voters to “know him on a personal level along with highlights of his position on key issues – like LRT.” Rick is not interested in what “the people” want outside of his own ideas and projects. Rick wants to be elected and then allowed to do whatever he wants to do. Perhaps, Rick’s corporate background has shaped his priorities and distorted his views about democracy.
Danya’s website has a nice personal touch to it and her flyer has truly impressed me. It contains specific issues, goals, and commitments. It is respectful of the voters and sensitive to a truly democratic process. It promises that people’s issues and opinions will guide Danya during her tenure of office. It shows her understanding that a successful leader must work with the community on daily basis, not just during the election time. It shows that she accepts the fact that politicians represent the people and are accountable to the people.
I did not have the honour to meet Arlene personally, although on two occasions within the last 12 months, I spent considerable time waiting and knocking at the door of her office in the “Dundas City Hall” building, where she worked as (I believe) executive assistant to the present Councillor, Russ Powers. I heard her and Russ’s voices inside their office, as they worked on some important agenda, but the door remained closed, even though this was taking place on business days and within working hours (between 1:00 and 3:00 p.m.) I understand that meetings should not be disturbed, but I just wanted to make an appointment for a future date. My few emails to Mr. Powers, also remained unanswered.
Arlene’s flyer and website focus on her past careers and experiences but both contain very little information on her specific program and goals “on the ground.” She talks about her former experience at City Hall and her proven track record of getting things done for Dundas, right after listing her experience as a former Dundas Town Councillor during the five years leading up to the extremely unpopular amalgamation. She also mentions her 30 years of Planning and Zoning experience, and local development projects in a city that is increasingly indifferent to protecting public access to and free public use of publicly owned infrastructure, such as parking spaces. She has not challenged development projects that resulted in closing of important deer crossings and, consequently, in fragmentation of the Dundas Valley ecosystem that, in turn, contributed to the overpopulation of deer, traffic hazards caused by deer, and extensive damage to the Valley’s forests in some areas. I think that Arlene’s main focus is the support for our local business community and I think that we need a fresh and new blood to take turn in representing the best interest of the “salary and pension earning” part of our population and in protecting the integrity of our environment.
Toby has excellent interpersonal skills and a benefit of a “fresh eye on Dundas.” Her initial stated program ideas are well thought out and she is willing to listen and work with the community on a wide range of issues. She comes across as a candidate who has no previous baggage, one who can think outside of the box, one who knows what she wants to achieve, and one who is “creative, practical, energetic and collaborative.” I like her commitment to “the unique character of Dundas, our environment, our sense of community, and you, the taxpayer.”
Rick Court is not my #1 candidate. Neither is Arlene VanderBeek. I have still not decided between Danya Scime and Toby Yull and this will be a hard decision to make. As a voter, I am looking for a Councillor who is sincerely concerned with the lives of average residents of Dundas, rather than with the well-being of Dundas businesses and development of local infrastructure. All of these projects and ideas are important but some have been neglected for too long and have to be taken care of sooner rather than later. Such priorities are important to me. We want to improve our town but we cannot leave our people behind.
None of the candidates came up with a truly visionary and courageous social program to improve the lives of ordinary residents of Dundas.
- No one has proposed the formation of local committees that would investigate unreasonable price gouging practices in our supermarkets, apartment buildings and other essential services, and would challenge these practices through publicity, issuing of permits, and other available means;
- No one has proposed the removal of “No parking” signs from publicly owned streets neighbouring access points to attractive recreational areas;
- No one has proposed that parking meters be removed from the publicly owned streets and municipal parking lots in Dundas. I don’t understand why local people, who pay local, provincial, and federal taxes, have to pay for parking to access their bank or a government agency, to visit a doctor or a medical facility, to do their shopping, or just to walk around the town. More cars then spaces will not be able to park anyway, and the profits from parking meters probably just cover the services of the parking police. I would encourage the future Councillor to follow the example of Paris, Ontario, where free parking in downtown’s commercial area is allowed for up to two hours on first-come, first-served basis;
- No one has proposed that the property tax rates be reduced equally for private house owners and for residents of apartment buildings;
- No one has had the courage to challenge the annual deer hunting in Dundas Valley and the intrusion of outsiders into the management of our wildlife resources and our conservation areas in our community on the basis of a historical and legal hoax. [ 1 ], [ 2 ], [ 3 ], [ 4 ].
There are other issues that negatively impact the lives of ordinary residents of Dundas. The cost of certain services, including services for seniors, are out of reach for most people who do not own and operate profitable businesses, or do not have fat bank accounts, or rich relatives willing to help. There are many people who cannot afford to pay well in excess of $3000 per month to access a decent retirement home. There are senior citizens who have to make daily choices whether to buy food or to save money for rent. This is below the collective dignity of our community. These are the people who spent their lifetime developing this town, this province, this country for us. These are the people who helped our businesses grow and prosper. These people cannot be left behind; we owe them, they need to be represented, they have earned it. Solutions need to be found.