The great thing about doing the thing I do, and yes, this is me doing something, aside from getting to trade barbs with former Harris government knobs, is all the smart, engaged people I meet along the way.
Two of the smartest, most engaged people I’ve had the opportunity to meet are Desmond Cole and Dave Meslin. On Tuesday, the two helped roll the rock of voting reform a little bit further up the hill as the Government Management Committee’s Proposed Electoral Reform item made its way through city council, relatively unscathed. Now the questions of permanent resident eligibility to vote municipally, ranked ballots, internet voting and a review of municipal election finance rules are on their way to Queen’s Park to secure the provincial approval needed for any of these initiatives to go forward.
Being an activist can’t be easy.
There are assholes like me, just popping up on the scene, who start yelling and think that’ll make an immediate difference. True, effective activism doesn’t work like that. It’s a slog. A long, tough slog.
Meslin has been stirring up the pot here in Toronto since the last century it seems. Oh. I’m sorry. What? 1998 is the last century. Well then. Meslin has been stirring up the pot here in Toronto since the last century.
Reclaim the Streets. Toronto Public Space Committee. City Idol. Toronto Cyclists Union. RaBIT. He was part of all those movements.
For his part, Desmond Cole’s been around the activist block a time or two himself. A Project Coordinator for I Vote Toronto, he’s been at ground zero for the push to open municipal voting to permanent residents. He was a winning candidate for City Idol back in 2006, running in Ward 20 against Adam Vaughan. As a writer-activist, Cole has also been front and centre covering relations between the Toronto Police Services and the city’s visible minority communities.
The status quo is firmly entrenched. Budging it even just a little takes a lot of time and effort. You’re labeled a special interest or a usual suspect by those who like the status quo just fine, thank you very much, or who can’t see anything past it.
Even those fighting the same fight can turn unfriendly and unhelpful. I’ve witnessed firsthand the internal warfare going on between the camps trying to change our first-past-the-post voting system. Allies fighting for a better way to elect our representatives arrive at loggerheads over the exact method to do it.
Activism is not for the faint of heart. I think that’s especially true in these days of deep cynicism and disconnect to our political system. Much easier to throw up your hands and say, well, they’re all corrupt, they all lie, a pox on all their houses than it is to roll up your sleeves, get into the trenches, firm in your conviction of changing this motherfucker up.
So I tip my hat to the likes of Dave Meslin and Desmond Cole, and say thank you. Not only are they fighting the good fight, they do so in such an infectious, enthusiastic way as to make it almost seem like fun. And why not? Civic participation is fun, despite opinions to the contrary.
And it would be remiss of me not to send out a big thumbs-up to Councillor Paul Ainslie as well. As chair of the Government Management Committee, he grabbed hold of the electoral reform issue and saw it through some very choppy waters especially at times due to his own unfriendly committee. His determination to see this through was as dogged and tireless as that of the likes of Meslin and Cole.
We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke spend much of our time expressing disappointment in the conduct of our local representatives at City Hall. So it behooves us then to take a moment and acknowledge when they exhibit exemplary behaviour. (Frankly, they do so at a much higher rate than they are ever given credit for.)
At the outset, Paul Ainslie never struck me as a particularly outstanding councillor. Early on in this term, he seemed to be just another right wing lap dog for Mayor Ford, obediently doing the mayor’s bidding and voting along party lines. That started to change for me when he stood up, outraged as the TPL board chair, to respond to then budget chief Mike Del Grande’s dim view of all the non-English language books and videos in the library’s catalogue.
His drift toward independence has continued and, while still too right leaning for my particular tastes, he has come to represent a moderate voice on council. Maybe he always was and it got lost in the ideological thunder that rolled over City Hall in the fall of 2010. He deserves a lot of credit for rising above the partisan tumult and delivering on what could be a real game-changer in terms of local politics.
Not immediately. But soonish. That’s the reality for activists and the politicians responsive to them. We owe both a huge hug of gratitude.
— thankfully submitted by Cityslikr