Monday, 13 October 2014

Thanks for democracy

It almost goes without saying that Thanksgiving finds me extremely grateful for my family. We have just enjoyed a weekend with our kids and grandchildren around. It is a rare luxury to spend weekends like this one together.

Last week I found myself thinking about one of our most precious gifts; democracy. Our ability to change our governments is often take for granted in Canada. Meanwhile, we are constantly inundated with images of war and instability in many areas of the world. Students in Hong Kong have been bravely demonstrating, in hopes of maintaining some shred of democracy.

It is municipal election season in Ontario, with municipal and school board elections taking place on October 27th. It has been noted that while municipal issues effect us the most closely, turnout in these elections is usually far lower than in provincial and federal contests.

Perhaps that is why I felt encouraged last week when we attended an all candidates meeting for city councillor in our ward of Kitchissippi. What a crowd! There were seats for 180 set up in a church basement. They were quickly filled and as the meeting got underway people were standing three deep across the back of the room.

What this photo does not convey is just how packed it was. The windows faced the parking lot. As the room heated up with all the folks inside, the overflow crowd stood outside, pressed against the open windows, to hear the candidates' remarks. That's how keen they were to really know these candidates. That is democracy in action! It was wonderful to see.

We went into that meeting with our minds made up. We are backing Jeff Leiper, who is trying to unseat our current councillor. In June we held a meet and greet event at our place; a chance for our neighbours to get to know Jeff and his policies.

 Even though our involvement in his campaign has been limited, it feels good to be a part of the political process. One of the things that impressed us about Jeff, is that right from the start, he vowed not to accept any campaign donations from developers. If elected, he does not want to feel beholden to them in any way. 

Many of the questions and concerns voiced at the meeting were about developers and how they are shaping our neighbourhoods and our city, both in the big projects and the infill housing on all our streets. People want to see some accountability and responsibility from  these people who are making such huge financial profits as they transform Ottawa.

So good luck to Jeff. Here's hoping for a good turnout in our ward, in Ottawa and across the province. Imagine how all those Hong Kong students would feel about us, if we did not bother to get out and exercise this wonderful gift of democracy. 

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