Be an informed voter. Or be quiet.

16 Sep

I don’t answer the phone when they call.

I get annoyed with those cut-off phone messages that are obviously pre-recorded and set to start playing as soon as the phone (even the voicemail) picks up.

When they knock on the door, I sometimes … okay, usually … pretend I’m not home.

So, when do I meet my candidates? I always vote, so how do I make my choice? I admittedly don’t have the time or will to listen to their pitches when they try to reach me…(I was unsure whether I should admit this. But really, if I’ve just gotten home, I’m eating dinner and trying to unwind…no offense, but I’m not sure I want to hear a laundry list of committees you’ve sat on…)

But on Election Day, I don’t go in blind. I do a bit of research on my own time. I work at a group of newspapers. So, well, it comes up.

Last night at the city’s first-ever Meet and Greet session, I heard some funny comments from both candidates and voters alike.

A lady was standing outside the gym, peering in the window. “Come on in,” I said. “All of the candidates for the upcoming election are in here. You can chat with them. Ask them your questions. Decide who to vote for.”

Well, she looked at me like I had 10 heads.

“Nah,” she said. “I know them. They are all the same.”

Hmm. Ok. But on October 26 and for the next four years, in my humble opinion, you’ve lost your right to complain about city hall and its happenings. They are standing in a room, waiting to chat. Answer your questions.

A candidate seeking election in one of Vaughan’s wards came by to “check it out”.

“Well,” I said. “It’d be great to see a few more people out. But it’s tough to get people to these things. Have you been spreading the word as you door-knocked?”

“Nope,” he said. “I didn’t want to. I’d rather people go to events where no other candidates are so that they only meet me. Like my barbecue.”

Hmmmm.

That is not quite my idea of 1) a candidate who has any faith in his abilities and 2) someone who values public engagement and democracy.

What better place to show off your skills, ideas and personality than in a room with all of your competitors?

Another visitor to the community centre, when approached by one of my colleagues, said: “They should come to me. I’m not going to them.”

Again. Hmmm.

What about a bit of personal responsibility? Yes. A candidate should door-knock and go to events and try to reach out to you. But, it is your right to vote. It is your responsibility to vote.

And I think there’s something to be said for taking onus of the process. Don’t wait for them to come to you. Take on some of the responsibility. Find them. Research. Chat.

At the next four Meet and Greet sessions, candidates and/or their volunteers will be sitting in city gyms, waiting for you to talk to them. They won’t be shouting at each other at a debate. They won’t be interrupting your favourite TV show.

Turn off the TV. Pack up the kids. Show ’em democracy. Drop by one of the community centres on your terms.

Don’t like something an incumbent said or did? Ask them about it. Put them on the spot. Want to hear a new candidate’s ideas for transit or safety or gridlock? Ask them about it.

Face-to-face.

– AD

Advertisements

7 Responses to “Be an informed voter. Or be quiet.”

  1. Michele Menard Ferazzutti September 16, 2010 at 5:17 PM #

    For the first time, I attended a meet-and-greet, and I am glad that I did. My only complaint is that it needed to be better advertised – I literally stumbled across it while looking for information on the candidates on-line.

    Not only have I changed my mind about who I am voting for in the mayor seat (as opposed to voting against which I did last time), but I also have a very clear idea as to who I want representing me on council. And as importantly – who I don’t.

    Thanks for arranging this.

    • vaughanelection September 16, 2010 at 5:42 PM #

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so glad you did stumble upon the information and came out last night. We’ve been trying to spread the word and will keep at it – there’s four more events and the mayoral and regional candidates were invited to each one, as well as the ward candidates and trustees.
      Tell your neighbours!
      -Alexis

  2. Elliott Silverstein September 17, 2010 at 3:34 PM #

    Thank you Alexis for posting this detailed review of the first Meet & Greet Session in Vaughan. As a member of the Task Force that recommended it, I’m pleased that the idea became reality and that most candidates were there making the most of the opportunity.

    But we also need to be realistic. These types of events are often promoted by word of mouth and will hopefully result in larger turnouts going forward.

    While citizen word of mouth is important, the participants (aka the candidates) also have an unwritten duty to promote it as well.

    I read your exchange with a candidate from another ward that was “visiting” the event. That gentleman clearly represents a flaw with some candidates seeking public office. They are part of a political process where they want every opportunity afforded to them, but have little desire to “give back” and promote initiatives to help increase overall voter participation and turnout in this city.

    You said it perfectly. This candidate has no confidence in his campaign, nor is he aware of what democracy is about – that voters will have the final say in the end. Candidates can try to live in a bubble and shut residents out of events like “meet and greets”, but it also highlights why candidates like this are out of sight for four years and then reappear only at election time.

    As a candidate, if you aren’t willing or able to show your value against your opponents, odds are you are not suited to represent the community on City Council.

    Let’s focus on the end goal – increased turnout on election day, and voters that have more information about the issues and their candidates. Let’s not waste another breath on candidates who don’t have the city and its residents’ best interests in mind.

    • vaughanelection September 17, 2010 at 5:14 PM #

      Thank you for your insight, Elliott. I hope that we all do work together to increase voter turnout. No harm can come from more people feeling connected, engaged and part of the process in electing the people who run our city. — AD

  3. harold diers insurance October 3, 2010 at 10:21 AM #

    This is the best read that I read this month!!!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. TONIGHT: Meet and Greet for Ward 4 at North Thornhill Community Centre « Vaughan Today: Election 2010 - September 20, 2010

    […] The Meet and Greet sessions are informal, drop-in style events. Pop in and “shop” around for who you want to represent you. After Oct.25, nine of the people in the North Thornhill Community Centre tonight will be making decisions on your behalf that will affect your day-to-day life in your neighbourhood. Come meet them so you can make an informed choice on Election Day. […]

  2. Ward 1 Meet and Greet abuzz with soon-to-be voters « Vaughan Today: Election 2010 - September 22, 2010

    […] last week’s post-Meet & Greet rant, I lamented about the lack of interest and effort of many residents, and even candidates, prior and […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: