Years ago I worked with a woman who had immigrated to Canada from the Philippines where she had lived during the Marcos regime. She told me that the one thing she was really looking forward to as a newly sworn in Canadian citizen was getting to freely, privately and safely vote in an election. "Have you ever had an AK47 pointed at you when you were in a voting booth?" she asked me. She shared with me that she had not ever once gotten to vote freely and unencumbered in an election. "It is a basic privilege of democracy that I look forward to." she told me. I have never forgotten what she shared with me that day. Since that time I have not ever, not even once, ever missed an opportunity to cast my vote in any election. Not federal, not provincial and especially not municipally.
I always cringe when I hear people say "Vote? Oh I can't be bothered. What's the point especially municipally." Voter turnout for local elections is a mere 35% of the eligible voting public compared to the 50+% for provincial & federal elections. Part of me is greatly saddened by this fact because when you think about it our local government is the most grassroots, the most accessible and the closest to home governance we live with on a day to day basis. I struggle with the apathy of those numbers for the privilege to responsibly elect our local representation. I abhor the chatter of those who chose to say silly things such as "what's the point...." or "why bother...." or "it's just our local council, who cares...." Well I care.
I care about recycling and composting programs. I care about protecting the water that flows from the top of the Headwaters that eventually ends up in Lake Ontario and ultimately out my kitchen tap. I care that there are books to borrow from the public library. I care that there is supportive housing for seniors and those impacted by disabilities. I care that the snowploughs safely clear Highway 50. I care that there is a large beautiful green space where fireworks can be shot off on Canada Day. I care that I live in a region that wants to invest for resilience. I care about community safety, policing, the fire department and about the animal shelter out on Coleraine Road. I care that there are pools to splash in, rinks to skate on and infields to slide in to homeplate at. I care that we are a community that has heritage and history. I care that Bolton is home to one of the oldest Agricultural fairgrounds in North America. I care that Caledon is a place where the Niagara Escarpment meets the Oak Ridges Moraine. I care that I have a local government that made it very clear that protecting the ground we live on against relentless and uncontrolled growth and ruthless developers is a priority. I care because Caledon is my home.
I know that there are some people out there who think what I prattle on about here is negative and downright mean. To those people I would say this. What I am trying to get you to do is to think. Think about this community. Think about the fundamental values of this place we call home. Ask questions. Ask hard questions. Keep my tongue in cheek rhetoric in its perspective. I'm prodding you, or in some cases, just plainly poking the stick through the fence at you, if at least just to get some sort of reaction. I'm checking to see if you have a pulse. Apathy is a terrible illness that will suck the life right out of a community and this shows up more during municipal elections than at any other time during our electoral process. Closest to home, yet furthest from our heart. This is a logic that I have struggled to understand. It's a terrible malady to realize that no vote is in fact a vote. Of course one could just prescribe to the tenet, if you don't vote then your forfeit your right to complain about your governance.
On Monday, October 25th our community will go to the polls to elect a four year term council. Four years, eight councillors and a mayor, who will represent us in what I believe will be one of the most important four years for Caledon in its history. There will be no AK47s pointed at anyone as we the people get to exercise our fundamental right to democracy and to freely chose those who represent us. Choose wisely but more importantly, choose.
Happy belated Canada Day.