05/15/2015 07:36 EDT | Updated 05/15/2016 05:59 EDT

I Regret Not Voting For Olivia Chow


In the 2014 municipal election, I should have voted for Olivia Chow. I voted for John Tory and that was a mistake.

I saw in Tory a moderate and inclusive public servant. I was blinded by the widespread support he held from citizens and institutions I respect and admire John Crombie, David Peterson, Bill Davis, Zanana Akande, the Toronto Star editorial among many others. I was not just a supporter of his but I was also his biggest cheerleaders.

Citizens like me and many others made him look smart, progressive and moderate. Sadly, he is not. Essentially, we became the human face of a man whose ideals are wrong for Toronto and Torontonians. We should have known better.

Like a young Jean Chrétien, who in 1958 went to Ottawa as a Lester B. Pearson delegate yet supported Paul Martin Sr. out of pity, I was drawn to Tory for that very same reason at the beginning. I did not study his perspectives well and embraced him rather quickly. The late David Pecaut believed in him and that meant something for me.

Less than a year after he became our mayor, he has disappointed me a great deal.

He has endorsed carding, rejected an idea to have new immigrants participate in our local democracy and his idea of engaging our young people by way of Starbucks employment is a farce at best. I should have followed my instinct and voted for Olivia Chow.

Chow has always been a proven fighter for better ideals in our society and reflects the more perfect Canadian citizenship to us all. She supports the idea of allowing new immigrants to vote, does not support racial profiling and is a noted youth advocate as an elected official and private citizen. Tory is an elitist and he reflects the rejected ideals of the old Reform Party. Chow lost because of people like me. I should have known better.

I would like to publicly apologize to Olivia Chow.

Last night at Ryerson University, Mayor Tory once again broke the trust we placed on him and rejected the idea of allowing landed immigrants and other non-citizens the right to vote in our municipal elections -- a practice many Canadian citizens take for granted. "I would not support the extension of the vote to people who are not citizens of Canada," he said. The mayors of Mississauga and Ajax endorsed it.

Ryerson University professor, Myer Siemiatycki, sees the lack of opportunity to engage new immigrants to the political process as a "lost city of residents--who pay municipal taxes through their mortgages or rent, and contribute to services and programs through various user fees--but have no say in electing the mayor, city council, and school board trustees." Mayor Tory reflected how he has long called for keeping the status quo the way it is. For him, "better success with a program that educates students on how to get elected, including fundraising" is a better way to diversify our politics.

If that was the only ingredient needed to inject diversity in our politics, I, my friend Andray Domise and many others would be councillors today. We are not.

As for me, I took the most intensive and extensive political training for prospective candidates via Maytree Foundation in Toronto. Domise was overwhelmed with financial support, more than he needed, during his campaign. Yet, we both lost and became fringe voices in the end. We are a failed experiment of what Mayor Tory thinks works in our politics.

If Mayor Tory really wants to promote diversity in municipal politics, he should advocate for real reform such as term limits and a recall legislation in case electors have a voter remorse. Better yet, he should reflect on allowing our new neighbors the chance to participate in our local democracy.

Former American Vice President, Dick Cheney, was once asked why he oddly supports same-sex marriage for a Republican. He responded that his daughter, Mary Cheney, is a lesbian. Mayor Tory was also asked a similar question on his support for police carding and he reflected how "his kids, if they were stopped in the street, they wouldn't be treated (the way young people of color are)."

I voted for Tory but I certainly did not endorse a second-class citizenship for myself. Why is he endorsing public policies that Torontonians, for the most part, do not want? Why are we, our fellow black and brown citizens, allowed to be treated in such a way? Why does he continue to fail to understand our anger? Is it because it does not affect him personally?

John Tory is taking us backward not forward. Chow was the better candidate I should have supported.


Olivia Chow Through The Years