I'm not a partisan. Like an increasing number of people in Toronto and across this country, I vote on a case-by-case basis and my opinions vary by issue.
I look for politicians who are smart, reasonable and progressive. Who listen to questions carefully and answer thoughtfully. Who have concrete opinions on a roster of issues and a willingness to listen and learn when it comes to others. Who are funny but never mean.
I like people who have worked hard and earned their dues. Who haven't had it handed to them. I have been employed directly by exactly one politician, and I joined her team because I admired her intelligence, her honesty, her work ethic and her ambitions.
I don't want my leaders to be polarizing. I don't even really want them to be politicians.
I want them to be smart people who will tackle issues as you would in any other high level job: with a clear mind, a strong team and firm objective.
This is what I'm looking for in a mayor. Not an ideologue. Not a stop-gap measure or compromise. Someone who understands their social and fiscal responsibilities. Someone who is pragmatic but socially progressive. Someone who doesn't divide people into neighbourhoods or classes or categories but who recognizes that we all pay taxes and we all want them put to good use.
As a citizen of Toronto -- a city that I love -- I felt a responsibility to get involved in this campaign. Rob Ford was elected with roughly 383,000 votes in a city of more than 2.5 million. We should all be out there knocking on doors for someone.
I looked at all the candidates, read about their backgrounds, felt out their issues and went to see them speak, if I hadn't already. And then I volunteered to help the one who seemed to me to be the right mayor for this time. I'm not on Team Soknacki because he's paying me. I've never worked with the members of his team before. But I like him. Even though he is a nerd with a funny name who no one's ever heard of.
David Soknacki is experienced and knowledgeable about the workings of City Hall. He is calm and kind and he has good ideas about the direction he would take the city. His policies aren't chosen because they are populist and sexy, but because they would work.
He is assembling a smart, funny, enthusiastic team and he is in this for the long haul. (Yes, I asked.)
Municipal elections give us a chance to vote directly for our next mayor. We don't have to worry about a certain party getting a specific number of seats, or weigh our dislike for a local candidate against our respect for their leader (or vice versa).
We should be encouraging more qualified people, especially those with private sector experience, to run for public office. Entering politics is a tough slog that comes at great personal expense. And the process is not made more appealing when respectable individuals are written off as too long a shot before the campaign even begins.
The fact is: these races are almost hopelessly handicapped before they start. The same campaign teams assemble around the same individuals. Troops are rallied to the latest cause, in return for a quid pro quo somewhere down the line. And pundits and media organizations rush to predict the outcome.
Because of this, we tend to see the same names again and again in this country. We draw endlessly from a small pool that can guarantee a certain level of fundraising; people whose names you recognize when the pollster calls, even if you've forgotten voting against them again and again.
But what if it wasn't like that? What if we just let it play out for a while? If we didn't scare off donors, and volunteers, and voters, by telling them that certain candidates were doomed, or that only one strategy would oust our current mayor?
The truth is, Rob Ford will defeat himself. He already has. Who knows where he'll be by October, what he will have done and said, and eaten at home.
In Toronto, we are sometimes quick to panic. We buy overpriced homes we have seen for 30 seconds because we are scared we won't find anything better and we worry about being outbid.
This year, we get to choose a new mayor. A good mayor for a great city. We don't have to rush to pick that person this week.
So what if we listened to what candidates had to say, read up on their ideas and went to see them in person?
What if we supported the one whose ideas we liked, and voted accordingly?
What if we all put strategy and punditry aside for a minute, and just made the choice that seemed to make the most sense.
That's what I did. And it felt pretty good.
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