he sun cut through autumn leaves this morning to greet voters turning up for Toronto’s municipal election. Constituents in the Parkdale-High Park riding lined up with coffees, cigarettes and ballots in hand, ready to cast their vote in for their chosen elected official.
While the nature of who those within this area are voting for remains rightfully unspecified, many were eager to divulge the why behind their vote instead.
Some of these individuals spoke with The Hoser about their history of living in Toronto, the reasons behind their ballot and how voting for them is more than just a civic chore.
A former nurse with the Centre of Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH) and a current healthcare professional, Christine Craig was able to share her impressions on the current political atmosphere in Toronto. Recurring themes focused on her admiration for her neighbourhood, how leaders should protect communities and what elected officials can do to truly engage with their city.
“There’s a lot that needs to be done — quite a lot — the politicians at home really don’t know what’s happening and I think they should often show themselves in their community. Once you’re voted in you really should not just sit in your office, you must come to the community at least once a month to actually see what’s happening to those who are vulnerable,” says Craig.
All-around suggestions for the new incoming authority weren’t the only thing on Craig’s mind, as she has been watching those within Parkdale struggle for some time — especially senior citizens.
“There are some very vulnerable people, and they don’t know where to go for help and they don’t know how to do it so they suffer in silence. There is a woman in my building who is almost 90 and seeing what she has to pay for a bachelorette apartment at that age. Something is not right,” says Craig.
A citizen of Parkdale for almost 40 years — and a man who has never missed a vote in his entire life — Fred Blucher was able to share his thoughts on not just policy, but also what’s been happening downtown as well.
“I’m not totally thrilled with what’s been going on in city hall, with all the carping, sniping and inactivity, which certainly hasn’t helped this neighbourhood (Parkdale) which has had all manner of grief.”
Having spent decades living in the neighbourhood, Blucher has seen in real-time the topography of the area change in terms of affordable housing, which has made him grow increasingly concerned for his neighbours.
“Between the foolish landlords and abusive housing situations, people can simply not afford to live here,” says Blucher.
Even as an established homeowner within the area, Blucher still wants others to have a fighting chance for fair housing and a future.
“It’s not out of sight out of mind for me, especially if you know folks within that situation — and I do. Acquaintances of mine, people that work for me and so forth, it’s just treacherous and dangerous. If they find themselves without housing for whatever reason, no matter how petulant, what are their choices?” says Blucher.
A TV Producer who has spent over 20 years living in Toronto, Mike Yerxa was able to share his feelings on Toronto’s political past and how it laid the foundation for its future. This coupled with the current crisis surrounding affordable housing has left Yerxa concerned regarding the mass exodus of Torontonians.
“I think that our current incumbent individual is not doing enough. Toronto is becoming unaffordable, and it’s driving a lot of people out of the city. These are people who could have left their mark on Toronto as artists, and I don’t think enough is being done in this particular neighbourhood for affordable housing,” says Yerxa.
To facilitate the kind of change that will help the community, Yerxa believes that the current guard has to be changed.
“I think if we hold our elected officials accountable, they will rise to the occasion. With that in mind, I definitely think a part of the issue with this city is that people stay in power for way too long. This results in them not being in step with their constituents or ridings — I’d like to see that change.”
Mark & Rozita
Long-time friends and long-time neighbours, Mark Bell and Rozita Razavi were able to share their impressions on voter turnout in Toronto and what it means on a personal level when you cast your ballot.
“For me, it’s my social responsibility, it’s important for me to make an impact on my society. I’m coming from a place that is oppressed, so having the choice to choose people that are actively saying things you want to hear is a privilege, so why not use it?” Says Razavi.
Razavi grew up in Iran and has not missed a single vote since moving to Toronto 20 years ago.
As for Bell, he has seen in real-time that Toronto’s infrastructure become heavily weighted towards anything with a combustion engine.
“I feel like currently our system and mayor is sort of doing everything good for cars and people with cars — it really doesn’t seem to go beyond that. I think if we had more of a people-centred government it would make a huge difference,” says Bell.
As for the impetus behind his vote and turning up at all Bell says,
“I hope each time I show up it chips away at the process and gets more people involved, even if the people we are voting for don’t get in, it might shift the agenda a little bit in that direction.”
As for Razavi, her reasons are very much her own.
“I vote for myself and on behalf of anyone who doesn’t,” Razavi says with a chuckle.