Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ticking all the Boxes

"A man without a vote is a man without protection."
~ Lyndon B. Johnson

This Saturday, November 19, 2011, is a big day for me. Having finally attained full Canadian citizenship on September 29, it marks my first opportunity to vote in any kind of election. This election is Civic, therefore to elect councillors and a new mayor, and I'm finding it all very exciting.

As the world is seeing with such as the we're-as-mad-as-hell-and-not-going-to-take-it-anymore Occupy movement; the continuing 'Arab Spring;' social unrest and political turmoil most anywhere you'd care to mention, people are calling for change. Loudly. They want it NOW, and in many places are taking the initiative to force that change by any means necessary. While I am not remotely an educated political commentator, capable only of articulating this massive global social revolution in the simplest language here, there can be no doubt even to the most casual of observers that these are historic times we are living through. This year in particular has been extraordinarily tumultuous, head-spinning in fact, as almost weekly another tyrant falls, another nation teeters on the brink of bankruptcy, or riots rip the heart out of another community. (And no, the Stanley Cup riot in Vancouver is not what I'm talking about. That was just sheer thuggery for the sake it.)

Just like anywhere in these times, Nanaimo is in need of change. There are many problems in this small city that are far from unique, and obviously some problems that are. But they all need dealing with, some with greater urgency than others, like a precarious unemployment rate that peaked at twice the provincial average earlier this year. That's very scary in an aging community of this size. And from what I'm gathering by talking with friends and associates and reading local press, it seems the general mood is that an entirely new council and leadership is what is needed in this city. I'm not sure I entirely agree, feeling that perhaps a couple of the incumbent councillors seeking re-election still have much to offer this city. But I do agree that there is a real need for fresh ideas, and so have spent time in identifying who I feel could bring them.

Living in the smallest community I 've ever been part of, it's been much easier to get really close to local politics, and the big issues affecting taxpayers, than I've ever known before. It's a compact community, feeling much smaller than the 86,000+ it actually is, so anything of concern to Nanaimo's citizens is generally easily noticed without trying. The scandals, the mismanagement, the waste of tax dollars... it's all very much in our faces here. The fact that Susan and I have become extremely fond of Nanaimo in the five years we've lived here has naturally led to our caring deeply for how things should or should not be done at the highest Civic level. This election, then, especially as it's my first, has seen us researching every candidate carefully, looking at what they can bring the city, regardless of political experience or local reputation. And now, because our political inclinations are pretty much aligned, we have agreed on a list of candidates we favour, and are ready to vote. In terms of everything going on around the world, even though this is just one small community in Western Canada it, nevertheless feels like a crucial election. For this and other reasons, I cannot recall ever having felt so politically-driven, so roll on Saturday!

Every day I read the local information and entertainment blog,, which has proved an invaluable source of information and opinions leading up to this election. This morning, outspoken blogger Jim Taylor, whose opinions I generally, but not always, agree with, under the headline Time For A Complete Change At City Hall? wrote:
"A sound argument could be made for needing the voice of experience on council for the next three years. However, that only makes sense if past performance warrants putting the same people back in for another three years. I think a valid argument could be made supporting the notion that this council has not earned the support of Nanaimo for another term."

So, what will happen? Whether up for councillors, school trustees or the mayor, I know who I'm voting for, but will Nanaimo, as Taylor asks, elect to "sweep away the cobwebs at City Hall?" In just a few days we will know, but whatever the results I'm glad I'll have finally had my say. 

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