Keeping politics on the streets: a post-election reflection

November 2011

I have to say, after all of those personal attacks, the slights against immigrants and the clever NDP ad involving a pair of bright orange pumps, the outcome of this years provincial election was decidedly anticlimactic.

I’ll admit, a small part of me did fear a conservative trifecta, the hat trick of doom.

But a larger part of me, okay the rest of me, was unabashedly hoping and praying for Andrea Horwath’s success. NDP supporters were disappointed when McGuinty was elected for the third time in a row.

Not as disappointed as we would have been if Hudak won, for obvious reasons.

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: we must not lose hope. We, the vaguely left, must do as we have always done and keep fighting.

We lost our champion in parliament, we missed our chance in the provincial legislature, we are still mourning the loss at the municipal level, but Toronto activists must not stop.

Even though we may not be changing the world overnight, even though we were disap- pointed, election-wise—it appears that we are still in a different place than we were last year. I believe that recent events indicate that the collective consciousness is moving towards a more progressive and inclusive system, socially and economically.

Sustainable initiatives are popping up, local produce is becoming more popular, being green is trendy. Protestors demanding change for our system that takes from the majority and gives to a minority are occupying the neighbourhoods of the highest rollers all over the world.

While corporations get more and more power, more and more people every day realize that our current system is not one that they can support.

Even though McGuinty was elected for the third time in a row, Harper got a majority and Rob Ford has control over the best city in Canada, I still believe progress is happening. Slowly, subtly, we’re moving forward.

I mean really, would any of us thought this time last year that an NDP candidate would actually have a chance in an election? That in itself is proof enough that we are doing some- thing right. So maybe we haven’t won the war just yet, but are getting a fair few battles under our proverbial and collective belt.

But we must not stop. And by we I don’t just mean activists. I mean everyone. Now that the election is over, don’t stop thinking about politics. Now that the Occupy Toronto protest is no longer headline news, don’t forget why people are still camped out at St. James Park.

Now that we’ve hit a lull, don’t forget that every second you are not screaming for your rights, stamping your feet and raising your fists, you are wasting a chance to build a better world for your children, your grandchildren, even your future self if we work hard enough.

I implore you to maintain your interest in our political situation. Even when all evidence of Jack Layton’s memorial has been washed away by the rain, when all of the Elections On- tario ads have left the TTC, if and when Occupy Toronto links are no longer coming up on our news feeds, stay on top of what’s going on.

This is a formal request for you to stay active. People need to realize that it is when things stop appearing on the news, we need to be paying the most attention.

The streets of our city have been a hotbed of activity. From last year’s G20 catastrophe, to Jack Layton’s death this summer, and finally with Occupy Toronto, it seems to be that in Toronto the political is now on the street.

Our public sphere is no longer a chamber of elected officials, which really hasn’t felt all that public in a while; indeed the public sphere is your status updates, your tweets, your blogs and your marches. It is the ground you walk on as you wave a placard and it is the air you are breathing as you sing your songs of freedom.

So let’s keep it that way. Let’s keep the Arab Spring and North African revolutions in mind. Let’s keep asking for the troops to come home. Let’s keep talking about service cuts in the city and representing the 99 per cent.

We must not let the current government or a culture of apathy define how we view the democratic system or how we view our country. All we have is the stolen land we stand on so we better make our voices heard. Discuss, participate and appreciate. Discuss the current situation, participate in the progressive movements in which you believe and appreciate the nature of your own potential to make a change in the place you live.

You must fight for your right to participate. You must demand your role. You are not sheep you are citizens. If you are not a citizen you are a resident. If you have no status, no one will hand it to you.

Fight for your existence or you will carry on unaware until our destructive and unsus- tainable ways finally reach our limit and the world, as we know it, crumbles around us.

Then what will you have? Nothing. What do you have now? Nothing. Better to know now while you can still do something about it.

as published in the Ryerson Free Press, November 2011

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