Yesterday was Ontario’s municipal election, and I did not have a good day.
First and foremost, despite being on the Voter’s List I didn’t receive my voter’s card in the mail, so I had to sort that out at an actual polling station… and the polling station I chose (convenient to the office) didn’t exist. So The Wife™ and I had to backtrack to our neighbourhood and vote at the nearest poll, which was wall-to-wall senior citizens… most of whom hadn’t received their voter’s cards either, so what should have been a ten-minute task became an hour-long chore involving a lot of waiting in line for stuff.
The wait was made longer because, despite her efforts ahead of time, The Wife™ wasn’t on the Voter’s List at all, so she had to register from scratch. And all of this was happening while I was playing hooky from work to do it, so that was stressing me out a bit.
It was, to put it mildly, a hassle and an annoyance… and I don’t for a minute think that it wasn’t worth it. There are places in this world where people are murdered for trying to vote; being inconvenienced by well-meaning volunteers doesn’t even rate a complaint.
In any case, we eventually got to cast our ballots and then we went out for a nice lunch. Then I went back to the office, and at the end of the work day I went home, made a nice dinner, then curled up on the couch in front of the fire with a beer and the dogs and some snacks and called up the city’s poll tracking site to watch the returns roll in. It wasn’t quite 20:00, when the polls closed, but I was willing to wait.
And I waited. And waited. And waited.
It turn out that so many people in Peterborough were doing the exact same thing that the city’s website crashed. The twitter feeds quickly filled with complaints, then humour, and finally hilarity. The local cable provider, which proved to have an independent FTP connection to the returning office, eventually realized there was an issue and started tweeting the results.
And by about 22:00 it was clear the incumbent was going to win. Dammit. In the end Daryl Bennett was reelected with a margin of about 1300 votes over the second-place finisher, Maryam Monsef. I personally voted, as I earlier indicated I would, for Monsef, because I genuinely felt she would be the best candidate for the job. But a margin of 1300+ votes is a pretty clear outcome; despite my disappointment the people have spoken and plainly so. Sure, there was a bit of a shake-up in a couple of councillor’s seats, but we’ve essentially got the same City Council that we’ve had for the past four years… which I fear means it’ll be more of the same around here.
Part of the problem with being involved in politics is when you get emotionally committed to a candidate it’s difficult to accept that they’ve been beaten, but one should at least try to be a gracious loser… and a certain magnanimity in victory is expected of the winner as well (although judging from the twitter feed last night, some of the winner’s supporters felt comfortable with a bit of unseemly and abusive crowing.)
And you know what? I’m trying hard not to be bitter about it. I’m trying to take comfort in the fact that the voter turnout, while just under 50% (47.9% to be exact) was at least an improvement over the last couple of municipal elections. It was a hard-fought and public campaign, and a lot of very real issues got discussed… and Maryam Monsef, a complete unknown with zero political background came within a few percent of toppling the multi-milllionare good-ole-boy incumbent (and hopefully that scared him green.)
Ms. Monsef, I suspect, is going to go places in Canadian politics. Certainly if she runs for mayor again — or for a seat in provincial or federal politics — I’ll seriously consider casting my ballot her way.
In the meantime, however, there’s work to be done. I’ve never ascribed to the theory — apparently popular with the right wing — that politicians are only held to account once every four years. As far as I’m concerned, you need to hold your elected representatives to account every single day.
So, in the unlikely event that Mayor Bennett actually reads my blog, this is what I want to see out of my City Hall for the next four years: Cooperation. Civility. Transparency. Infrastructure repairs, especially to the cracked and potholed ruins that we call streets. Better public transit, because Peterborough’s transit is frankly an embarrassment. And job creation — real jobs, good jobs, jobs with a future for young people, not more fucking call centres.
Mr. Mayor, I’m not expecting miracles, okay? But I do expect an effort. You’ve gotten four more years; use them.