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Time To Renew Our Democracy

As Torontonians continue to head to early voting stations this week, it is imperative that now, more than ever, people across Toronto get out and vote. As a candidate for City Council in Davenport, I am hearing a lot of frustration and apathy at the doors. People feel that City Hall is just not interested in hearing from them. Between the stifling red tape, the unresponsive bureaucracy, career politicians, and the cold welcome of excessive layers of intimidating security when you enter the doors of City Hall, can you blame Torontonians for feeling disconnected?

This disconnect between City Hall and the people is hindering our democracy. Just look at how many of us are casting ballots. Voter turnout in our municipal elections keeps decreasing. In 2014 voter turnout was 55%, and in 2018 it plummeted to 41%. Given the apathy I have been hearing at the thousands of doors I’ve been at, turnout this year is likely not going to be any better.

If we are to have any hope at combating the apathy that has descended upon Toronto, we are going to need solutions that do not just focus on promoting voting but help to renew and rebuild trust in our democracy. One of the biggest causes of apathy is our city’s incumbency problem. We have elected officials who keep getting re-elected and do not advance new ideas or change. Some have been in politics longer than the internet has been around. That’s why Toronto needs term limits both for councillors and the mayor.

In addition to term limits, expanding voting rights is a critical ingredient for a successful democracy. We have an estimated 250,000 permanent residents who live, work, and contribute to our great city. Yet, permanent residents are shut out from having a voice in how their city is run. It’s absurd that someone who owns property in Toronto, but lives in Thunder Bay can vote here, but a permanent resident who lives and works in Toronto can’t. This needs to change.

That’s why this year, whatever your leanings, or ideology, help reinvigorate Toronto and go cast your ballot. You are too important to not vote. Toronto needs you too much for you to sit this out. So, if you haven’t yet, go vote.

Shaker Jamal is a candidate for Toronto City Council, Ward 9.

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