Join Us to Protest for TTC Accessibility for All

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Accessibility of all kinds is pitiful on Toronto’s TTC.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016 at 4:00pm
Please join us at Yonge and Bloor
To protest this blatant injustice towards our most vulnerable citizens.

When you protest the TTC’s abysmal treatment of the disabled, we all win!

D!ONNE Renée is the organizer behind this event. If you have any questions, want to throw your virtual support behind her, or have comments, reach out to her via email or on Twitter at @OnElectionDay.


The announcement reads:

Accessibility is a Right — Not an Option

On Wednesday, August 31, 2016 – Between 4pm – 8pm, on behalf of community and Public interests, an #AccessibilityNow! TTC campaign/protest will take place starting in the Yonge and Bloor area to raise issues concerning discrimination based on disability, barriers, and ableism in transit and its services.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act sets out the interpretation for “barriers.” Too many barriers exist within the TTC. It is not acceptable to take a “minimum/at least” approach in improving access for all. The standard should be a model that reflects an equal to or greater than the access that is currently available, model. The equal to or greater than the access that is currently available model is a model of equity and equality.

People have a right to access public systems; in this right, people should feel that they have the option to be free to choose whether they access those systems or not. We are all not free just to be.

Approximately 35 out of 65 subway stations are “partially accessible,” on good days. Functioning equipment = good days. “Partially accessible” means that all patrons don’t have the option to access the system for lack of elevators, Braille information and helps, proper signage (large print, clear, large-enough digital boards), functional escalators, inaccessible entrances/exits (now including Presto Card gates and readers) to subway stations, buses, streetcars, and extraordinary Wheel Trans wait/scheduling. Plus the TTC worsened accessibility when they began replacing the names of Toronto’s subway lines with confusing numbers.

TTC (and transit across Ontario and Canada) must be proactive in its operations and provide equality in its services and not discriminate against anyone, including people with disabilities and/or people requiring accessible access in order to use its systems. TTC was able to find money to implement Presto Card systems into its subway, bus, and streetcar services even though the gate systems being used at subway and bus stations are all not accessible; but TTC seems to be unable to be actively proactive in ensuring that all areas of TTC are fully accessible.

While this event will take place in downtown Toronto, the issues and concerns being raised affect all of Ontario and Canada. We want everyone to have the ability to travel independently, or in group, as we so choose.

We want a barrier-free Canada.

Will you help?

Will you join the protest and invite others to do so too? Will you gather with community in accessibility advocacy? #AccessibilityNow #GetItRight #AODA #AODAFail


Take the TTC Survey Till February 11, Speak Up for Accessibility

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The TTC is running a survey purportedly on service standards yet with nary a word on accessibility and skewed towards not building subways.

Service includes accessibility. Service includes how easy it is to use the system. Yet the survey doesn’t include one question related to cognitive, physical, or mental accessibility, other than pitting the number of route transfers against local bus options. That should not be an either/or option.

This survey is strictly geared to the young, healthy downtowner who already has subway access. It seems like it’s designed to justify not extending the Sheppard subway line to Scarborough Town Centre as originally designed, perhaps cancelling the Scarborough subway, and putting off the Downtown Relief Line.

Route transfers – the bane of my life – is the only remote nod to accessibility.

The best way to get attention is to stay focused on one or two things: route transfers and subway line names. So I urge you to take this survey and select the option “Reduced need to transfer from one vehicle to another” everywhere it’s mentioned as the Most Important. Or if it’s not in one of the options but “Routes that are more direct – on major roads only (faster travel and longer walks)” is, choose it as Most Important, for it’s code for subway line.

When both options are listed choose “Reduced need to transfer from one vehicle to another” as Most Important because it supports both extending the Sheppard and Bloor-Danforth lines as well as putting in more bus routes. In this case, you may also see an option for “Shorter walk to station/stops” or “Routes that are less direct – serve local neighbourhoods (slower travel and shorter walks).” These are code for Scarborough LRT over extending the Bloor-Danforth line; same with Sheppard Line. Choose those as Least Important when choosing “Reduced need to transfer” or “Routes that are more direct” as Most Important to emphasize you want the TTC to build the bloody subways already.

Fighting for more local bus routes will soon be easier with Uber coming into the market anyway, so we don’t need to agitate for those. But we do need to agitate for subways – a proper seamless transit backbone, not a hodge podge of subways and LRTs-trying-to-be-subways, requiring more energy from us to use and transfer from one to the other.*

You will then be asked either/or questions.

Continue to choose for fewer transfers, eg, choose “Service that allows me to make my trip on one vehicle, but involves more stops in local neighbourhoods resulting in a longer overall travel time.” This is obviously a bus that goes from A to B. The alternative “Service that provides a more direct service, but requires one or more transfers resulting in an shorter overall travel time” describes adding an LRT and transfer point at the end of the Bloor-Danforth and Sheppard Lines instead of extending the subways.

Choose “A longer walk to my stop if it means a shorter travel time to get to my destination.” This is code for subways because for some reason, the thinking is subways always require long walks to get to them. (In London, UK, that’s not the case because they’ve continued to build subways over the decades unlike us.)

“A shorter walk to my stop if it means a longer travel time to get to my destination” is code for LRTs (or buses instead of subways) because the expert opinion is walks to LRT stops are always shorter than subway stops. Um, no.

If you get an either/or question about buses, I chose “walks to/from bus stops with less direct and less frequent service through local neighbourhoods resulting in longer overall travel time” because buses specifically should be about local access and short walks. The alternative is about using buses instead of LRTs, streetcars, or subways. I don’t feel like being shoe-horned into buses instead of being able to use a streetcar or subway.

You will then be asked to rank your top 4 priorities. Put “The number of transfers you are required to make” at the top and “The time it takes to walk to/from your stop” at the bottom. Yes, the latter is important, but this is code for not building more subways. If people say they want shorter walks, the experts will say, see, people don’t want subways. They want LRTs. I put second “The time you wait for the bus/streetcar/subway” because frequent service on any kind of route is important plus it emphasizes the need for subways.

Speaking of subways, in the final screen asking for your opinion about the survey, in the box where you can type your thoughts, ask why no accessibility questions and to change the subway line names back to their original name and ditch the numbers. An example:

“Why were there no questions about accessibility? Why no questions about subway line names? Changing the names to numbers has made it harder to use. Please change subway line names back to their original names and ditch the numbers.”

Here’s the survey. Please take it and speak up for the only accessibility issue that they address – reducing transfers – and speak up for restoring subway line names. Thanks!

*I believe we need a coherent network of buses for local use, LRTs as feeder networks, and a robust subway network mirrored on the surface by buses that cover off the streets in between subway stops for local commuters. We do not have a robust subway network at all. London, UK is a great model. Using LRTs instead of subways ignores how geographically large Toronto is and the increasing volumes of people who need to use high-speed public transit.


The TTC in Time and Space

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My newest novel Time and Space has just launched. When I wrote it in November 2011, I thought I have to get this out fast, otherwise my prediction about the TTC will become obsolete, after all Mayor Rob Ford was voted in a year earlier to build subways. His popularity and speed at beginning to implement what he’d promised was such, I thought for sure that some of those LRT lines would turn into subways. And then when Andy Byford was promoted to CEO and began polishing up the TTC, I became convinced a major rewrite was in my future.

So much for my prediction about my novel’s obsolescence.

Here we are, a year and a half after National Novel Writing Month 2011, when I dreamt up and described the 2411 version of the TTC — which description arose out of my total frustration with the lack of needed subway expansion –  and nothing has changed. This is good for my novel, for it won’t sound outdated. But not so hot for us commuters. While I tried to get my novel published the traditional way and while it also had to wait in line as I worked to get other books out first, Toronto Council indulged in endless back-and-forth debates and TTC coup and counter-coups. It made for compelling viewing for us Torontonians, and I’m sure reporters were salivating at what the next week would bring, but it didn’t create one nm (nanometre) of additional track, designed or real, and it doesn’t help us at all. And that is what I tried to convey.

Sometimes you need to use fiction and hyperbole to drive home a point.

Although I think at this point in time, everyone has done that non-fictionally on social media, around water coolers, waiting for a streetcar, and on and on.

That is the one thing that has changed since 2011. Commuter frustration has become more vocal. Usually, Torontonians are a quiescent lot. A few voices may rise up in dissent, but the majority keep their head down while grumbling to their friends and family. But now, here in 2013, the grumbling has come out into the open. The never-ending scandal surrounding Mayor Rob Ford may be drowning it out a bit, but with social media offering such an easy outlet for TTC frustration, it has not died down.

Historically, writers have used their novels as pulpits to pound out a social issue message – in an entertaining way. My favourite author has always been Charles Dickens, who was a master at that. I’m not as prolific with words as he is, but I hope that in the way my characters get around town and in how I describe the subway system, the streetcars, the bicycle traffic, and the cars in Time and Space, that I have made it exceedingly clear how much our leaders have failed us and how inadequate the TTC is to the population size.

Time and Space Final Ebook 1256x1910 Shireen Jeejeebhoy 18 May 2013

Time is kidnapped by three boys from the future, then dumped in the future past to die. She finds shelter with a mysterious man whose name is Space, and she must either adapt or find her way home before the boys catch her and dispose of her forever.

“I am reading Time and Space by @ShireenJ and loving it! What a great writer!” – @Mariam_Kobras, 26 May 2013

Buy Now @ Amazon & Smashwords & Kobo


Voting the Rejecting Way

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I don’t want to vote. The First Past the Post system means if I want to vote for a particular party but don’t like the candidate, I have to vote for the candidate to register a vote for the party. And if I like a particular candidate out of all of them but not the party they represent, I have to choose between candidate and my preferred party. It’s nuts.

To make matters worse, our Parliament and Legislatures are becoming more and more about The Leader and the MPs or MPPs are simply seals that bark to command. And so voting for candidates because of who they are and their background is becoming meaningless. You’re simply voting for a human to keep a seat warm in their party’s section of Parliament or the Legislature. It’s disheartening.

But then I’m reminded that people died to keep Canada a democracy, to keep it free from fascism and totalitarianism. I’m reminded that we have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms, with teeth, that came about because we’re a democracy. And a key way to keep Canada a democracy is to vote. I’m reminded that it’s the people’s voice that keeps the police and politicians from blanketing our highways and cities in CCTVs, which allow tracking of our every move and strip us of anonymity, a hallmark of democracy. Autocracies need to, and like to, track its citizens wherever they are. I’m reminded that it’s our voice expressed through votes that decide how much of our privacy will be stripped from us, whether we approve the arbitrary use of police force okayed by Premier Dalton McGuinty and the Liberal government during the 2010 G20 in Toronto.

But what to do when the First Past the Post system disenfranchises you, when you don’t like the three big parties, when you don’t like the candidates in your riding?

Remember first that if you don’t want your democracy usurped by something else — by an autocracy, by one man deciding your fate — then use your vote.

If you don’t like the three main parties, check out the Greens. They may surprise you as reflecting you and your political wishes. And perhaps see a vote for a smaller party as sticking it to the big guys.

And most importantly remember you can reject your ballot. It’s a protest at the ballot box.

If everyone who sat home on voting day went to their polling station instead to reject their ballot and have that rejection registered, then the politicians — and the media — would have to take notice. And maybe then our leaders would seriously bend their minds and actions to improving our democracy.

So go and reject your ballot! I am.

Brain Health

Brain Injury: the Government Ignores, the People Remain in the Dark

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BIST (Brain Injury Society of Toronto) was founded in 2004 and has grown to 469 members, as of this week’s Annual General Meeting (AGM). I looked around at the 50? 40? 70? or so members in attendance and was rather surprised. But as the AGM progressed I thought about those growing numbers and BIST’s new focus this past year on fundraising and awareness, as reported by the various committees and 11-member board.

But from the abysmal brain injury care in Ontario, you wouldn’t know there is an epidemic out there.

When I first joined, I had no idea who was on the Board and who volunteered, even though I had a good sense of who were the active members with brain injuries from falls, meningitis, crashes, tumours (no hockey). Today, members of the Board are making a concerted effort to get out to the meetings and making known who they are. And by the end of the evening, it struck me that like the Board, putting ourselves out there where we live and engaging is what we people with brain injuries need to do.

Everyone knows about cancer; breast cancer is the charity du jour. Half the population suffer from heart disease, and the other half know someone who’s had a heart problem. Rick Hansen has done a stellar job of bringing attention to spinal cord damage, and people in wheelchairs are visible representatives (even if that is not the reason why they must use a wheelchair). But unfortunately brain injuries are invisible, though plentiful.

The Brain Injury Association of Canada says “thousands of Canadians incur a traumatic brain injury each year the majority being young adults.

And so, as usual, we Canadians must look to the US for detailed stats (and that was true even before Prime Minister Stephen Harper nixed the scientifically sound and comprehensive look at our population, the long-form census). Every year, 1.7 million Americans sustain a traumatic brain injury. Using the ten percent rule, that means 170,000 Canadians have their brains damaged each and every year. And like Americans, twice as many men as women.

As I listened to the reports at the AGM, I thought how daunting the task and how needed to make people aware of brain injury and its devastating effects on the injured. Hockey fans are becoming aware, but only as it applies to hockey players and with incomplete understanding of its lifelong effects.

Sidney Crosby appeared recently with his doctors to talk about his concussion and their expert opinion that when he is one hundred percent better, it will be like he hadn’t had a concussion, that his risk of another concussion will be back to what it was before his two.


How can they know that? There is no technology that can look at the brain in such detail so as to know the brain matter is one hundred percent healed and regrown, that there are zero changes in neuronal metabolism and structure.

The science is so new and still in the dark ages, relative to heart disease or cancer treatment, that to say we know with certainty the future and the risk is full of hubris. But then I’ve discovered too many doctors, particularly neurologists, are like that — think they know it all in the face of great ignorance, think they recognize brain injuries when the cognitive ones zip right over their heads — and so why would the population be any more knowledgeable?

Researchers are finding that people who have traumatic brain injury have a higher risk of Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons, and so on. Yet they cannot say if the long-term effects of brain injuries are different in people like me who’ve had active treatment for cognitive deficits. But to assume not is a dreamy, potentially dangerous assumption.

I’ve met people who’ve experienced bad bangs to the head but with no broken skull, maybe only temporary unconsciousness, which they’d shrugged off and if they saw a doc, told it’s just a concussion, watch for a couple of days, then should be fine. Yet when they hear about some of my difficuties, they go, “hey, I have that too.” They always thought whatever “that” was was normal. It isn’t. I never had these injury-related issues pre-car crash. Most people don’t. Yet they had an impact on these people’s lives, and because they never made the connection, they didn’t understand the problem, never mind how to heal it and improve their lives.

It doesn’t help that even if you recognize you need to see someone about it, you can’t in Ontario because of lack of funding for neuropsychiatrists, no funding for psychologists who are on the forefront of active treatments, and severe cutbacks to community care. When no one knows about brain injuries, except as hockey concussions, why would the government fund adequate care?

Crosby and his docs have presented his concussion as healable as a simple broken leg, just takes longer. Even when concussions are recognized as real injuries with bad effects on the brain, they’re still represented as happening only to hockey players and having no lasting effects, thus no big deal.

Yes, the AGM theme is right: we need more awareness to stop injuries, to have access to good treatment, and to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of the walking wounded.


Brain Power

Jack Layton: The Spirit of His Legacy

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Words fail me. That’s what I tweeted this morning, after I saw the Breaking News on Citytv’s Breakfast Television, as I was massaging my muscles post-weight session, that Jack Layton had died. That first announcement was brief, and Cynthia Mulligan had a hard time switching gears to traffic. Switching gears. That’s what’s happening today.

Being a long-time Torontonian, I have “known” Jack Layton since he was first elected to Toronto City Council. Back then the city was the centre of what was Metropolitan Toronto comprising Toronto, Scarborough, North York, Etobicoke, East York, and York, all of which were at odds with each other. Today, we are all one big city under the moniker “Toronto” and still don’t like each other. In the 1980s, Layton entered the spacecraft-shaped Chamber and roared his protest. That’s pretty much how I remember Layton: one big noisy antagonistic protest. It came to a head for me during the SkyDome building days when CityPlace (if I remember the name right), owned by CN at the time and in charge of developing the lands around the SkyDome, was almost brought to a halt by Layton because he said the buildings had to be one hundred percent social housing, else no building. No kidding. That’s why there was lots of green space, one narrow park dedicated to the Chinese rail workers, a driving range, a concrete crushing plant and no building for years. Needless to say,  I was heartily glad when he finally lost an election shortly after that. Since the Art Eggleton days, Toronto has been about destroying our past and doing nothing in the present, and Layton seemed to be a big part of that. I did not like the man, and I was not alone. Many of us cheered at his loss.

After three years in the wilderness, Layton returned to municipal politics. I was not happy. And then I began to notice he had changed. No more was he one big bossy noisy protest; instead he was envisioning solutions to current problems and using larger and larger stages to make life better in Toronto. Life in the wilderness had made him think. His demeanour had changed from fist and protest to energy and grins. He infected people with the idea that Toronto wasn’t about petty left-right bickering but about creating an urban space in which rich, poor, and middle class lived, worked, and played. Although he had become a driving force in the Canadian Federation of Municipalities, I hadn’t realised he was dreaming even bigger until I read the news that he had become leader of the NDP party. I’m not sure why that surprised me. Toronto City Council bans party politics, but we had all known Layton was an NDPer, even before the days the NDP Party began blatantly showed their backing of certain municipal politicians. Still, I had always seen him as a city man not as a national politician. But then eighty percent of Canadians live in cities. Why should we not be represented by a politician who loves cities and knows how to make them work?

The election he started talking about becoming Prime Minister, even in the face of scoffing and rolling eyes, is when I knew Layton had transformed himself  completely and methodically over the years. He had become a politician with an unattainable dream. And he was going for it.

In the last few years, Layton won me over completely. He had a happy optimism that wasn’t Pollyannaish or head-in-the-sand-refusing-to-see-reality. No, it was an optimism that faced reality and still rejoiced in the coming triumph while planning how to make it happen. It was so rooted in reality, it was infectious. He was savvy and understood that by lifting people up you could get more things done that helped people, made life better, made us productive and energetic, made Canadians want to do more for their country together. He was tough. You can’t make statements like “I’m campaigning to be Prime Minister” and then weather all the tomatoes and eggs and laughter lobbed at you and keep dancing forward without being tough. He was resilient. He took the failure, thought on what kind of politician he wanted to be (apparently even before his big public failure of losing an election), and came back with bigger dreams and an inspiring way. He had courage. I’m not sure when he decided the NDP would form the national government, but a person can’t envision such a thing and plan for it as if it is entirely possible without having courage. Even with the plethora of support he enjoyed from family and friends, it was and is a breath-taking dream. He had energy. Some people have loads of energy; some don’t. But I believe that pessimism is an energy-stealer; division is an energy-stealer; dwelling on failure and nurturing hatred for not getting your own way (politically) is an energy-stealer. Optimism gives energy; bringing people together creates more energy for each person; dwelling on failure long enough to figure out why and thus come up with a solution then sticking the failure in the past gives energy; shrugging off not getting your own way and figuring out how to do things better puts the focus firmly on the present and propels a person into the future. I think that’s why so many people liked watching him: his energy and joy flowed out of him and into us.

On July 26 when we heard the news of Layton’s cancer, I wrote:

“… when you are at the point of achieving your greatest goal … there is something intensely grieving about receiving that kind of news. One moment, you are happy, laughing, loving each day, anticipating with excitement the fulfillment of all your work; the next, you’re facing the death of your dream, and in Jack’s case, perhaps his very life.”

That is what makes this news intensely tragic. Layton had worked a long time, had spent a long time thinking and planning, to make his dream a reality. And it wasn’t his spirit that killed it; it wasn’t lack of opportunity or even ill health; it was an evil process that today’s medical science and knowledge was helpless against.

When I saw him on TV on July 26th, I first saw his body: emaciated, pale and flushed, failing. My heart sank. Then I saw his eyes, his spirit. So strong, so determined, full of hope and planning. If spirit alone could delay death, Layton would be alive. After all, it was that spirit that had already done the impossible: gotten him through the first six months of this year, including an election. His fractured hip puzzled me – the explanations given didn’t seem to jibe to me – and his shrinking frame not just from diet alone. Yet he showed more energy than Prime Minister Stephen Harper and then-Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff combined. And he triumphed. He achieved the penultimate step to his unattainable dream. That’s what optimism, courage, facing reality, yet dreaming big do for a person. And not relying on contacts or others to make things happen.

I am overwhelmed by the tragedy of his death, of witnessing the death of a man who thrived on life and was cut down as he was seeing the fruition of all his work. Only four more years, and perhaps he would have become Prime Minister. I am also overwhelmed by the tragedy for Canada. We have a Prime Minister who thrives on division, who is about as inspiring as a wet teabag. We have an unproven Official Opposition who doesn’t seem to have a member with Layton’s combination of dreaming and pragmatism and ability to negotiate. We have a Liberal party who still doesn’t seem to get why they were tossed out. And if Toronto is any indication, we have a country full of middling politicians and apathetic people who all believe the best we can achieve is mediocrity, the best thing to do in all cases is nothing or dreaming small, and the best dreams are not about people – rich, poor, middle class — and how to make their lives better.

After my last injury, I became afraid of having dreams. It wasn’t the first time injury and events out of my control had derailed my dream. Previously, I had been able to pick up and get going again, but my closed head injury put paid to my dream – I heard the final clanging shut of that door six years post. And then help arrived out of the blue. Still, I remain fearful of dreaming, for to me dreaming equals bad things happening. The power of Layton is that he never stopped. His legacy is for us to switch gears, from envy and division, from apathy and learned helplessness, from waiting for others to do – to being the dreamers and doers ourselves.

No man is indispensable. But what Layton gave us is. Layton did seem to understand how tough life is for the vulnerable in society, and so few politicians really do. They spout trendy phrases but act in a way that makes life more difficult. And so perhaps Layton’s best legacy is not to look for an NDP politician to replace him, but to take on his best characteristics and to dream the unattainable for our country, our fellow citizens, and ourselves, and, through our actions, force politicians to make our dreams happen. Illness and brain injury has a dampening effect on how much one can physically do yet our spirits can still act. Perhaps those of us with low physical energy cannot march in protest, but we can goad others into marching. Perhaps we cannot write letters every day, but we can blog or tweet our thoughts directly to MPs every time we can, even if all we can is once every six months. Perhaps we cannot express ourselves well, but expressing ourselves even in a few, short words is better than not at all. And most of all, we can mimic Layton’s resiliency. His seminal failure was not  of health but it was a mammoth one nevertheless, and he came back like the proverbial cat.

I may be afraid of personal dreams, but I can dream for my city and my country. We can together adopt Layton’s brand of optimism, face reality then let our minds wander freely into amazing visions of better things, and ask ourselves why not?


The Grief of Jack Layton’s Cancer Announcement

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I am not going to speculate on Official Opposition and NDP Leader Jack Layton’s cancer and condition because the timing of his announcement reminds me too much of the timing of my own catastrophe that it overwhelms other thoughts.

It is awful and frightening when you receive a troubling diagnosis; it is shocking enough when you’re trucking along and either a couple of bad drivers hit you or your doctor sits you down to tell you have cancer. But when you are at the point of achieving your greatest goal — or in Jack’s case having reached it and being placed to reach further — there is something intensely grieving about receiving that kind of news. One moment, you are happy, laughing, loving each day, anticipating with excitement the fulfillment of all your work; the next, you’re facing the death of your dream, and in Jack’s case, perhaps his very life. It is a devastating fall. And the grief both drives you to get better and infects your every moment. The grief rocks your world and rolls your emotions from anger to bawling. Over the long term, it buries hope.

But Jack is probably going to have a relatively short fight, given the nature of cancer; it’s easier to keep up the spirit over months or a few years of active work-interfering treatment than years and years and years. Being a politician, he also has a well of hope that never runs out. For decades, he has faced constant rejection and ridicule from naysayers and political enemies until after this election victory, yet the well of his hope and optimism only became deeper. He has close support in his family and friends and a net of well wishers from one end of Canada to the other, from the south to the north, lifting and holding him up. He will not lose hope, and he is a determined man. I hope for him, and for us, that his dream, that the pursuit of his ultimate achievement will not be derailed.


My #elxn41 Experience

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It’s almost 2:00 am as I begin to write this, the morning of May 3rd, and I’m watching the local election results and now the BC election results on CBC. It’s been one of those elections that are so unexpected that even though I’m not happy with the Conservative Party majority, I’m finding it hard to wind down. I blame Twitter.

I’ve never had an election experience like this before. Usually, in the weeks leading up to the election, I read the papers, I watch the short TV news stories, and in the last one, I also followed opinions on Twitter. Then on election day, I watch the results on TV and have short convos with people I know in real life about the results. Ho hum.

This year was different. First so many reporters came onto Twitter and live tweeted events, shared pix, cracked wise or trivial — that they gave me an inside picture of the leaders’ campaigns I’d never seen before. It was relevatory and fun, especially when the unthinkable happened — the Orange Crush. And second, so many more people were tweeting about the election today than have done so before (at least that was my impression) that it truly felt like I was part of the entire country. I saw results come from Newfoundland and Atlantic Canada in real time, not as a 2-second clip prior to the Ontario and Québec results being released. I got a glimpse into the electoral map on our east coast in a personal way. And it made me feel closer to that part of the country. The same with British Columbia. In fact, seeing Canadians in east and west opining on national and their own local results caused me to notice the absence of those in the North tweeting their territorial results.

Because I was so caught up with what was going on nationally from east to west in Canada on Twitter, TV, and online streaming, I forgot all about my own local results. I wasn’t too concerned because I honestly felt that, as usual, Toronto would resist the wave of change.

I was wrong.

People in Toronto historically, for the most part, vote Liberal and seemingly always vote incumbent. The familiar name is the safe name, never mind that our MPs just do not represent our needs and interests in Ottawa despite the billions in taxes we send that way. We vote them in time and again, and they reward us with big words, magnificent promises, no action. Our city is crumbling, and our MPs do nada. Apparently, fellow Torontonians noticed, and many decided to take a massive risk and vote for a new name, a different party. Awesome. Unfortunately, around Toronto, voters went blue instead of orange or green.

The Twitterverse, usually not in sync politically with the non-Twitterverse, was not happy with the Conservative win. All sorts of complaints flew around about it’s all the NDP’s fault for vote splitting. But as one of my followers said, vote splitting has benefitted the Liberals in the past. This is not new. And that is not a reason to impose upon us a stuffy, stultifying two-party system. The Canadian Alliance came from the Progressive Conservative Party so the unite-the-right was essentially fixing that split. But NDP came from CCF not Liberals, and Greens are not left. So unite the left is not the same as unite the right.

What is new in this election is that so many Canadians right across Canada chose NDP in enough numbers to make them the Official Opposition. They are not the Liberals, and they will bring a different tone to our Parliament because NDP Leader Jack Layton has demonstrated an ability to negotiate with Harper, because he doesn’t huff and puff dramatically then quits, because Green Party Leader Elizabeth May (though only one person has a strong voice) will be there and will back up Layton in trying to bring a more respectful tone to the House, because they have not wavered in policy goals, and because they learn.

One thing that both Harper and Layton have demonstrated is that patience and persistence pay off for those who do not lose hope, who don’t quit, flip, or switch. Those of us yearning for electoral and Parliamentary reform to restore our democracy, would be wise to learn from that and to see that the NDP, the only big-three party for reform, is one step away from government and being in a position to effect reform instead of crying that all is lost with a five-year Harper majority. (Yes, it’s bad, but Canada will survive.) This is the time to persuade Tory voters that democratic reform is very important, too important to ignore in the next election.