Know Your Politicians – October 25th, 2014

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Know Your PoliticiansWhat do we know about the politicians asking for our vote on October 27th?
How worthy are they of serving us as tenants, students, workers and parents in Thorncliffe?

TRT did some research to find out about the candidates who wish to represent us in city council. The positions of each candidate and TRT’s analysis was shared at a community event organized at the TNO Youth Centre. A pamphlet was also created by TRT and distributed to every apartment in the neighbourhood.

The event began with a presentation by Jason Kunin, a high school teacher and Toronto activist, who spoke about the candidates running for Mayor and school trustee. Next, Syed Muhammad and Sadia Khan, both organizers with TRT, delivered a presentation which highlighted the issue of class inequality in Ward 26.On one extreme are average yearly incomes of $250,000 for Leaside, while on the other end is Flemingdon, with the average income of $21,000. Thorncliffe falls close to the lower end at around $38,000. This income inequality determines the kinds of housing conditions families live in, and the kinds of children’s sports facilities and school conditions parents can fundraise for.

Somehow the candidates running in the election missed this reality about this ward. What they couldn’t ignore, however, is the tendency of politicians in Ward 26 to focus unfairly on issues in Leaside while neglecting the concerns of residents in Thorncliffe and other racialized communities. Perhaps this is not surprising. Since the creation of this ward, the councilors have consistently been white.

Another speaker at the event was a high school student, Hamna Naeem.  She noted that “it’s just that the politicians don’t look like us, their wallets don’t look like ours either.” The money spent on this campaign by the top two candidates, John Parker and Jon Burnside, is more than what the average Thorncliffe family earns per year!

TRT organizer, Zabia Afzal, noted during her talk that two things become very clear from this. “One, that anyone can run in an election, but not everyone has a real chance of winning it. And two, that voting actually happens twice in this democracy: first, when you sign a cheque to donate money to your favourite candidate, and second, when you cast a ballot for them on election day. Candidates who get more of the first kind of vote have a better chance of getting more of the second kind.”

What does all of this mean for elections and for democracy? It is crucial to recognize when politicians (who are rich themselves, more often than not) present the interests of the rich as the interests of everyone. Class inequality means that everyone’s interests cannot be served equally. As long as this inequality exists it will benefit the rich over the poor in elections, as it does in every other aspect of life.