Vote for Community, Provincial Edition

Ontario is on the cusp of a provincial election.  It is one of a number of provincial and territorial elections that will be happening before the end of 2011, including Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Yukon, and Northwest Territories.  In Ontario the Liberal party has had a majority in the province for the last 8 years.  Before that the Conservative Party was in charge for just over 8 years and before that the NDP for just under 5.  Polling for this election indicates a close race between the Liberals and Conservatives, with the possibility of a minority government.

Similar to my previous post on the federal election I feel that these elections will have an impact on your community.  Provincial governments provide, support or influence a number of services including health care, education, welfare and intra-provincial transportation.  The government will make important decisions about things like how electricity is generated, how our cities grow, how much university costs, and how our healthcare system works.  They also have a lot of influence on municipal governments, deciding their areas of jurisdictions and which services or powers will be “uploaded” (responsibility shifted from municipal to provincial jurisdiction) or “downloaded” (responsibility shifted from provincial to municipal jurisdiction).

The Association of Municipalities of Ontario has been lobbying all parties to consider the current division of service delivery and seeking a funding model to make it easier for municipal governments to deliver front-line community services.  In particular AMO determined a top 12 list of priorities and provides assessments of each of the mainstream parties’ platforms against these 12 priorities.  This allows voters to assess where the parties stand on the services and investments that are made into their local government. 

But municipalities are not the only part of our community that will be impacted by the election.  A number of organizations aiming to improve the sustainability of our communities have launched campaigns to inform voters and garner the support of politicians.  My two favourites are Sustain Ontario’s “Vote ON Food & Farming” and the Heart & Stoke Foundation’s “Healthy Candidates”.  The Sustain Ontario campaign is to raise awareness around food and farming among both candidates and voters.  It is focused on the positive impacts that a sustainable food system can have on the economic, health, environment, education and community well-being of Ontario.  As well, it offers questions to ask candidates to find out more on where they stand on food and farming issues.  The Heart & Stroke Foundation’s Health Candidate Campaign is focused on getting every candidate in Ontario to pledge to invest in health promotion.  It makes it really easy to see which of your candidates has made the pledge (as seen below for my riding).  As well as offers a tool on their website to encourage your candidates to sign up.

The point of this post is not to promote a particular party, but to encourage everyone heading to a provincial election this year to consider how that election will impact what is important to them in their community.


Ride for Heart

CC Photo by Jeff Denberg

The worst moment came less than 10 km in.  The rain had been streaming down since we started, but it was at that point that my shoes became full of water.  My feet, like the rest of me, had been wet for quite a while.  But now the rain was falling so hard that my shoes weren’t draining anymore.  It felt like I was ankle deep in water as I pedaled.  But Jim and I persisted and, despite toying with the idea of cutting out early, the weather gradually cleared and we finished the 50 km that we signed up to do.

Like our west-coast Gumboot colleagues, Jim and I took part in charity event this past weekend that mixed fundraising with getting outside and exercising .  The Ride for Heart is an annual fundraiser for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.  For the past 23 years it has shut down two major highways in downtown Toronto and allowed cyclists to take over.  This was the first year that it has sold out, with 13,000 participants.  And while the rain kept some of those who signed up away, there were also quite a few like Jim and I who rode despite what Mother Nature was throwing at us.  For me, there were a few reasons why this ride was one that I wasn’t willing to miss.

1. The cause.

The last year in particular hasn’t been an easy one for all of the hearts belonging to my loved ones, including my dad’s (he underwent lifesaving heart surgery and has thankfully made a full recovery).  And while I think some of the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s campaigns aren’t perfect (see this report by Marketplace on CBC) I believe that they are doing really useful work that benefits a lot of Canadians by focusing on both medical research and prevention.

The community-based work that they are doing is also important to me.  Over the past few months I’ve been fortunate to been working with a couple of ladies from the Heart and Stroke Foundation as part of a working group putting together a local food guide for the Chinese and South Asian communities in York Region.  Through this experience I’ve had a glimpse into the activities, events and advocacy that they are involved in and I’m impressed with the reach that this organization has at the community level.

2. The experience.

There is something amazing about being on a bicycle in a space that is solely occupied by cars the other 364.5 days a year.  And to be there with up to 13,000 cyclists, ranging from the committed pros that go by so fast they make me feel like I’m standing still to the recreational riders who dust off their bikes once a year to take part in this event.  This diversity adds a sense of community to the experience.  There is a lot going on in Toronto’s cycling community right now, including most of the mayoral candidates threatening cutbacks to cycling infrastructure and divided opinions on charges against Michael Bryant being dropped after last year’s death of Darcy Tucker.  This was a chance to set all of those politics aside and just ride in a car-free, traffic-light free environment for a few hours.

3. The view of the city.

The Gardiner Expressway is a notoriously unpopular highway in Toronto, dividing the city from Lake Ontario.  For the most part it is an elevated highway on concrete pillars.  And as you might imagine, it isn’t very nice to look at.  But it does offer a unique view of the city when you are on it.  Even with the heavy rain, the view of the lake, the CN tower, the Skydome (or Rogers Centre), and the new condo towers offers a view that the only other time to get to take it in slowly is when you are stuck in rush hour traffic.  The Don Valley Parkway offers a completely different view of the city.  It parallels the Don River, a long abused river that is now undergoing renaturalization and shares the valley with one of the major recreational corridors in the city (and one that Jim and I use often).

I’m looking forward to hearing the highlights of ChildRun 2010 and I hope you all had better weather!