Rob Ford does an excellent job in community engagement…

Don’t worry – I am not a Rob Ford supporter at all, and I am as shocked as the rest of you that he is still in office. However, amidst all of the controversy, this Toronto Star article on why low income supporters support him definitely caught my attention –  http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2013/12/06/rob_ford_lowincome_supporters_stand_by_their_mayor.html. I think this is a must read if we’re going to seriously strategize about changing the voting patterns in Toronto, and getting someone decent, who cares about people and social justice into office. What this article tells me is:

-Policies and politics are too far removed from the day-to-day life of many low-income people to matter. Education on civics is needed at the grassroots level for sure, but more than that, showing people the connection between their personal life and the policies that get passed at City Hall is critical.  Why are you poor, when others are not? What policies or lack of policies has caused you to be in this situation of broken down housing and social isolation? This conversation needs to start happening at the grassroots level, through community leadership, at the bbqs and through the youth centers etc. 

-Community based actions speak louder than words. It doesn’t matter what Rob Ford has said or reported to have said, he has showed community based action, in terms of fixing a wall or putting in a new playground. It doesn’t seem to matter that he voted to reduce social housing despite the years-long waiting list and clear dire need, but at the community level, Rob Ford is seen to respond to community calls for help. 

-Despite the fact that Fords rally to reduce taxes was aimed at the middle to higher income group, lower-income individuals are also enthralled with the idea of paying less tax. In my opinion, the tax system is a reflection of our communal values, and taxes provide a critical social safety net. However, on a personal level, it seems that most people want more money and don’t want to pay more taxes. I don’t think this perspective is only held within lower-income communities. I personally know several left-leaning friends who, while they vote left and believe in social justice, they still look for ways to get out of paying taxes. How do we change this?

-He speaks the ‘community talk’ – “He said to me that it only takes one person to make a difference in the community, and when he looks at me, he can see I’m going to be that person,” she recalls proudly. While we may talk this talk in our CD circles, how often do we say it to people when it really matters? Are we empowering enough? These community members feel empowered through Rob Fords words.

I think we need to seriously look at what Rob Ford has been doing right, and how he has strategically captured the votes of so many people, especially within the lower-income communities in the inner suberbs. If we don’t, we risk a repeat performance on voting day, and another 4 years with Mr. Ford.  

 

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