Be Canadian and Vote!

Yesterday, only a week before the municipal elections in my city I put on my big girl pants and registered to vote. Truth be told there was no need to change my pants because the registration process takes less than 5 mins and it can all be done online. With a quick trip to the City of Windsor Municipal Elections web page I was able to register both my husband and myself and print off verifications of registry in under 7 mins. Quick, painless and the only opportunity we have to choose the people responsible for shaping our city’s future for the next four years is the vote this registers us for. Not to mention the steps taken in these four years could shape our city for many generations to come. Voting in this election is our one say. By not voting all rights are forfeited and non-voters allow the simple few who showed up to be the voice for everyone.

We live in times that need change and at the same time in times that have definitely changed. Gone are the days of being just a manufacturing town. Cars are great, but we’ve learned recession after recession we need to diversify our portfolio for this city to survive. With an unemployment rate of more than 7 percent and a growing trend towards part-time employment, increased hunger and homelessness in the lower income levels this next government needs to be about more than tax savings and holiday lights. Gone must be the internal bickering that leads to audits and ridiculous investigations into morals and conduct. In must be some hard lined reforms to keep our city from sliding anymore into the cess pool our current challenges are creating. On the table as always taxes and keeping them low. Besides taxes there needs to be so much more. This new government needs to be ready to lead our community into a new time that addresses social needs as well as economic. Instead of talking about the challenges before eventually denying their existence, we need a government dedicated to exploring all possible solutions. We need a government ready to act on those solutions.

After taxes have you considered what your issues in this election are? Have you addressed them to any candidates? Do you even know what ward you live in? Who your candidates are? Or what they have to offer? Have you seen the mayoral candidates? Are you rooting for current Mayor Dilkens or jumping behind labor and looking for new horizons with Mr. Marchand? Would you like to see the city overrun with the oddity of The Bacon Man; or in the hands of some other well intentioned, yet unheard of, untried candidate? You may not think your choice matters, but democracy only functions when the masses participate and make themselves heard.  Without that voice democracy fails, when that happens our whole system and all of the greatness of our country fails with it. As Canadians we have one duty to our country to vote whenever it is required for every level of government. Many people would also argue the duty of paying taxes, but let’s be real even Canadians who never pay taxes have the right and duty to vote.

So once you find your ward number and discover your candidate options are you ready to address your concerns to them? I cannot tell anyone what to be concerned about, I can only share my concerns and urge you to come up with your own list, and to use it when making your choices on election day.

Let me start by telling you I live in the city’s downtown core. My neighborhood is rife with illegal housing, violence, drug trafficking, human trafficking and total overall decay. For every business trying hard there’s ten empty store fronts and for every hidden gem there are a dozen reasons to avoid the city’s center. I have more than one concern and to all of my concerns there is definitely no set answer so I am interested in what all of the candidates have to say.

Crime is my first concern. Within viewing distance of my home there’s been a stabbing and a murder in less than six weeks. Sirens are endless and the police presence is a constant vigil of the ever growing list of characters parading the streets. There’s been a lot of confusing information regarding the Windsor police force released throughout this Mayoral battle. I want the elected Mayor to request full disclosure on all issues addressed in this campaign with the truth not the candidate versions. I’d like to know how many officers actually work at their jobs as opposed to how many are employed. I would like to know if new hires increase the numbers of officers on patrol or just fill in the missing blanks. I’d like to know how many new hires are planned and when another hiring will be done. I know the chief of police has addressed the information; but for me once the smoke clears I want to hear it again, with clarity. From all candidates, be it mayor or councillor, I want to know their intentions and dedication to solving the crime problems that are making the downtown a dangerous place to live. I want to know if they’re knowledgeable, interested and committed to changing the crime rates citywide. I want to know if they support current police services programs or if they have something new to add to the conversation. If news reports are correct I think it’s more than just the downtown being affected by crime. How is crime effecting your neighborhood and what do you want to see done about it?

My next concern can be viewed as more than one; but they are go hand in hand and can also be connected to crime. Examples of poverty, homelessness, abandoned buildings and the many issues that come with them like fires, garbage dumping and squatting are all decorating the downtown like lawn ornaments between businesses, apartment buildings, the odd single family home and of course the casino. I have great concerns about new bylaws that will worsen living conditions for low income families. For example recently a by-law was passed to allow basement apartments to be added to single family homes anywhere in the city. Current government passed it with the united chant of increased licensing and bylaw supervision of all those in favor. Since we currently have a multiyear backlog of bylaw complaints and less than 10 by-law officers on the job I think their chant is an outright lie. This bylaw opens the opportunity for landlords like mine to turn an already illegal duplex into a truly dangerous triplex without any supervision. Complaints in this city fall on deaf ears. Both the fire department and electrical safety authority passed this house for an inspection as a condition of sale in the past year completely ignoring the illegality of it, right down to the fact that one of the apartments has only one entrance and the entire house has only one source for each utility and no option for separate meters. All very illegal yet no one in the equation really cared. These inspectors are the people we have no choice but to trust, who have been put in place to keep us safe and those people you vote for are the only ones who can hold them accountable.  So tell me again who will be supervising all these new basement apartments as they provide an admirable solution to the housing crisis? Landlords are already costing tax payers big dollars citywide. This new bylaw is going cost tax payers even more. Landlords are going to build apartments not up to code. In many cases because it will be an addition to their personal home no income will be claimed or taxes paid yet the manpower and tax dollars that will be involved tracking down and solving issues will cost huge tax dollars. How many people are aware these new apartments are going to bring the poverty, drug problems and issues of decay into every neighborhood? How many people are really aware of the crime that will follow? So tell me again why voting in this municipal election isn’t important to you and your family? Are you sure you don’t have some questions for candidates? Don’t you want a councillor to fight bylaws that could change your neighborhood and rob you of all of the reasons you live there? How will you know which one that is if you never ask?

Besides the negative stuff Windsor is famous for there’s great potential for it to be an amazing place to live. For me the new government has to be very dedicated to improving, expanding and showcasing Windsor’s potential. We have a casino, event level pool complexes, a basketball team, an OHL team, two major institutes of education and multiple venues for entertainment. We need hotel rooms outside of the downtown. We need better public transportation. We need to be branded, have seasons for tourism and entertainment like any other city. We need to recognize the assets and talents buried under the rest and use them as building blocks to a better future. We need more affordable housing. More than one neighborhood needs to be cleaned up; not just garbage and grass cutting but the abandoned buildings and unused spaces.  And all of these things are just my opinions, my thoughts, for my neighborhood.

What does your neighborhood need? Better street services? Alley lights? Snow removal? New equipment for greenspaces? A crosswalk or a streetlight? If you don’t connect with your candidates and express your views or ask your questions how will you know who to choose? If you don’t participate in the choosing how will your issues ever be addressed?

If you need to, this week, take a few minutes and register yourself to vote. Next week, on Oct 22 show up at your polling station and exercise the ultimate right of every Canadian. Cast your vote, have your say, be a part of the democratic process and take part in shaping Windsor’s future.