Running on the Right Road?

Hard to believe but there really are 102 candidates running for mayor in the upcoming Toronto municipal election.

It is the highest number of candidates ever, surpassing the previous record of 65 candidates in the 2014 municipal election. This month’s by-election was called after the former mayor John Tory resigned in February 2023 after admitting to a relationship with a former employee in his office.

On some level, it is comforting to know so many are willing to throw their hat in the ring and invest their time and energy in running in a very crowded field.

On the other hand, the record-breaking numbers also reflect how unhappy people are with the existing situation.  It’s not a stretch to suggest this dissatisfaction reflects a lack of trust in political leadership, and, it likely isn’t only a Toronto issue.

As an avid listener of CBC Radio, I can attest to the amazing work they are doing in connecting citizens to the candidates and their stories. Consistent themes among the candidates have been identified as improving public transit, ensuring more affordable housing, dealing with crime, and addressing taxes.

While most would agree these are significant issues, they are typically symptoms of underlying roots causes which very few of the candidates are addressing. Instead, virtually every candidate is presenting themselves as the ‘expert’ who has the answers and can identify and fix the issues.

The problem is they won’t be able to fix much of anything until they also acknowledge, respect, and engage the expertise and energy of other experts. By that I mean the citizens they serve, other levels of government, businesses, and social profits.

It would be so refreshing to hear a candidate say their path to innovation and transformative solutions would result because there were an expert catalyst who has a process for bringing together, listening to, and engaging citizens, social profits, government, and business to work collaboratively.

Anyone who is working or volunteering at the grassroots level of their communities, understands that people who live in a community know what is working, what isn’t working, and, if you ask them, will tell you how it can be fixed.

If there were asked, chances are they will also be motivated to help mobilize the solutions. That would be critical because no one leader, organization, or government is going to be able to fix today’s complex, interconnected challenges and opportunities on their own.

Secondly, it would be nice to hear at least one candidate suggest they need better data to ensure the more informed decision and policy-making that would ensure a more holistic, whole-of-society approach that balances quality of life and economic development.

Lastly, why aren’t candidates thinking bigger picture and talking more about localizing global issues and the strategic foresight required for a better world for all?

As an old German proverb suggests, “What is the use of running when we are not on the right road?”

#TorontoMayor #citizenengagement #municipalities #localgov

Posted on 06-16-23

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