The Good Jobs for All Coalition, the Malvern Community Coalition, and Malvern Action for Neighbourhood Change hosted a community meeting on September 11, 2010, to encourage residents to protect public services in the lead up to Toronto’s municipal elections on Oct 25. There’s 40 days to go.
With Labour Day over, the municipal election cycle is in high gear. The front-running candidate, Rob Ford, is declaring immigrants are unwelcome in Toronto and threatening to slash and burn public services. All of the major candidates – except Joe Pantalone – are open to privatizing critical public services. There’s a lot at stake.
The Malvern event was centered on participants sharing their personal stories about public services and why they are engaging in the election. Malvern resident and postal worker, Funmi Olumade, was one of the event’s participants and speakers. Funmi believes her job as a postal worker makes her an integral part of her community. “As postal workers we see things everyday that other people don’t see. We are like watchdogs. For instance, in winter time I found a child barefooted in the streets. I made the child warm until the police came.”
When asked to explain why she is getting involved in the election, Funmi responds quickly; “I don’t want Canada Post to be privatized” she says. “If they privatize Canada Post they will want one person to do three people’s jobs. People will lose their jobs. This election I want to ask people to vote for the right person, a person that cares about them and isn’t going to be selfish.”
After sharing their personal stories, participants collectively drew pictures and shared stories that revealed their fears and hopes for the future of Malvern. Although the stick-figures and crude lines and wiggles warranted the frequently-heard-comment of “I can’t draw”, participants shared common and deeply-felt truths about what Torontonians want and need. “I don’t want to wait an hour for a bus, or pay a $7.00 fare to get on the TTC,” said one resident. “I want affordable housing and 24-hour child care because I work night-shift,” said another. “I want a Malvern with solar panels and hospitals near our home” said another.
The structure of the workshop was inspired by long-time organizer, Marshall Ganz, who led a training session for labour and NDP activists in May 2010. Ganz’s experience includes organizing with Cesar Chavez to establish the United Farm Workers Union in California in the 1960s and developing Obama’s grassroots campaign during the 2008 election.
Ganz emphasizes sharing stories and connecting with people on a personal level before engaging in collective action. This approach differs from seeing organizing as an exercise in recruiting bodies, as exemplified in the slogan get “bums on seats”. It is hoped that participants will share their stories to encourage their family, friends, and coworkers to become more politically engaged and vote on October 25.
The Good Jobs for All Coalition is organizing similar workshops to protect public services and good jobs in Flemingdon-Thorncliffe on the 29th of September, and Jane-Finch in mid-October.
We encourage you to educate fellow voters about the candidates. You can download fliers to distribute at candidates and mayoral debates.
Go to the Toronto City website to find a candidates’ debate near you.