Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Politicians making a difference - really

Two nights ago on the news, I saw Jack Layton and Olivia Chow arrive at Parliament on bicycles. I've never been one to throw myself behind a political party, and the NDP quite often don't represent my views, but I really liked this sight. We hear people talking all the time about all the problems that come from pollution and car use. It's refreshing to see the people addressing the cause of the illness instead of talking about the symptoms all the time, especially when those people are the ones with the voices we hear.

It was a photo-op in the most positive sense, in that it may inspire people to act and not just vote a certain way. It'll be interesting to see how long it lasts, or if it catches on.

I don't expect to see Rona Ambrose, our current environment minister, commuting by bicycle. Maybe Peter McKay would be a good representative, especially with the recent praise of his sex appeal. What about Stephane Dion? He is running for leadership of the Liberal Party, and trying to play the environment card after his run as environment minister.

Here's a sample from a Q&A on the Globe and Mail (warning: reading the following quote may require patience):

Stephen Mayor, Canada: Mr. Dion, The environment has deservingly emerged as a central issue for Liberals and Canadians. How will you distinguish between Liberal environmental policies and those of the Green party, from whom some ideas (carbon tax) seem borrowed, and the NDP, who ride to Parliament on bicycles? Considering greenhouse gas emissions rose when you were environment minister, what would you do differently as our prime minister to ensure they are reduced so that we meet our Kyoto targets? Lastly, apart from Kyoto, how will you save our environment?

St├ęphane Dion: Through my three-pillar approach, which is bringing together economic vitality, environmental sustainability and social justice. My action plan is to create a virtuous circle between the three pillars. Because I am proposing sound environmental policies, Canada will become more energy efficient and competitive in the new industrial revolution; double column the sustainable economy. Then we will have more capacity to improve social justice in Canada, and because of that Canadians will be more educated, healthier, better equipped and more confident as players in the economy. And in this way, you will have a virtuous circle between the three pillars.

Pillars do remind me of Rome, and Rome was powerful and stable (for a while at least). And I gotta say, a virtuous circle does sound good. (I should really shut up, since I know I've written some rambling stuff here). I was almost ready to vote for Stephen Mayor, after reading that. Come on Stephane. Make a difference; ride a bike and be seen doing it!

In all fairness, Dion does go on to make some more specific statements that you may be interested in reading. It's just difficult to get excited about any of it, when so little progress was made under Liberal rule. When I see a federal government that forces changes to land use and pushes money at transit and bicycle infrastructure, along with cycling education, I'll consider that government to be making progress. When people can conveniently live in our cities without owning a car, I'll count it as success.

On a more local level, I was looking around at the web sites of candidates running in my ward in the upcoming municipal election. A lot of the talk is about property taxes, council pay raises, budget mismanagement, and police. The only topics over which provoking fear appears acceptable are raising taxes and a break and enter. When it comes to fumigating ourselves, it's a matter for reporters to get worked up about. So let's call ourselves environmentally concerned and promote recycling! It's really not something worth being cynical about since the politician who promotes recycling as the cornerstone of his environmental platform is basically admitting he doesn't care.

I'll end by passing on an encouraging message seen on one of the campaign web sites - a quote from Margaret Mead, an anthropologist:

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

Darren J 9/20/2006 12:10:00 p.m.


Out here in the 905 the political races will hopefully be a little more interesting. Traffic congestion is becoming a hot button topic.

Sadly, my own local candidates haven't said a whole lot about it, other than the general motherhood stuff that they always say.
I wasn't that impressed with the politicians at the opening of Quay to the City. Olivia Chow cruised up sans helmet at the last possible moment, and pushed her way to the front of the pack to get a photo op. I guess that's what you have to do if you are a politician, but it didn't show much concern for those of us who had been there for a while, being mere citizen cyclists.

and I say this as a reliable NDP voter (at least since my recent move from the US)
I agree. The 905 could be very interesting. I think this could be the start of Richmond Hill going in a different direction, possibly following Markham's lead. And so much of the traffic in the suburban parts of the GTA, on both sides of the 905/416 border, must be related to people either living or working in the 905.

I had to drive my car this week for work related reasons, and the traffic is so jammed now that it's actually getting faster for me to bike.
Jun, maybe Chow will soon realize that the people in the crowd are important to impress as well as the ones reading the paper. But whatever she's doing does seem to work for her.

By the way, I don't think I would have worn a helmet on that street either.
Hehe. Great post. Right you are.
You'll only see a Toronto City
Councillor ona bike at re-election time.

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