There's an old saying that sagely warns us that if we want to avoid arguments, stay away from discussions about religion or politics. Religion wasn't a big topic in our household when I was growing up, but politics certainly was.
My dad was always intensely passionate about his politics. He was a died in the wool Liberal, who I'm sure would be denouncing the resurgence of big C conservativism in Ottawa to anyone who would listen if he was still with us today.
He didn't limit his enthusiasm for politics to just the federal level. He was always involved at the provincial level and even ran for city council twice back in the days when we still had aldermen and wards instead of councillors and districts.
Yet, despite all his years in the trenches and seeing the way real political dealing was done (he once warned me to never enter politics myself because I had no stomach for the kind of compromises needed to make it in that rough and tumble world), he somehow managed to hold on to an untainted belief that elected office could truly serve the people, that it could be a force for good and could make things better.
As I got older, my own views on politics started to take shape. I was perhaps more cynical than he, for all I saw at the provincial and federal levels were successive Tory and Grit governments that traded power back and forth, but never really seemed to make a difference. We certainly spent many an hour arguing over the merits of different governments and politicians, especially Pierre Trudeau – his absolute favourite and someone I couldn't stand as either man or politician.
However, it wasn't until I started learning the journalism trade in university that I truly discovered municipal politics. At one point in the program, we were each assigned 'beats' to cover. Crime, business, the courts, the legislature were all handed out and I was assigned city hall. It was a revelation to me. I can still clearly remember sitting in council chambers, listening to citizens come forward to speak on issues affecting their homes and families, the councillors arguing back and forth on the merits of voting yea or nay and staff running around to provide the information needed to reach a decision.
Finally I had found a level of politics that felt real to me. This was grass roots kind of stuff that had the potential to affect every single person who lived in the city on a day-to-day basis. Yes, issues at the provincial and federal levels affect us too, but policy seemed so esoteric and its affects may not be felt for generations down the road. This was the kind of stuff that could impact on my life tomorrow and every day thereafter. I was hooked.
Although my career took me more into the field of business journalism (hey, that's where the jobs were when I graduated), I remain today more of a frustrated city hall reporter than anything else. I listen especially hard to the city hall reports of Pam Berman on CBC radio, and always scan the paper for the council roundups after the usual Tuesday night meetings (yes, I am one of the die hards that still get most of my news from newspapers and radio rather than surfing the Web).
So I always look forward to this time of the political season as the sitting councillors, wily old veterans and new hopefuls gear up for a return to the polls. Its one of the few times I can really justify doing some political reporting on behalf of the business parks and indulge my municipal itch. This year is especially interesting with the boundary changes. Both of the area's two largest parks, Bayers Lake and Burnside, are in new or expanded districts and there's a great mix of candidates. I've attempted to present their positions and views on issues of importance to both parks within these pages and hope in some way this adds to the political discussion.
If it accomplishes anything, I would consider it a successful effort if even one person who was considering not voting at all read something in my paper that made them change their minds and visit the polls this fall. I may not have agreed with all my dad had to say on politics, and we certainly had some red faced, table pounding 'discussions' on the topic, but one thing he certainly imparted to me was just how important it is to get out and vote, no matter who it is for. A lot of people in the world can't claim this simple right and a lot of others gave all they had to ensure we kept it, so the least I can do is taken 20 minutes out of my day once every few years to visit a poll. I think my dad would approve.