The very first comment on my Twitter post announcing my campaign to “represent progressive values at City Hall” was a simple question:
Seeing the lack of avatar, I was initially bracing myself for an attack, but I grew to really appreciate the question. It’s great timing for asking ‘why progressive values’ for two reasons. First, it gives me a chance to share the answer with Ward 8 residents. But perhaps more importantly, it forces me to reflect on my own motivations and inspirations at the outset of what will be a long and challenging campaign.
Sometimes we take our beliefs for granted without ever revisiting them, updating them, or contemplating their roots. Most of the time our values run silently in the background like autopilot, filtering our day-to-day decisions to help us quickly navigate our information-laden world efficiently. We take them for granted for the most part, and they do their job well, for the most part. In political campaigns, use of the term ‘values’ has become (was always?) a clichéd part of political marketing – ‘family values’, ‘traditional values’, etc. It has probably been mentioned in every democratic campaign since the dawn of democracy. There is a good reason for this – in representation, values are everything.
Knowing a candidate’s platform positions on the issues of the day is important, for sure. We may have strong feelings about a current issue, and we want to affect our preferred change by electing a representative who will vote the way we would like. There is a larger benefit, though, which is that an overview of specific issue positions begins to shape an understanding of a candidates values. This is important because the issues we face today will not be the issues we face tomorrow. New issues will arise, ones not addressed in the preceding election campaign. We want someone who will meet those challenges based on values that align with our own. Therefor, we should be asking candidates about their values and listening intently to the answers.
I have said clearly that I have been nominated to represent progressive values because I want voters in Ward 8 to know clearly where I stand. It is all too easy in politics to play it safe, to dilute language so as not to offend, to sit on a fence in the attempt to appeal to as many voters as possible. I do feel working with others to build consensus is a noble goal, but I also believe the people who live in Ward 8 want to clearly know their values won’t be compromised in the process. This explains why I will represent progressive values for Ward 8 residents – because they asked me to. It still doesn’t answer my own ‘why’.
In past years, I had never really been extremely politically inclined or active. Sure, I considered myself reasonably well informed, I would vote in every election, and I generally leaned toward progressive parties when I did so. But I did so with my values autopilot running in the background, and essentially treated each election like a sporting match, cheering for my team. I had never been particularly activist about any issue, unless you count signing the occasional petition. No one has ever accused me of being particularly ‘woke’. So why progressive values?
I have strong feelings about homelessness*. Strong feelings as in, there shouldn’t be any homelessness. I believe we should in our every decision factor in and ensure inclusivity and equality of opportunity. I believe we should expand our fight against the opioid crisis. I believe in most traditionally progressive values as they feel right to me, and very often have a financial case to be made for them, to boot. But this still doesn’t answer the real question in the context of this election.
Why progressive values in this election? Because I think it’s time we try find new solutions to old problems. What we have done so far to address homeless hasn’t worked. What we have done to ensure equality hasn’t worked. We are losing ground in the opioid crisis, not gaining. In future posts I will be addressing each of these issues and many others individually and in specific. For now, I would just refer to the old chestnut, ‘the definition of insanity is trying the same thing and expecting different results’. I am tired of the middle path and compromise solutions. I am tired of being patient and being told that solutions take time. Seeing homeless folks on the street or in makeshift camps in -40ºc weather tells us we don’t have time – these issues are life and death emergencies.
I believe courageously progressive approaches to these and other issues can work, and it is our responsibility to try. We shouldn’t continue to take a balanced approach to seriously unbalanced issues. We can’t run on autopilot anymore.
*I am aware there is a move away from that term to houselessness for several very good reasons, but I hope you, dear reader, will allow me for the purpose of this post to continue to use the term that is most familiar to many. I will work on it.