When we meet with new writers who are interested in writing about some social or political issue in town, we frequently have the same question: “Ok, but what are we going to do about it?”
Electric City Magazine has frequently become a paper of dissent in town, naysaying local government decisions and bemoaning everything that’s wrong in this city. This can be a very valuable role: dissent reminds us of what’s being overlooked, and helps us to change the conversation. But at some point, if we want to effect real change, we have to move beyond “no.”
In our everyday lives as citizens, there are plentiful opportunities for effecting change, but few are more impactful than a local election. And on October 22, Peterborough will be heading to the polls, choosing a mayor, city councilors, and school board trustees who will guide this city for the next four years.
Every election is important, but this local election feels particularly essential. Peterborough is transforming, with shrinking industry, increasing development and gentrification, rising housing prices, and Highway 407 looming, and along with it the possibility of Peterborough becoming just another bedroom community for Toronto workers. At the same time, we’re seeing growing divisions between the decisions made at City Hall and the will of many of the people. And this comes at a time of unprecedented social upheaval, environmental crisis, and technological change in the world.
Interesting times indeed.
Creating the city we all want to see doesn’t mean fighting for or against any particular candidate, but rather trying to push all candidates (and all local media, and all Peterborians) to listen, to speak to the issues that matter to the citizens of Peterborough, and to collectively work to build the future that we all want to see. This is the work we want to undertake in our 2018 election coverage and engagement.
Work starts this month, with two articles on the importance of citizen engagement in democracy: Electric City Magazine co-publisher Peter Pula writes about the work of Peterborough Dialogues in getting citizens involved in their city, and Elisha Rubacha of Nourish writes about their upcoming series of Democracy Talks.
But we’re just getting started. On May 12, we’ll be hosting Peterborough’s first All Citizens Meeting (with more meetings planned in the fall). The idea is to give the citizens of Peterborough the chance to have their say about what issues are important to them this election, and to do it as early as possible in the election cycle. We want to help citizens lead the way in setting the agenda this election, instead of letting politicians and media do it for us. We will invite all the candidates out as well, and encourage them to listen and engage, but the conversation will be led by the people.
And then, from June to November (the months leading up to the election, followed by a wrap-up), we’ll be dedicating a four-page pullout in each issue of Electric City Magazine to the election. Based on the All Citizens Meetings, we’ll use these pages to talk about the issues that matter to the people of Peterborough. We’ll also include primers on the frequently confusing processes of local politics, regular updates about election news, and profiles of candidates and wards. Our goal is to shift the conversation, and to give citizens the tools to make informed decisions this October.
But at the centre of it is a belief that all of this needs to be citizen-led, and so we are encouraging everyone to get involved. Come out to the All Citizens Meeting (May 12, 12pm to 2:30pm at the Mount Community Centre) and tell us what issues you think deserve to be part of the conversation this election. Support our Deepening Democracy Patreon to help make this work financially viable. Read our articles and share them around. Ask questions of your local candidates, and push them to respond. Write letters to the editor. Post on social media. And keep the conversation going with your friends, families, and co-workers.
We believe there are things in this city that need to change, and we’ve heard from you that you believe the same.
The question is, what are we going to do about it?
Cover photo by B. Mroz.