Ap­a­thy greater threat than lack of di­ver­sity

Tillsonburg News - - OPINION - Terry glavin Terry Glavin is an au­thor and jour­nal­ist.

you might think it’s bad enough to show up again this year near the top of de­mographia’s list­ing of cities with the least af­ford­able hous­ing mar­kets in the world, and a rental va­cancy rate of less than one per cent, and to have been re­duced to ground zero of Canada’s fen­tanyl cri­sis, with a world­wide rep­u­ta­tion as the epi­cen­tre of a global money laun­der­ing sys­tem run by or­ga­nized crime net­works in China.

you might also think it is a bit dis­turb­ing that voter turnout in van­cou­ver’s re­cent civic elec­tion was about 40 per cent.

on the bright side, it’s a good thing van­cou­ver mayor gre­gor robert­son, after hav­ing presided over van­cou­ver’s trans­for­ma­tion from lo­tus­land’s me­trop­o­lis to a seedy gang­land par­adise of drug-money laun­der­ing and shady real es­tate swin­dles, is in his­tory’s dust­bin. on the down­side, robert­son’s suc­ces­sor, Kennedy ste­wart, won the race for the mayor’s of­fice backed by only about 12 per cent of el­i­gi­ble vot­ers.

what­ever might be said about all that, the post-elec­tion thing to get worked up about, judg­ing by re­ports in the Toronto star, the lo­cal CbC news, var­i­ous city we­bzines and the Twit­ter hash­tag #coun­cil­sowhite, is the no­tice­ably pale com­plex­ion of the new city coun­cil mem­bers, save one. Pete Fry. his Trinidad-born mother is the van­cou­ver lib­eral fix­ture hedy Fry, the long-serv­ing mP for van­cou­verCen­tre.

The white­ness of re­cently elected mu­nic­i­pal coun­cils is be­ing no­ticed right across Canada at the mo­ment.

erin Tol­ley, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor at the univer­sity of Toronto and “co-in­ves­ti­ga­tor” with the Cana­dian mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion study, a project of the so­cial sci­ences and hu­man­i­ties re­search Coun­cil of Canada, writes: “all else be­ing equal, we know that vot­ers grav­i­tate to­ward can­di­dates with whom they share an eth­nic or racial back­ground.”

maybe so. but the ex­am­ples she cites — re­cent elec­tions in van­cou­ver, mis­sis­sauga and Toronto — could be held up as ev­i­dence against her claim. vot­ers in van­cou­ver, mis­sis­sauga and Toronto do not ap­pear to have fol­lowed the pat­tern of eth­nic grav­i­ta­tional pull at all.

in mis­sis­sauga, 57 per cent of vot­ers iden­tify as mem­bers of a “vis­i­ble mi­nor­ity” but only one “racial­ized” coun­cil­lor got elected. in a city where slightly more than half the peo­ple iden­tify as mem­bers of “vis­i­ble mi­nor­ity” groups, Toronto’s 25-mem­ber city coun­cil can boast only four peo­ple of colour. sta­tis­tics Canada’s re­cent data show the same sort of ra­tio for van­cou­ver. slightly more than half of van­cou­verites iden­tify as mem­bers of “vis­i­ble mi­nor­ity” groups.

so, what’s with all the white peo­ple on city coun­cils?

it’s a ques­tion worth ask­ing, and al­though the an­swers are likely to dif­fer from city to city, Tol­ley’s re­me­dial pre­scrip­tion, an in­terim mea­sure con­sist­ing of di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion ad­vi­sory com­mit­tees to pro­vide coun­cils with ad­vice about ethno-cul­tural re­la­tions and di­ver­sity, is per­fectly rea­son­able, so far as it goes. an ap­proach like that might also give “racial­ized” par­tic­i­pants some pub­lic ex­po­sure, ac­cess to net­works and de­grees of civic ex­po­sure “that might serve them well if they choose to en­ter elec­toral pol­i­tics,” Tol­ley writes.

but isn’t this just a bu­reau­cratic so­lu­tion in search of a prob­lem? does the ubiq­uity of white peo­ple in civic pol­i­tics re­ally mean “many voices are ex­cluded from the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process” and that this state of af­fairs “puts mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties at risk”?

in van­cou­ver, Kennedy ste­wart, backed by metro van­cou­ver’s labour unions, won the race for the mayor’s of­fice by squeak­ing past the Non­Par­ti­san as­so­ci­a­tion’s Ken sim, who is Chi­nese Cana­dian. The re­sult was 49,812 votes to sim’s 48,828. sim can hardly com­plain he wasn’t taken se­ri­ously.

There are far big­ger “process” is­sues that re­quire at­ten­tion. like the abysmally low voter turnout. and van­cou­ver’s an­ti­quated at-large vot­ing sys­tem. and ap­a­thy.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.