Shin­ing light on for­got­ten race

Spot­light has missed school board elec­tion

Toronto Sun - - NEWS - CHRISTINA BL­IZ­ZARD Guest Colum­nist christi­ @chrizblizz christin­abliz­

It’s the for­got­ten race. Buried un­der the sound and fury around down­siz­ing Toronto coun­cil and the minute-by-minute cov­er­age of the may­oral race, the TDSB school board elec­tion is largely for­got­ten.

I had been mulling run­ning for of­fice for the past two years.

Af­ter work­ing an adult life­time in jour­nal­ism, I have lots of ex­pe­ri­ence speak­ing up for those who don’t have a voice.

The only elected po­si­tion that ap­pealed to me was that of school trustee.

I have a pas­sion for ed­u­ca­tion.

So I signed up to run for school trustee in Scar­bor­ough South­west at City Hall, paid my $100 — and started knock­ing on doors.

It has been quite the learn­ing curve — and I have new-found re­spect for any­one who puts their name on a bal­lot, puts their ideas out there and hits the road to ex­plain them.

In all the cam­paigns I cov­ered as a jour­nal­ist, I’ve never seen one quite like this for school board.

There are rules gov­ern­ing the TDSB elec­tion — but no en­force­ment mech­a­nism to pun­ish way­ward can­di­dates.

Un­like provin­cial elec­tions, where once the writ is dropped, MPPs be­come just can­di­dates, trustees are trustees through­out the elec­tion, send­ing out news­let­ters at tax­pay­ers’ ex­pense dur­ing the cam­paign pe­riod.

Who gave them that right? Why, trustees them­selves, of course.

The premier is no longer re­ferred to as “premier” dur­ing an elec­tion.

He or she is sim­ply “Lib­eral leader” or “Con­ser­va­tive leader.”

That way, every­one is com­pet­ing on an even play­ing field.

While can­di­dates are not al­lowed to cam­paign on school prop­erty — a rule I heartily en­dorse and scrupu­lously ob­serve — that rule doesn’t ap­ply to in­cum­bents.

In fact, the in­cum­bent for TDSB in Scar­bor­ough South­west was al­lowed to hold an in­for­ma­tion meet­ing in a school, on Oct. 2, on the “role of the trustee and su­per­in­ten­dent.”

I hate to sound all sour grapesy, but wouldn’t it be more fit­ting to wait three weeks and have the new trustee hold that meet­ing?

Why the ur­gency dur­ing a cam­paign?

Per­haps the UN could send ob­servers to over­see the next TDSB elec­tion.

Trustees are free to use the rich re­sources of the board at tax­pay­ers’ ex­pense.

The school board was the first “beat” I cov­ered as a jour­nal­ist. And I loved it.

School board is­sues di­rectly af­fect our most pre­cious re­source — chil­dren in our schools.

Once upon a time, trustees were re­spected peo­ple in the com­mu­nity who showed up for school con­certs and fun fairs. I don’t see that any more. In­stead, I see peo­ple us­ing the role of trustee as a step­ping stone to what they see as “higher” of­fice.

Parthi Kan­davel, the in­cum­bent in my ward, ran for the provin­cial Lib­eral nom­i­na­tion in Scar­bor­ough Cen­tre.

That hardly demon­strates a com­mit­ment to ei­ther Scar­bor­ough South­west or the job of trustee.

Many of my op­po­nents for trustee are mem­bers of a po­lit­i­cal party. I am not.

There’s noth­ing wrong with am­bi­tion. But if a trustee runs, say, in next year’s fed­eral elec­tion, it will trig­ger a by­elec­tion, which could cost tax­pay­ers up to $250,000. That’s money that should be go­ing into the class­room — not to sup­port par­ti­san po­lit­i­cal as­pi­ra­tions of any one in­di­vid­ual.

I’ve had a long and ful­fill­ing ca­reer as a jour­nal­ist.

Now I be­lieve I can use the skills I learned cov­er­ing ed­u­ca­tion to help par­ents and chil­dren nav­i­gate the sys­tem.

I’m thrilled to an­nounce that one of the peo­ple en­dors­ing me is Beth Van­stone.

Long­time read­ers will re­mem­ber I fought tire­lessly to get life-sav­ing med­i­ca­tion paid by the gov­ern­ment for her daugh­ter, Madi.

That’s the kind of en­ergy I’d bring to the fight for fam­i­lies in Scar­bor­ough South­west.

This may be a sleepy race for the school board, but it’s an im­por­tant one. I’m mak­ing noise let­ting peo­ple know this ward de­serves bet­ter rep­re­sen­ta­tion at the TDSB. In a board dom­i­nated by down­town voices, Scar­bor­ough SW has been the poor re­la­tion for too long.

My slo­gan? “Kids first …not pol­i­tics.”

In a board dom­i­nated by down­town voices, Scar­bor­ough South­west has been the poor re­la­tion for too long, Christina Bl­iz­zard says.

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