Olivia Chow for Toronto

by Administrator21. August 2014 10:47

In this blog, I am making a political statement of support for Olivia Chow. This is because I think lawyers, just like producers of any and all consumer or other products or services, have values and opinions and that we are morally compelled to engage in a transparent way with their clients and with the public. 

The other night I was surfing television shows and came across the non-documentary, basically fictionalized but historically somewhat accurate, I presume, CBC's production of "Jack", a sort of truncated personal and political career biography of Jack Layton.

The show was produced by Laszlo Barna, a very talented Canadian film maker who I met about twenty years ago when he made the film "Moving Mountains" with the assistance and co-operation of the United Steelworkers. That film was a documentary about women working on huge earth moving equipment at a major USW coal operation in eastern British Columbia. The focus was on how the world of work was beginning to change for women, even in the mining industry. That was a film about the process of emerging equality between men and woman, a process still underway, to be sure.  

Anyway, back to "Jack."

One of the several very moving and endearing aspects of the story about the untimely and tragic death of Jack Layton, for all Canadians, was the portrayal of his relationship with his life partner and political ally and colleague, former Toronto City Councillor and former NDP Toronto area MP and now Toronto mayoral candidate, Olivia Chow.

I have followed Olivia's political career from the time she was a school board trustee and more closely when she became a Toronto City Councillor. I live not too far from her Ward. I have visited the Chinese restaurants on Spadina and in Markham regularly. I have been cooking and tasting hot and sour soup from the time I was an undergraduate. I have lived in Toronto from the time I entered the University of Toronto's Faculty of Law in 1975. I have practised law from my Toronto base for almost thirty-five years. I am proud to live in Toronto, despite recent troubling municipal embarrassments. Toronto is my home.  

I am keenly interested in and a big supporter of multicultural Toronto (and Canada) and the developing sense of toleration and sensitivity that most Torontonians show to each other, whatever our ethnic or cultural or religious backgrounds. For me, without knowing too much about Olivia's personal history, Olivia served as an example or reflection of a new kind of western society. Her instinctive progressive approach to problem-solving, her selfless commitment to public service, values and her interests in urban challenges - multicultural education, access to health care, urban poverty, mass transit transportation -  these have made her one of the most attractive and interesting Toronto and Canadian public figures of my generation. The time has come for differentiations between us that form the core for lingering discrimination - such as gender and ethnicity - to be deposited securely in the dustbins of our memory. Control/Alt/Delete.

Olivia gives Torontonians an opportunity to make a declaration to Canadians and to the world about who we are and, collectively, what we want to become.

So, when the quagmire of the Rob Ford spectacle was broken by Olivia's announcement that she would run for the Toronto Mayor's job, I thought there was some hope on the horizon that core progressive values could return to the conversation that Canadians must reignite with each other. It may be that Torontonians can once again be proud of our public institutions and begin to focus on creative solutions to the principal question before us - what will be the nature and response to the challenges of inequality in an increasingly complex and interdependent economic and political world. International, national and provincial politics in the end is all about local politics. We all live in a world, in a nation state and in an area within that state. But every day we work with and interact with people in our local communities, people who live immediately around us. Political values start at home. That is where our voices must be heard most clearly.  

Rob Ford is not the reason I support Olivia Chow. The fact is there is a dark side dominating and re-emerging in our midst and in our world. That ominous and powerful obstacle - the relentless pursuit of profit without regard to consequences, impact or harm to our world and to each other - has deep pockets, unrelenting selfishness and alarming short-sightedness.

Olivia should be the next Mayor of Toronto because she will promote and give voice to our collective and emerging better sides.

Brian Shell 

August 20, 2014. 

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