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(Don't call them) New Year's resolutions for Guelph politics in 2022

This week's Market Squared predictably deals with next year's issues
2018-12-28 New Years resolution
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By the time you’re reading this, it’s 2022. Welcome to the Future.

In lieu of some New Year’s resolutions, which are doomed to failure because picking an arbitrary date to make massive life changes instead of working incremental towards a goal goes completely against human nature, let’s consider some ways we can make 2022 a little bit better over the next 12 months.

First, and I say this with all due respect, it’s been impossible to ignore that city council’s been a little bit bitchy with each other lately.

Blame the “box effect” as councillors are spending too much time siloed in their virtual meeting locations. It’s harder to fire passive aggressive barbs at colleagues if you have to look at them in their physical eyes across the council table, but so long as we’re continuing with the virtual format, I think I’m going to start keeping a running tally of “points of order.”

And it’s going to be hard to think about any council business this year without remembering that this is an election year. All but two members of council have been there for eight years, and seven of those people have been there for at least 12.

Again, I say this with all due respect, but I think some members of council need to do some deep thinking and soul searching about whether or not the time has come to open a spot for a new generation of local leadership.

This speaks to a big issue in local politics, which is the lack of engagement that results in people just checking boxes for the incumbent without any particular knowledge or insight into their voting record or stand on the issues. I’m not saying people have to think about politics every day, but maybe that’s the reason why council is, for the most part, one night a week.

And I’m going to make a push for this even though I know it’s unlikely to come to pass: We actually have two elections this year, a local one and a provincial one, and considering how many issues overlap those two levels, or how local action is sometimes stymied by a lack of action or interest on the part of Queen’s Park, this seems like an ideal time to find solutions that transcend jurisdiction.

This is not exactly a theoretical exercise either. Consider an Ontario Auditor General’s report from earlier this year that noted that while municipal councils have increased their spending on issues related to homelessness by 59 per cent on average, provincial and federal spending has only gone up by 32 and 29 per cent respectively.

This will be a great time to talk about a variety of crossover issues like getting a new hospital in Guelph, housing affordability and availability, and regional transportation. Don’t like the rate by which your taxes are going up in Guelph? We need to have a big conversation about the way we fund cities, and how little control cities have over their own purse strings.

As for who might run in the election, I’d like to lend a voice of support to Guelph’s young people, the ones who are leading the fight for social justice, climate action, and economic equality. I hope they consider formalizing their activism by running for office. Not to sound agist, but adding one person under 30 to council would increase its overall tech-savviness by a factor of 12.

As you can tell by some of these new year’s suggestions, it’s my desire to make this double-election year a time for serious discussions about serious issues with serious people. Of course, in this era of politics the word “serious” is synonymous with the term, “reality-based.” So looking ahead to 2022, can we be guaranteed that either of the coming elections will be fought on the basis of reality?

Granted, politics here in Canada is not being pulled into a rabbit hole of conspiracies, weird science, and half-truths, but we can’t ignore the trend. Ontario will have two far-right parties running candidates in the next provincial election, both notably led by politicians who traffic in vaccine hesitancy and COVID science denial.

Of course, it’s impossible to think about the new year without being reminded that we’re entering the third calendar year of the pandemic.

The hardest thing to reconcile about the COVID-19 pandemic is how it never unfolded the way we thought it would. We thought it would go away, especially after the vast majority of us got vaccinated, but now there’s this word “endemic” making the rounds. COVID is now being talked about as something we have to live with, so will we be able to find a way to live with it?

It’s a terrible thought, but New Year’s is not exclusively a time for happy thoughts, or at least it shouldn’t be. You can’t change the world in the same way that you can change a calendar on the fridge, so keep in mind that whatever change you seek in 2022 it can happen incrementally, and it probably will.

That’s one column down, 51 more to go!