Posted by: Alvin | November 5, 2008

Now it's Vancouver's Turn for Change

The world has just witnessed a remarkable event. All across the United States, people in the smallest of towns and the biggest of cities came out to vote in record numbers. They came out because they were tired of the last 8 years, Republicans and Democrats both. For days people were lined up in advanced polling, some for hours upon hours, just to help contribute to what they saw as a new way of seeing a nation; a new way of seeing politics. All across the United States today, people young and old made their way to polling stations because they believed in their individual ability to make a difference. And they did. Young people voting in their first election, and old people voting for maybe the last time. They came out, and they saw change because of it.

I had the pleasure of gathering with friends and colleagues from Vision Vancouver, the Civic Greens, and of course COPE, in the middle of downtown, near West Hastings. We all sat in amazement at the sight of 70,000 people gathered in Chicago to see the next President, to hear him speak, and to see for themselves that amazing things can happen when you believe. But as much as the world has been fixated on this moment for nearly two years now, and as important as the leader of the United States is for this world, the impact of the decisions that Barack Obama will make as the leader of his nation will never come close to the impact our decisions make here in our city – in our small corner of the world.

As much as the US Presidential Election process has been made out to be a critical moment for our entire world, the leadership of our City Hall, our School Board, and our Parks Board is so much more important to our everyday lives. As I left the party and walked out of downtown I passed people who had to sleep on sidewalks, or in doorways, and even one man who had been walking for three hours around downtown because he had nothing else to do – nowhere else to go. There was no hope tonight for these men and women, nothing that the new President of the USA could say to house them, or feed them, or make sure they were safe. As far as any of Vancouver’s nearly 3,000 homeless individuals knew, tonight was the same as any other night. And at the end of the day, no matter how excited many of us are about the US Election results, it’s true. In Vancouver, tonight was just another night.

It was just another night for the thousands of children that go to bed hungry, and then wake up and have to go to school without a good breakfast. It was just another night for the 10,000 people on the waiting list for subsidized housing. It was just another night for the students and workers that have to get up two or three hours early because there aren’t enough buses to get them to school or work on time.

These are local challenges, and they touch us everyday. We need to see the same change that millions of Americans voted for today happen in Vancouver. We need a city hall that stops talking about homelessness and begins to do something about it. We need a parks board that understands sustainability is key to the livability of the entire region. We need a school board that understands the importance of students having a say in the system that shapes them every day. Vancouver needs a city with new direction, leadership that does away with the mentality of the past three years. A mentality that believed Vancouver would accept the status-quo. A Vancouver that didn’t need to consult past the wealthy and privileged. This city needs leadership that eats, lives, and breathes the belief that we can come together as citizens and create a Vancouver for everyone.

Barack Obama mentioned this grassroots hunger for change in his speech tonight when he said that his campaign had “grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation’s apathy.” We can be those young people for our city. We need to come together, now with just 10 days to go, and demand a better Vancouver. A Vancouver that is just, and compassionate, and a leader on the issues we all believe to be too important to wait on.

So tonight I am asking you all to commit to something small, but at the same time something so incredibly big. Promise to yourself that you will do everything you can to change this city. Promise to yourself that you will vote on November 15th. Promise to yourself that you will tell your friends and family to join you.

Incredible, once in a lifetime moments do not happen because we simply wish them to happen. They do not happen because we hope, or because we let someone else do it for us. Incredible moments, incredible things happen because we demand that they happen. So if you can spare even a few hours on election day, join me. Ask me how you can help us win this city back. How you can make calls or knock on doors.

I need your help on election day. It’s one day; a few hours of your time. But they could change your life in a meaningful way. We don’t have to hope for the change we wish to see; we don’t have to wait for others to act instead. Get out there and make it happen on election day. Please, ask me how.

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