Jim Poling: On our democratic obligation

Newsroom Insider

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My wife and I have long held the belief the most important thing we could do as parents is ensure our children received the gift of education.

That included time spent reading and writing and coaching. Coffee shop talks about life and politics. Conversations about books and the stories inside them, my children’s lives and the art of the possible.

Education is the great equalizer. With education comes knowledge and empowerment and the ability to think critically. It’s why I love our democracy and it’s why I vote.

There’s a rock on my desk that was plucked from the blood and salt-water stained beach in Dieppe on the coast of France, a nasty place where many Hamilton soldiers with the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry died or were wounded. The grayish-blue stone the size of my palm is a reminder of that sacrifice and of the bloody beachhead to democracy.

Their sacrifice, my obligation.

Our democracy is not perfect. There are serious questions about access, representation and voice. Sometime people feel they are too small, that they don’t count or their vote doesn’t matter.

Everyday people call the newsroom, write letters or send emails complaining about this politician or that policy. They contact us because they want us to know how something got so far off the rails, how to take it away or make it better.

Clearly people do care about their world, their country, their neighborhood.

On the back of my office door I’ve taped four voter registration cards containing the name of a member of my family. They are special because it was the first time our family was of voting age and we went to the polling station together to vote.

We walked freely and openly and discussed our choices.

I’m thinking about all of this because later today on thespec.com we launch SpecVotes, The Hamilton Spectator’s municipal election website devoted to issues and information this winter, spring and summer leading into the fall vote. For the next nine months, it will track issues, candidates and utility – who is running, how to register as a voter and where to find your ballot box.

There’s much going on in Hamilton these days. It’s not the same city it was four years ago. There’s a renewed arts and culture vibe in town, a strong urbanist movement and new residents from Toronto who bring values and expectations that might not necessarily fit but are worth discussing. We have brownfields and development and parks and schools and rapid transit to debate. We are a city that cares about the marginalized and where our schools are opened and closed.

There’s many way to discuss these things and on Oct. 27 one of the most powerful ways is to vote.

Jim Poling’s Newsroom Insider blog reflects editorial life at The Hamilton Spectator, where he is managing editor.

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