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FORUM: With people-power there is hope (Winter 2019)

March 14th, 2019 · No Comments

MPP Bell sees glass half-full in year ahead

By Jessica Bell

A new year is an opportunity to renew and recommit to making a difference. Here are three resolutions to help spur positive social change in 2019.

Embrace Hope.

The year 2018 was a hard one.The rise of right wing populist Doug Ford has damaged our democracy, hurt people, and the environment.

The year 2019 will not be easy. There will be cuts to vital public services. Life will get harder for many, especially the poor and vulnerable. People will die. That’s why it’s never been more important to believe a kinder, fairer future is possible, and that our work here in Toronto will help us achieve it. Hopeful people take action. Hopeless people don’t. Hope is contagious. So is hopelessness.

There are many reasons to hope: two MPPs have already left the Conservative caucus and we have held our ground against Doug Ford on some issues.

The Ford government is keeping some safe injection sites open despite his election promise to shut them down. Ford’s appointment of family friend, Ron Taverner, to the head of the Ontario Provincial Police has been delayed. And the $14 minimum wage and rent control on existing homes are in force. These are victories. 

Ontarians are also becoming more politically engaged. Thousands protested the cancellation of the French Language University and the elimination of the French Language Services Commissioner. More than 40,000 students staged school walkouts in protest of Ford’s removal of teaching about consent and the existence of LGBTQ people from the sex education curriculum. Continuing support for these opposition movements stands to grow as more people turn to activism.

Volunteer with a campaign.

A campaign involves people working together to achieve a positive and specific political goal. The goal could be electing a local champion to office or increasing provincial funding to schools.

Good campaigns build the momentum and power we need to make real change. It’s easy for a Conservative politician to ignore a one-off letter to the editor, a door-to-door canvasser, an angry email, a day of protests, or some nasty tweets. But it’s very hard for an elected official to not be swayed when these events are organized in sequence and then repeated by an ever-growing group of motivated and active residents in a politician’s own riding.

Working on a chosen campaign also helps me stay positive. Taking useful action with friends counters the despair and anger I sometimes feel when I am alone listening to the news. Focusing on one cause and doing it well is the best antidote to that drowning urgency to do a million things at once when I scroll through my Facebook feed, scanning headlines of tragedy, despair, shopping sales, and click-bait activism.

Invite people to join and stick around.

Doug Ford has a huge amount of official power. He controls the ministries and he makes the laws, but he is only one person. Over 60 per cent of Ontarians did not vote for Doug Ford, and nobody voted for his vengeful attacks on Toronto or his plan to open up the precious Greenbelt to big developers. 

Our power is people-power. We strengthen our people-power when we encourage people to join our cause, and when we work well together. I strive to provide opportunities for people to take action, and I encourage you to do the same.

This can look like personally inviting people to attend a local protest, organizing an event at your local school so parents, students, and teachers can connect with people who are leading campaigns to improve education in Ontario, or simply listening to a colleague who would like to see improvements to the local group’s meeting culture. People join when they are invited. People stay when they make friends.  

Join me in making 2019 the year where we work together to make a change for the better.

Jessica Bell is the MPP for University Rosedale. Her office is at 719 Bloor St. W., #103. For help or to volunteer please contact her at JBell-CO@ndp.on.ca.

Tags: Annex · Columns · Opinion