It was an epic week on a number of levels. We held an election as a province, Our mayor was sentenced, I saw King Lear, my daughter voted for the first time, and it’s now fathers day.
The election campaign was difficult and great all at the same time. Difficult because the level of hyperbole and warning of dire consequences if this or that party were or weren’t elected seemed to be at an all time high. On our local AM radio station there were warnings that London would be the new Detroit if the Liberals got in and that the Conservative/NDP/Freedom/Green party was our only hope. You can understand this happening in a campaign but this time it felt really over the top. Also as a part of the campaign we saw the call for people to reject their ballots. I don’t agree with this strategy but understand the frustration that would lead to this choice.In the end the Liberal Party got a majority, something no one was expecting, and the world didn’t come crashing to a halt. The fact that we elected the first openly gay woman Premiere of Ontario ,and that this never became an issue in the campaign, filled my with a lot of pride for our province and the people who share it with me.
In my own riding there were four outstanding people running. Kevin Labonte, Nancy Branscombe, Judy Bryant, and Deb Matthews. I know all four and was really proud of them for putting their names forward to serve my neighbours. If this is the quality we can expect in London, along with others like Jeff Bennet, Peggy Stadler, Theresa Armstrong, Nick Steinburg, then we’re going to be fine as a province.A lot will happen in the next four years though so lets pay attention and make sure London gets some much-needed attention.
The night of the election went to see King Lear, a thoughtful gift from my wife – thanks honey, at the Stratford Festival. This play is about a King who is filled with arrogance and pride and decides in his last years to divide his kingdom amongst his daughters if they can tell him why they love him best. Two daughters do this but the youngest sees this for what it is and refuses to play along. For this she is banished. This is a powerful play because not only do we see the horrible games of manipulation played upon Lear by his daughters and court but we see the head long rush of a King as he descends into madness and loss fuelled by his own arrogance and pride. After the results of the Mayor Fontana’s trail friday I couldn’t help but find myself drawing parallels between the play and the trail.
Our Mayor was convicted on all three charges brought against him my the R.C.M.P.. These were breach of trust by a public official, fraud and uttering forged documents. Quickly our local leaders chimed in on radio,TV and via social media. There were howls of glee from some and real sadness from others. But in all of this there can be no doubt now that our Mayor committed some very serious acts for which he will face the consequences both personally and politically. I found it hard to watch frankly. The Mayor and I do not see eye to eye on many issues, especially around development and taxes, but I genuinely felt bad that this fathers day he will be faced with considering his next years will be ,at the worst behind bars, and at the best an object of ridicule and shame. Not an easy place to be. Same thing happens to King Lear.
Lear, after giving away his Kingdom, is lessened and finally losses all his power to be driven out into the howling storm and rages in his madness. “ Blow wind and crack your cheeks. Rage. Blow.”. Fairly sure Joe Fontana feels like that now. I’m not saying The Mayor does not deserve to be punished for his crimes. he absolutely does deserve this for his actions in breaching our trust, but my question to you all is need we take delight in it? Could we not say “ justice was served let’s move on” and recognize the tremendous pain he and his family now face ? Could those in the background considering a run for Mayor now that Joe is done not pause and think of him and our city rather than their own political fortunes? Aren’t we better than this? I hope so because something else monumental happened this week. My daughter voted for the first time.
So for the last year our family has been talking about the fact the Erynn can vote. Frankly at first she was not that interested. But as we kept talking and discussing it she became more interested until we sat down together and watched the leaders debate. She quickly formed opinions on who she was likely to vote for but i kept poking at her assumptions until finally she said “well tell me who you’d chose”. Oh it was so tempting friends to walk her to the candid I supported but my better angels served me and I said “ No, you have to decide for yourself”. So back at it we went until she finally had a choice and last Thursday my daughter, Erynn Sion Quigley, voted of the very first time. I could not have been prouder. She bucked the trend of younger voters and stepped up and exercised her right to have her voice heard. Wow – what an amazing thing to do.
All of this from Lear to elections to our Mayor to my daughter voting is important separately but taken all together maybe point to something larger than the singularity of the I. In the end Lear begins to come out of his madness to late and loses the most precious thing he has. His youngest daughter. In the same way we need to look to our daughters and sons and notice what they’re learning from us as we go through these times of change. The stakes are high friends. Very , very, very high. How we act , during elections and trials, informs and teaches our sons and daughters how they may act tomorrow. Let the conviction of Joe Fontana be a lesson on what not to do if you serve and what not to do if someone is caught. Let the election of 2014 be a lesson that anyone can serve regardless of background or belief or preference. Let the vote of my daughter be a sign to us that perhaps the future will be alright after all. Let our collective action in the weeks and months ahead serve as an example of how a city can move forward without the need of finger-pointing and acrimony. Let this time be about creating something that is larger than all of us. A something called London.