A tectonic shift happened last Monday night and the faces and focus around our Council Chambers has radically shifted. The result is that we have 11 new Councillors who will be sworn in to serve our city in December. The consequences of this are yet to be seen but we know that the relationship between this new Council and Londoners will be a very different one.
But first we must recognize a few things and in this recognition set our expectations accordingly. The first thing we need to realize is that many of the new Councillors were advocates for a number of causes in London. From Reservoir Hill to Transit to The London Plan, they have all worked hard in the community to press the current Council to understand that London is evolving into a very different place than they thought it was. But there is a difference between advocates and city builders.
An advocate gives voice to a cause, a person, or viewpoint. Each of the new Councillors did this very well and that is to be applauded. But a city builder is someone who must listen to a variety of points of view and build consensus to take the plans we have and make them reality. A city builder also recognizes that priorities must be set through a strategic plan. They must set 5 or 6 key priorities they want to accomplish and focus on them. This will be the first task of this new Council and we must give them the time to do it.
This new Council also will not repeat the mistakes of the current one by engaging in bickering and devision. Londoners very clearly said in this election that they do not want the antics of the past four years to continue and is new Council heard this loud and clear at the door. They campaigned on it and we can fully expect that the tone on this new Council will be a respectful one. But despite the accusations of group think or imminent failure from some in the media, each of these new Councillors are very independent thinkers and are known for they’re analysis of issues. You can expect debates around the horseshoe but expect them to be about ideas not personal agendas and old grudges.
City staff are also going to have a better relationship with this Council but senior staff will have to come to grips with the fact that this group is deeply connected to community and are able to almost instantly receive feedback from their constituents through social media. They are a very connected group collectively and can quickly request input and receive feedback on a scale we haven’t seen at City Hall before. This is a very new thing when it comes to our representatives at 300 Dufferin and new things take time to adjust to.
Some will think that this new Council will be profligate spenders and will mire our city with unmanageable debt. The thing that we and this new Council have to come to grips with is there is a difference between austerity and investment. The plans we have are long term investments that will add economic growth to London. This is not to say that Council will immediately open the vaults to citizens tax money but rather you can expect them to prudently invest in key areas to benefit the whole of London.
We as Londoners have to adjust our expectations as well. President Obama came in to office on a wave of popular support and quickly found out that he could not accomplish many of the things he promised on the campaign trial. The result was that the promise of Hope turned to one of disappointment. This new Council came in on a wave of popular support as well and they should heed the example of President Obama. No one Mayor or Councillor can, by them selves or without the support of community, create instant change. This Mayor and Council will have to collaborate closely, and continually, on key issues that have not changed between Monday night and Tuesday Morning, Unemployment, infrastructure gaps, inadequate transit, development issues, encouraging business growth, and the loss of talent are all issues in London today as they were Monday night. These issues will not be fixed December 1st with the swearing in of a new Council. We must temper our expectations and recognize that these are large issues that require time and focus to address. We need to give Council the time to do this.
The next four years are a little brighter for London but will only really dawn into a new day for our city if we as citizens join with this new Council and support them to become the best possible Council they can be. Citizenship does not only happen at the ballot box but happens in the work between elections. We all need to roll up our sleeves now and begin the work of creating a better London not just for today and for us, but for a better and brighter future London.