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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A tactical election loss but a big strategic win for education and democracy

Entering the race for Toronto District School Board Trustee in Toronto's Trinity-Spadina district was something I did for what I believe were and are very important reasons. There are serious issues plaguing the education system in Toronto aside from the mismanagement, waste, and incompetence that so obviously are pervasive in the Board.

Among the most egregious issues that afflicts education as a whole in Ontario are the asinine ideologies shaping the Province's curriculum, which, under the guise of "equity," are in effect racist and help to perpetuate racism. This type of backwards thinking that is pervasive in the top ranks of the TDSB in manifest in many ways but nowhere more clearly than its "Afrocentric" school.

Some of the most vocal opponents to the Afrocentric school are African-Canadians who rightfully see it as racist and a backwards step towards racial segregation. While any sensible person would understand that a child who immigrated to Canada from Somalia three years ago, and a child who has lived in Canada all her life and is from a family that has been here generations, and a child who is a second-generation Canadian with grandparents from Jamaica are all of very different backgrounds and are informed by extremely different cultural values, the TDSB would place them all in the same category if they are "black." That's right, the TDSB is in essence saying skin color is the most important determining factor of a person, and there is no other way to describe that reprehensible view than as being racist.

It was issues like those that I had hoped to highlight in the TDSB trustee campaign.

But things took an unexpected turn.

The NDP-backed candidate in the race turned out to be someone who had spoken at a rally which could easily be characterized as supportive of the terrorist group Hezbollah. Even more significantly, there were numerous articles in the University of Toronto's newspaper, The Varsity, detailing how she was deeply implicated, while a union official, in election-rigging and a serious undermining of democracy.

For the NDP to run a candidate such as that without any valid explanations suggested serious contempt for the voters and I thought it important to highlight these issues, since no other candidate was doing it. It was particularly important since the dire problems at the TDSB mainly arose from a lack of openness and integrity.

By raising those issues and proposing serious reforms for the TDSB, I was able to run a very effective campaign for a time and put the NDP on the defensive. This was true up until the last week of the election even though the media was focusing on the Hezbollah aspect while for weeks, I was desperately trying to get them to talk about the much more concerning issue of election-rigging.

Then things went off the rails at the very end due to the intervention of disgusting morons and cowardly bigots who decided to insert themselves, mostly anonymously, into the race. Some of those idiots tried to prevent Ms Malik, the NDP Trustee candidate, from speaking at a public meeting and I had to shout at them repeatedly to respect her right to speak, as did at least two other trustee candidates.

Then deplorable cowards anonymously started leaving door hangers in the ward, trying to tie Ms Malik directly to Hezbollah. It's difficult if not impossible to conceive how anyone in their right mind could have come up with such an imbecilic plan. If their intent was to help her get elected, they couldn't have possibly done a better job, since quite naturally and predictably, they created a massive sympathy movement for her in the ward. I was half-tempted to declare that I was going to vote for her myself when all that happened.

It was appalling, and as it happened just days before the election and got widespread publicity, she quite naturally won the Trustee election on Monday.

And to her credit, though I detest Ms Malik's politics and radical positions, as a person, she comported herself with courage and dignity throughout the whole process.

Because of the debacle of the final weekend, I finished next to last in the election, but all-in-all, it was a huge strategic victory from my perspective.

Realistically, there was virtually no chance I would have won the TDSB race in Trinity-Spadina entering it about eight weeks before election day.  I was up against an organized NDP campaign that had been going on for six months, where two high-profile Council candidates were coordinating their campaign with their trustee candidate who had union resources and money behind her.  That two council campaigns which are legally barred from accepting union donations could share an office, use common signage, and coordinate campaigns and campaign literature with a trustee candidate who, the way the law is structured, can accept union donations, is an open invitation for an investigation into the way elections are conducted in Toronto.

Though the focus was sidetracked, the Trinity-Spadina race became the highest profile Trustee race in the province and it made vast numbers of people more aware of issues facing the public school system.

It forced the NDP and unions to allocate huge resources, including push-polls, phone banks, robocalls, and finance, into what would normally have been an effortless win for them, and in so doing, altered the public to the records of those politicians involved.

I believe through all of this, I helped to remind people that democracy doesn't only matter around election time, but that we as citizens must be vigilant, always, of what happens in our School Boards and City Councils. We must be aware of who is making decisions for us, what they are doing and why, and to speak up, very loudly, when they are not acting in our best interests.

I want to offer my sincere thanks to all of those who supported me through this tumultuous campaign, particularly family, friends, volunteers, endorsers, my "War Room Director," and those of you who cast a ballot for me.

Now I can go back to working on things that are more fun and interesting to me than the prospect of being a municipal politician. But make no mistake, though I didn't get elected as School Board Trustee, the results of what happened will a big long term 'win' for those who believe in democracy and accountability from politicians, as long as we keep our eye on the ball.

Richard Klagsbrun


Anonymous said...

I congratulate you on your run for trustee. I forwarded your name to a few young parents in the ward who I know and they thanked me after they read about your stand. I am very dismayed at the uninformed electorate that gave Ms. Malik a position on the TDSB.

Brian Henry said...

Good job, Richard. I'm glad you took the time and (huge) effort to put yourself forward as a candidate.