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What is council for, Halifax?

The municipality's new regional council must be transformative.


Anthony Kawalski is an artist, creator and thinker at large. He recently ran for District 8: Halifax Peninsula North in HRM's municipal election. - LENNY MULLINS
  • Anthony Kawalski is an artist, creator and thinker at large. He recently ran for District 8: Halifax Peninsula North in HRM's municipal election.

Council is for the people, all of the people, for so many of their everyday needs. For their bodies, their minds and in many ways their souls.

How can it be that in the 21st Century, this brave new Canada of Justinian selfies, G7 status and pursuit of a new Security Council seat, the question be asked at the door, “What is Council for? What will or can it do for me? Why should I vote? Why should I care?”

As I stepped to the doors of Halifax Peninsula North, having decided to run my campaign without signs, fridge magnets, deep donor pockets and imperative agendas, the learning curve got steeper. It got harder and now has a deeper meaning.

We already all know why the peoples of the District 8, at a grass roots level, at a door-to-door level, are increasingly disaffected with the municipal process. The overhaul needs be systemic and all pervading to reverse the lack of engagement.

That sounds like a revolution, but as I have said, Canadians aren't revolting. But a solution is not revolt, rather to evolve. That we say it is unacceptable that through private, social, public housing provision we as Canadians accept the living conditions of so many of our citizens. 

Knocking on doors, described as 'fun' by a campaign team member of another candidate, has not been fun for me. Interesting, informative, inspiring, motivating, challenging, but fun?

I say emphatically, no! My Canadian dream faltered when I saw homeless people. To have learned that people live here in the city, this district, with bedbugs, damp, mould, fleas, rats, mice, leaks, but then to see it? To be invited into homes and see this? Up close and personal in private rooming houses, social/public housing, assisted or otherwise. People in fear of speaking out for fear of eviction. Our young, our elders, our children, our future living in squalor under the noses of our city fathers?

What I have learned is that we must evolve to where we should already be in this 21st Century, to look each other in the eyes as the stove pipes that separate, are torn away, as the fears are put to one side, as the 'can of responsibility' kicked for so long between jurisdictions, is confined to history. That issues are faced head on, by thinking bold, to act bold and be bold!

That is what our councillors should do, as they lead and encourage, empower our staff to then engage the citizens as they grow, with and alongside our municipality.

Rebuild our communities from the ground up and they will flourish.

So out of this learning curve that has taken this candidate at times to a heart of darkness, I know that change is possible. That these systemic, endemic issues are solvable if the will is there. What I have experienced at the door became a form of PTS, a despair as I burdened myself with what I found, behind those doors. I wasn't sure if I would survive it at times. But I will, as I focus on the smiles of the little ones in their innocence, in the elders as they smile in the face of their adversities.

There is hope for our communities and political reengagement municipally, but we need to urgently reinvest in them as we evolve, to where we should be.


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