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History in the making

Tue, 11/06/2018 - 10:40 -- Mike Czechowicz

It’s nice to be a part of history and although the mere fact of being alive makes us all part of history it is particularly thrilling when you realize you are living through something special and meaningful. I recall such a feeling when I was swept up in the Solidarity movement, while living in Poland in 1985.  It was arguably one of the watershed events which led to the dismantling of the Berlin Wall and the fall of communism, ending the cold war.

More recently I have had a banner run having that feeling again, starting on October 19, 2015 when Justin Trudeau’s Liberals trounced Stephen Harper’s PCs after nine years in power.  Trudeau’s win was a surprise and if not for Thomas Mulcair’s eleventh hour, principled stance, supporting the wearing of the niqab, the NDP would truly have made history. My very small part in all of this was welcoming people and checking their ID at the polling station where I worked.  There was a party like atmosphere in the air because everyone knew that Harper’s reign was over, but no one was willing to make bets on the outcome.

Similarly, on June 7th of this year I worked as a Deputy Returning Officer (DRO) in the Ontario Provincial election which saw Doug Ford’s PCs thrash Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals.  None of this was any surprise after the long, controversial tenure of Wynne and there were few tears shed as the Liberals lost official party status.

My recent history making trifecta was reached on October 22nd when I worked again as a DRO in a historic municipal election.  History was made in two cities near and dear to me.  Sarnia proved once again they can’t get enough of Mike Bradley, who routed his closest rival, Anne Marie Gillis, one of his most vocal critics after he was found guilty of bullying and harassing staff, Sarnia made history with its largest turnout since 1992, using electronic only voting for the first time anywhere in Canada, proving that seniors weren’t clueless after all, and security issues were overblown. The election sends a clear signal for council to stop the rancor and cut Bradley some slack.  

It seems an undeniable fact and something everyone should come to accept, that after all this time in office, with all the controversies he has weathered, Mike Bradley will be mayor of Sarnia for as long as he wants.

London, where I now reside, made history as the first city in Canada to use Ranked Choice Voting to elect its council and mayor.  Voters had the option of ranking up to three candidates where the one with the least number of votes was dropped from the count till someone achieved 51% of the votes.  Ed Holder, who served two terms in Harper’s government, finally won the mayor’s race after fourteen rounds.  

London also made history electing its first black woman, and first openly gay person to council. The contentious Bus Rapid Transit System (BRT) proved to be the most divisive issue during the campaign and will continue to be for the next council.

I found the experience of working the various elections enlightening.  It was rather special being up close to the democratic process.  There was a tangible vibe in the air at the polling stations. It may be a stretch, but it was as if we were all invested in a special moment and with that small gesture, filling in a few ovals, we recognized how lucky we are to live in our imperfect democracy.

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