Memo to Kate Quarrie:

Friday, October 27, 2006

Written by May Warren

How many times have we been told to get out there, educate ourselves about the issues, and exercise our right to vote? It’s our part of the bargain as voters, to listen, ask questions and make a choice on Election Day. It’s the candidate’s part of the bargain, especially those who are already in power, to give us the opportunity to listen. That’s how a democracy works.

Kate Quarrie is not living up to her end of the bargain. On November 2nd the mayoral candidates running in the upcoming municipal election will assemble in Peter Clark Hall. They are coming because they care about our opinions and our votes. They want to make sure they hear what we have to say. Well, three of them do.

Quarrie, the current mayor, was unfortunately unable to attend the CSA-sponsored event due to a “scheduling conflict.” In a very commendable attempt to give her the benefit of the doubt, the CSA then offered to hold the event any day between now and the election. The response, which came from Quarrie’s campaign manager in an email, states that Quarrie has already committed to five other public debates and that should be enough.

If this doesn’t send a direct message to students that our voices aren’t important, I don’t know what does. Apparently Quarrie is not too busy to attend a debate sponsored by the Guelph Chamber of Commerce. It’s clear that she values the opinions of those community members. I guess we could all just take the extremely long bus ride over to the Guelph Place Banquet Hall, in order to find her and find out what she stands for. But we shouldn’t have to.
It shouldn’t be made more difficulty for those without power to track down those who have it. There are thousands of students at this school, we are all citizens of this community and we have the right to an easy access public forum with candidates.

Why doesn’t Kate Quarrie just make up a bumper sticker that says, “I don’t care about students”? She could give one to her friend Brenda Chamberlain, the local Liberal MP who, during the last federal election, also declined to attend campus debates. This seems to be a disturbing pattern among the people in power. Sure you could make the excuse that maybe their schedules as current MP or mayor are busier than those of the other candidates, but elected officials are perhaps the people with the most responsibility to attend debates.

It’s all about accountability. Another huge part of democracy is holding those already in power accountable for their actions. If we don’t like what they’ve done than we should be able to voice our concerns, not in an angry or confrontational way, but say in the safe environment of a question and answer period during a moderated debate. But we’ve been denied this chance.
We’ve been sent the message that they don’t care about us, so why should we care about them? Why should we vote in a measly little municipal election, when we have lots of other stuff we could be doing, especially when its clear that the politicians don’t care about us? Well that’s just it. Since we’ve been denied the use of our voices through public forums we have to use them in a different way: through voting. Kate may have not appeared on campus to hear our concerns but we still have the power to show her how we feel: by kicking her out of office. That’s how a democracy works.

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