The Conversation has Begun

As I mentioned in my first blog post, I wanted to start a real conversation about the systemic barriers and underlying systems that are at play in the realm of municipal politics. My rationale for wanting to have this conversation is simple: I was unaware until I ran as a candidate how much these systems truly impact the process and the outcome. I think most people are also unaware and this information needs to be identified, shared, and understood so that every voter knows the powers at play.

I decided to use a blog to start this conversation to help myself process the experience and share my perspective. When I posted the first blog, a week passed without a mention of it online anywhere. I wasn’t sure if anyone had stumbled across it or read it. I thought I would be able to continue processing my thoughts in solidarity for a while before inviting others to the conversation. Well, that didn’t happen.

Less than an hour after I posted my most recent blog, a known Conservative insider who was involved with Sarah Hamilton’s campaign decided to post it to twitter and share his opinions. Within a couple of hours several Conservative supporters had replied in disgust. This immediate response told me that I must have struck a cord. The swift dismissal of my perspective as ‘sour grapes’ has proven to me the importance of this conversation. I need to challenge the norms and shake the foundation of entitlement.

And so the conversation has begun.

Last fall at the Banff Forum, I had an interesting conversation with a fellow participant about having difficult conversations. Both of us had experience working on the cause of reconciliation and pushing this issue into places where it needs to be pushed. I had been referring to the need to create safe spaces for the difficult conversations – respectful spaces where people felt supported to share openly, free from criticism. In our interaction, my fellow Banffer challenged this notion and said we don’t need safe spaces we need brave spaces – spaces where people feel brave to share how they truly feel filled with people brave enough to listen and learn. This has stuck with me over the last year. Be brave, not safe.

All of us have assumptions and biases which help us make decisions quickly, based on previous experiences or knowledge. Rarely do we acknowledge these assumptions and sadly we rarely share them with others. In my last post, I shared some of my assumptions publicly. This was not intended to say I am all-knowing but exactly the opposite: I have formed opinions based on assumptions that may or may not be true. I am trying to be more brave in every conversation I have. I hope that my bravery will challenge others to consider their assumptions and biases or at least acknowledge them as being present.

I have a few blogs already written in draft form and am planning to release a new one every Tuesday for now. Like this blog, I might also need to pepper a few in between to help the evolving (or in this case, exploding) conversation. I know that my perspective is not one that some people will want to hear and others will not even want to recognize exists. I am okay with that. I have chosen to stay out of the twitter conversation but appreciate everyone who has stepped in and engaged so far. I also appreciate the few people who have chosen to continue the conversation on facebook and on their own blogs. I know this conversation will not be easy so I am challenging everyone to be brave.

For those of you who chose to read along with me, for those who choose to voice their perspectives in response, and for those who need supportive allies on this journey – we can all be brave together.

An Open Letter to My Councillor

Congratulations on your recent win to become my representative on Edmonton City Council. The ballots cast through the election gave you a strong mandate of over a third of votes in Ward 5, beating out eight other worthy opponents.

Over the past six months, our paths crossed as we both made efforts to connect with Ward 5 residents in the race to City Hall. I have impressions of who you are and what they stand for but I don’t think I actually know you. I am looking forward to the opportunity to watch you in action over the next four years and connect with you more in our community.

Before I get to know you, I wanted to be honest about  some of the assumptions I have based on what I witnessed through our in-person interactions and the communications you chose to share publicly. I hope that by openly sharing my perspective, you can correct me in the coming days, weeks, months, and years of your term through your public service.

Assumption #1: Your political ties govern your decisions and actions

Your strong connections to the former PC Party and to the emerging Alberta Together Party are undeniable. Both of those come with a set of values, policies, and expectation of conformity. As a resident of Ward 5, I am concerned that these existing policy platforms will guide your decisions more than the wants and needs of residents and, ultimately, the best interests of our city.

Assumption #2: You are at the mercy of your wealthy financial backers

You come from affluence and your campaign was funded by the wealthy elite, some of which are also linked to the political parties mentioned above. Large donations often come with expectations that could heavily influence your decisions. I worry that the opinions of development industry and a handful of rich people you are connected with will matter more than the lived experiences and perspectives of Ward 5 residents.

Assumption #3: Your privilege will keep you blind to the realities most face

You exude affluent privilege. The way you understand and experience the world is candy-coated and disconnected from the day-to-day realities of others who are not like you. Based on what I know, I’m guessing you have never struggled to make ends meet or face tough decisions to cover the basic necessities of life. You live a sheltered life, free from worry and doors open easily in many ways for you. On a fundamental level, this lived experience would disconnect you from the realities that most of your constituents face yet you are charged with making decisions on their behalf.

Assumption #4: You lack the knowledge to do your job well

The way that I heard you respond to questions at forums and how you expressed yourself on social media conveyed to me a surface level understanding of civic issues and decision making. Many of your campaign promises are unachievable and immeasurable. Your use of buzzwords and a vague vision left me without a clear understanding of what you actually stand for. I am concerned that there will be no concrete way to grade your performance for the next four years if there is not a clear understanding of what you promised to do.

Assumption #5: Your approach to decision making does not include space for differing perspectives

Throughout your campaign, I followed your social media closely. I noticed that any time someone challenged you or asked a tough question, you simply deleted their comments instead of engaging in a dialogue and understanding their point of view. This is hugely concerning for me. 65% of voters did not choose you this election and you need to represent their views as well. Even more importantly, only 12% of eligible voters in Ward 5 voted for you and the other 40,000+ people still need you to represent them in your decisions at City Hall.

I hope that these five assumptions I have about you are incorrect and I want you to prove me wrong. To do this, I want to see you represent all the residents of Ward 5 in an equitable way. I want to see you reach out to those who have different perspectives and opinions than yours and find ways to represent them as well.

Over the next four years, you will be asked many tough questions.  Many of those questions will come from me and my supporters. When challenged, I hope you take a stand – online, in Council Chambers, and, most importantly, in the community. I hope that you succeed in representing the residents of Ward 5 and being the strong advocate we need at City Hall.

Best of luck for the four years to come.

Your fellow Ward 5 resident, Miranda

Let’s Start a Real Conversation

As I shared with my supporters last night, I began my campaign with three fundamental beliefs in mind: anyone who wishes to speak up and share their perspectives should have a place in the political process, decisions for our community should be based on listening to residents and incorporating their perspectives, and our current City Council needs to be more diverse

All of these beliefs come from my own core values that standing up for what’s right will lead to change and that including more diverse perspectives into the conversation leads to better decision making. The last 14 months of campaigning has brought insights and experiences that I never could have imagined. I have met thousands of people that have expanded my own knowledge of the city and what it means to be an Edmontonian. I have garnered support from places where I didn’t even think to look for help, and I have deepened my connection to my community and this place I am proud to call home.

Today I am further reflecting on the efforts of my campaign and pondering the personal commitments that I have put on hold to seek public office. I am thinking about the extraordinary efforts of my volunteers, the support of my campaign contributors, and the relationships that I made with people across the ward and the city on this journey. Something like this takes a vast network of people committed together to pull it off. I am honoured that so many people believed in the gifts that I have to share that they joined me as part of the campaign.

Despite a groundswell of support, despite months of hard work, despite the personal belief that I am the best person for the job, I didn’t win. This makes me sad and angry, not because I lost but because it has become clear to me that the political game was created for people like me not to win. The campaign has broken my belief in representative democracy and I will be mourning that loss for a long time.

The disadvantages that I was faced with were anticipated in the planning of my campaign, yet throughout I maintained a core belief that knowledge, passion, and dedication could overcome these systemic barriers for true democratic representation. In the days, weeks, and months to come, I want to start a public conversation on these barriers that exist for some and the advantages that exist for others.

For me these advantages fall into three separate but related categories:

  • Political Affiliations
  • Affluence Equating to Influence
  • Systemic White Privilege

I look forward to diving into these topics in upcoming blogs. I will also be reaching out to hear from other candidates that I respect to hear their perspectives. Their experiences and opinions on the barriers they experienced through the recent campaign will help deepen my own understanding.

I have a lot more to say. I look forward to using this communication tool as a way to process my experience and provide a dose of reality to how others understand the political process.

More to come.

The results are in

The voters of Ward 5 have made their decision. Of course it was not the result I was hoping for but I respect the democratic process and the people who chose to have their voices heard. I will have many more reflections over the coming hours and days but for now I just want to quietly reflect on the journey that brought me here.

Thank you to my volunteers, donors, and supporters. Your willingness to step up and support my Ward 5 journey has been a gift. It has been an honour to work alongside of you and campaign in the best way we know how – with honour, courage, and respect.

I am excited for the next adventure awaiting for me and for whatever the universe has in store.

All My Relations.