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All Candidates Public Forum and Debate - Regional Chair

Instead of the safe and regulated debate found in the ballrooms of luxury hotels, Alliance Against Poverty (AAP) hosted an open air “market place” style of democracy at Kitchener City Hall Square on Saturday October 25th from 11:00 A.M. to 12:30 P.M.


Are you tired of realistic and compromisedvoting? Do you get weary voting for the least among the compromised candidates? My name is Oscar (Oz) Cole-Arnal. In 1975 I came to Waterloo Region to teach at the Waterloo Lutheran seminary at Wilfrid Laurier University where I remained until retirement in 2006. During this almost four-decade time in Canada I have lived in Kitchener, Huron County, the Belwood-Fergus-Elora area and in the city of Waterloo since 1998. One of the first delights I noted in my new country was the possibility of voting for a political party that held positions close to my own—the New Democratic Party (NDP). So, upon taking out my citizenship in 1986, I served on the NDP executive in two rural areas, went to the 1995 national New Democratic Convention where I supported openly the leadership campaign of Svend Robinson. Over the years I knocked on doors for party candidates, Sue Colter in the 1980s and more recently in the campaigns of Richard Walsh. In the last federal election I ran in Kitchener Centre for the NDP. Now, after almost a half century of socio-political activism, the NDP have slipped into a centrist-reformist “liberal” party. Compromise after compromise has reduced the New Democrats to a party so bent on winning that it has lost its rudder and moral compass.

Yet my very being screams out--- ENOUGH OF COMPROMISE. It’s time to dream with hearts that dream dreams, with the “guts” to turn dreams to reality and with the feet on the ground to make it happen. Enough empty promises; dream with me! What will Waterloo Region look like in twenty years if we follow our dream muses rather than the false gods of growth and expansion?

I see a Waterloo Region of free public transit throughout our geographical areas, where city links to city smoothly and equitably. I see an expansion of this public system into all the neighbourhoods and a moratorium on cars in all the central city areas.

I am committed to the townships as havens of local food production and environmental protection against retail encroachments with easy access to the cities—either through public transit or via individual vehicles to be parked in outlying parking areas.

I stand committed to a living wage of full-time workers of $17.00 per hour pegged to inflation joined with solid benefits. I stand with the labour movement which embodies progressive change starting with organized advocacy of its own membership. So important is this dream that I would not support any regional contracts with non-union labour. I insist that LRT construction and drivers must be unionized labour.

I dream of a huge budget item to build public affordable housing for the entire population over against the gentrification of the cores while pushing our more vulnerable neighbors to those suburbs where bus service is being cut in the name of “efficiencies.” Although I say “God bless our food banks”, our “Out of the Cold” programs and community meals run by volunteers (mostly women), I dream of the need for such being removed by bold creative governmental and community action where all our neighbourhoods have public mixed housing. Let us have an end of politicians relying on these volunteers without seriously pursuing clear and realistic alternatives.

I dream of vibrant community and neighbourhood councils that transform their areas to gardens, free-range chickens, political organizing, study, learning, cultural co-op groups—dreams which include open doors to “wild and woolly” democracy that moves beyond the so-called public input exercise in virtual futility. I dream of a focused attention to protecting wetlands, to having environmental activists (like our anti-Pipe Line 9 folk) and First Nations groups be integral and active in our existing environmental groups.

I could go on with other dreams, but I need you to dream with me—your wisdom, your experience. I need the collective beating of your dreaming hearts and the thundering of our collective feet to make it happen. Enough of tinkering with a system based on greed, gain and growth. Let us join together to turn our dreams to reality. Hence I call for a total revamping of a system based on obscene wealth for the few and droppings for the many. The law may state that it is legal and our corporate owned media may well think that the amassing of obscene wealth is enterprising and proper, but my muse tells me that this is a deep falsehood that makes the vulnerable earth and all its citizens pay for that lie. All wealth belongs to the community not to private pockets.

Is all this musing realistic? It better be or we will bequeath to our children a scorched earth, more obscene wealth grabbing, war and war industries, loss of democratic rights and lives ruled by ignorance, fear and despair. My life changed when Martin Luther King’s blood poured out in 1968. So it should surprise no one that this martyr who proclaimed “I have a dream” turned me into a dreamer, who went to jail for fair wages and union organizing for hospital workers, who organized a boycott locally against banks who were investing in South African apartheid and who joined others to shutdown the apartheid South African embassy in honour of the Nelson Mandela visit to Canada. They took us to our jail cells in which we sang our songs of freedom. I was dreaming while dodging tear gas grenades in Quebec City (April 2001) and rejoiced that day I joined the shutdown of Bay Street (October 2001). It was a great privilege to stand with labour and community groups 35,000 tall on our local Days of Action during the Harris lies about austerity. And I still dream dreams and seek to take my brain, heart and feet into the halls of Regional Government. So share your dreams with me, so that we can collectively bring them to fruition. Good-bye to naysayers and compromise. Time to dream! So...

... Dream with me & VOTE FOR ME

To be

REGIONAL CHAIR See Oz Cole-Arnal at the Social Planning Council's All Candidate's session: go to 15:16: