By Jason Leach
Published October 20, 2010
With Hamilton's election mere days away and much of the electorate still undecided, it is a good time to look at the art of cramming as you study who to vote for.
The Hamilton Spectator hosted a debate the other night and at the end of the debate each candidate had a final one-minute closing statement. Nothing was too out of place, for the most part. Most candidates made typical-sounding summaries - either reiterating their platforms or taking one last swipe at their opponents.
Mayoral candidate Mahesh Butani, however, threw a curve ball that I've yet to see in Hamilton's politics. He didn't talk about his plans. He didn't take a cheap shot at anyone. He didn't even say "vote for me".
His final message to the audience was simple: "Log onto www.raisethehammer.org and educate yourself on who to vote for." He shared how RTH's election page had a wealth of info and Q/A with most of the candidates. He made it quite clear that his desire was to see people make an educated decision.
Now, you're probably wondering why this struck me as unusual and important. Let me explain.
Here we have a mayoral debate taking place in the Spectator auditorium, and on more than one occasion through the course of the evening, the audience was directed to RTH or to a specific article on RTH.
Those who are unaware of our humble beginnings need to know that the entire purpose of starting this volunteer-run outlet was to provide a broader range of information and ideas than we were seeing in the mainstream media.
I don't want this to come off as arrogant, but I can't help but notice the shift in thinking that has taken place at the Spec over the past few years. They are a huge operation with a large staff and many resources, but progressive editorials like this one were few and far between five years ago.
Quite simply, they now seem to grasp the concepts that are so important to seeing Hamilton become a vibrant, urban centre once again. It wasn't always this way.
RTH is starting to fulfil its mandate and perhaps even gently nudging some of the more established players in the right direction.
(Of course, the importance of social media and online publications isn't anything new, as Jason Allen so brilliantly explained in his essay on Naheed Nenshi's mayoral victory in Calgary.)
Try listening to local talk radio stations attempt to educate you about the upcoming election. Is it any wonder why no candidates suggested that their audience tune into CHML for election info?
You can sense a changing of the guard taking place in how we communicate and how we inform and are informed. The big media used to resort to the 'anonymous bloggers can't be trusted' routine when confronted with some hard, cold truth. The reality is that despite its faults, the web has opened up a whole new world of information that was previously kept quiet.
Mr Butani was quite correct in urging the public to educate themselves before voting - and it has never been easier for voters to do just that.
The fact is, you can't trust others to make the decision for you. Take some time this weekend, if you haven't already, and learn about the candidates themselves. Read through the platforms, voting records and Q/A for each candidate and make the choice that is right for you - not for someone else's bank account or backroom buddies.
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