When the rag paper (nameless on this site) dared to imply Brampton had become a ghetto, people in Brampton were furious. Outside the city limits, some asked what the (name redacted) had against the home town of the Great One, and some shrugged it off as a matter of pointing out that streetlights come on at night: true, but not a story (we’re working on finding those people and teaching them a thing or two).
The last election was a turning point for a City Hall divided by a Mayor that attracted controversy. Allegations aside, Mayor Fennel was a fantastic cheerleader for the City. I remember meeting her at a Brampton Board of Trade event and being impressed by her obvious passion and love for the City of Brampton. Over the years, I saw that passion turn into something else, and obviously so did a large number of voters, and we ended up with the election of 2014.
It was an election about changing direction, moving away from a cheerleader in search of a leader who could begin to build the City anew. It was about recognizing that “Love of Brampton” wasn’t going to fix some the real and growing problems, and finding a new leader who could admit to, and address, the blemishes, the scratches, rust and deflated tires, so that we could restore the City on to the path toward greatness it began over 100 years ago.
Brampton is a growing and dynamic community. I recall the late Mayor Whillans visiting my class in ’87 (or was it ’88) and sharing the news that Brampton was Canada’s fastest growing city. It seems I have read that headline 3 out of every 5 years since that visit. People love this City, despite the dust bunnies in the corners, and we have the growth numbers to prove it. We grow because we are more than just a ghetto, living in the shadow of Toronto. A testament to our growth is our new civic infrastructure. The Gore Meadows Community Centre was used to film a commercial recently, it is just that beautiful. It thrives, though other of our centres are struggling.
And why do they struggle? With growth, especially nation leading growth, comes growing pains. I’m 6’4″ (at least I was before the osteoarthritis started shrinking my joints), and I know all about growing pains. Brampton has felt all of the pain. Brick and Mortar stole the business from the farmers and travelling merchants. Malls stole the business away from the Brick and Mortar. The internet stole the business from the Malls.
We still have malls. Some that are thriving, some that never recovered from the shifting dynamics of retail delivery. We still have Brick and Mortar shops, again, some are doing well and some are struggling. We still have farmers markets and merchants that sell their wares directly to the consumer. Technology may have changed, Nortel may have been replaced by Rogers, but Brampton has persisted. Our people have persisted.
Bedroom community is not a four letter word. Bedrooms are great places, safe places. We have excellent schools, world class recreation centres and programming. Our programs produce world class talent in academics, arts, culture and sports. We are entertainers as much as we are business people and scholars. We have small employers and large employers. Some thrive, some struggle. But they were all raised in a safe community with many options for schools or vocational programs. Brampton is a great place to come home at night, and then go play hockey while your kids are in gymnastics, or to have in home piano lessons while the younger ones are at the park.
Brampton is a place defined by its people. We are young, and we are old. The debate around a University only underlines our deep concerns over giving our children more and better options at higher learning, and how we are climbing over each other to create more ways to make post-secondary education more affordable by allowing our children to live at home while finishing University, while building the site in a place that will help the City to grow with the new institution, bringing density and economic growth with it. Never have I seen so many fights over how to help the most people. It’s truly a beautiful thing to behold.
But for all of Brampton’s beauty, we don’t see ourselves for who we truly are. We see ourselves in Caricature form. “Brampton is boring / Brampton sucks / There is nothing to do in Brampton / Brampton is a dump / Brampton is nothing but warehouses.”
For reasons I have never truly understood, many see us only through our failures, and not through our successes. We are next to the International Airport, of course we have a lot of warehouses. Where else would you build them? We live in the shadow of the one the World’s greatest cities, of course we are a suburb of Toronto. Where else would you build a suburb? But those things don’t define us. Not really.
Brampton is a lot of things to a lot of people. People want more from this city. They want it to live up to it’s potential. For many, those that thrive here, it already does.
But Brampton is a lot of things to a lot of people. We are not only defined by how we treat those that thrive, we are defined by how we treat those that struggle, by how we have failed them.
In 2014, we had a “Regime Change” election. It was needed for a lot of reasons. But what we really needed, and still need, was more than a Regime Change. We needed a game changer that was bigger than Mayor Fennel’s headlines. We needed someone who loved Brampton enough to recognize the whole city, not just Four Corners, not just incoming “Headliner Projects” like the LRT and the University.
We needed someone with peripheral vision, who can see the elderly on the sidelines, the children without daycare placements in the corners, the people on 10 year waiting lists for affordable housing and the shops and residents on Kennedy Road that need infrastructure investments just as much as business owners to help make things better. One that sees Heart Lake, Springdale, Bramalea and Churchville just as clearly as it sees Four Corners. These are not disparate parts of a city seperated by impassible expanses of desert, they are areas of one city, and all the parts that make up the whole need to work together toward our common goals. We need a leader who sees how the city breathes, moves and thrives as a whole.
There is one answer to Brampton’s challenges: it’s the People of Brampton. We are homeowners, business owners, musicians, comedians, shippers, drivers, receivers, doctors, dentists, franchisees, chefs, lawyers, veterinarians, accountants, shopkeeps, realtors… the list goes on.
We will build better transit. We will build another University. We will build more affordable housing. We will provide better care for our seniors. We will build more hotels. We will build more convention spaces. We will create a Downtown that serves the needs of the whole city. We will preserve our history with the care that we show our loved ones. We will provide more and better services to our residents.
Most importantly, we will not be defined by one election issue. We will not let those who thrive define the agenda for those who struggle.
We will all be #MayorJackson2018.