For many U of T St. George students, the City of Mississauga is nothing more than a far-away land beyond the borders of Etobicoke where students from UTM study. In fact, when I posted a blog article about transit issues in Mississauga, a friend from Toronto suggested that Toronto’s budget might be better used to create transit in Scarborough, rather than in Mississauga.
Mississauga is its own city, despite what some may think. We have our own budget, our own issues, and a mayor who is 93 years old and wins every election by a landslide. But after 36-odd years, Mayor “Hurricane” Hazel McCallion will not be seeking another term in office.
What does this mean for utm students? It puts them in a very different position compared to those who study downtown. Unlike Toronto, which has three university campuses in its downtown core alone with an additional smattering of university and college campuses across the city, Mississauga has only utm and a couple of college campuses to its name. Which means — by virtue of there being less of them — that students in Mississauga have a much more difficult time having their concerns heard.
However, with McCallion leaving office, Mississauga is ripe for political change. With a slew of potential mayoral candidates — as well as potential council candidates hoping to cash in on the municipal shakeup — they are going to need to appeal to the needs of every citizen. This means that, for the first time in about a dozen elections, students in the city have an opportunity to have their concerns heard by candidates seeking nomination.
In a previous article, I advocated for students to run for office in order to make a stand against politicians ignoring their views, but that is not the only way to get your point across. Without McCallion around to win with 76 per cent support, candidates will have to fight for every vote they can get, and cannot afford to ignore any demographic of the city, including students.
While Toronto debates the merits of subway versus light rail transit, Mississauga is moving ahead on its first lrt project along our busiest corridor. As students, what other transit priorities do you have? Do you want a light rail along Dundas Street to get to campus, more frequent service along arterial roads such as Cawthra and Burhamthorpe Roads, or something else entirely?
And transit is not the only issue concerning students. Do you have ideas for the redevelopment of the City Centre area? Are you concerned about your future job prospects in the city? My point is not to advocate for a specific stance on an issue, or even to advocate for a particular issue at all, it is simply to remind utm students that you do have a voice. Just because the current career councilors have ignored the needs of students is no indication that those same career councillors must remain in office for another four years.
The choice is obvious, utm: stand up for your rights, and have your voices heard.
Stephen Warner is in first-year studying English and political science.