Polls open Monday morning for the most-watched municipal election in the modern history of the city of Toronto. It is hard to imagine why any capable voter would sit this one out. The usual excuses for failing to vote look especially weak this time.
Not interested? Put a mirror in front of your mouth for signs that you are breathing. This election has featured a mayor (you may have heard of him) who went into rehab for an addiction problem, emerged to say he was fighting on, then pulled out at the eleventh hour after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer – only to be replaced on the ballot by his brother. Say what you like about this campaign, but it sure wasn't dull.
Don't know the candidates well enough? You must be joking. The headliners in the campaign for mayor are three of the biggest names ever to run for the office. John Tory is a leading businessman, broadcaster and politician who has run for premier and for mayor before. Olivia Chow is well known to Torontonians as a former city councillor and MP who became famous across the country as the widow of Jack Layton. Doug Ford has become almost as recognizable as his notorious brother.
All the candidates seem the same? You haven't been paying attention. The election for mayor offers a choice between Ms. Chow on the left, Mr. Ford on the right and Mr. Tory on the centre right. On the biggest issue of the campaign, public transit, they have starkly different ideas.
Don't have enough information? Won't wash. The campaign has been fully under way for more than half a year. There have been dozens of debates, several of them televised and many live-streamed for those who could not watch in person. All the newspapers have published profiles of the candidates, guides to where they stand on the issues and editorials on which one they prefer, not to mention countless articles reporting every twist and turn of the long campaign.
If all the ads, articles, debates, speeches, robocalls and canvassing drives have somehow escaped your attention, you can always make use of something called the World Wide Web, where you can quickly find the platforms of all the candidates. At the less-publicized ward level, City Hall's easy-to-use MyVote tool lists all the candidates for city councillor and school trustee, with links to the websites and social-media pages of each.
Don't know how or where to vote? Voting these days is childishly easy. Polls are open around the city from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Anyone with identification showing name and address can cast a ballot (even a gas bill will do), though bringing the voter card you get in the mail may speed things up. If you can't manage English, voting instructions are available in two dozen other languages, as well as Braille. If you decided you could not get to the polling station on election day, you could vote at one of the advanced polls, open this year in every ward, from Oct. 14 to 19. If you could not vote on any of the available dates, you could designate a proxy to cast a ballot for you.
Think it doesn't really matter whether you vote because nothing ever changes? The past four years of conflict, drift and sheer craziness should be answer enough to that final and most cynical of excuses. Toronto badly needs strong, competent leadership. It won't get it unless people rouse themselves to take an interest in how the city is governed. Spending a few minutes every four years marking a ballot is the very least they can do. This year, there are no excuses.