Subway Study – What Can a Citizen Do?

Yesterday morning, I rode the subway five stops, from Davisville to Bay. It did not take extraordinary powers of observation to see that there was an almost unanimous topic of consideration  that morning. Normally when I get onto the subway, I may hear one or two patrons discussing something but yesterday morning was remarkable for the fact that there were numerous individuals discussing with each other their concerns about Rob Ford and the governance situation which his performance difficulties has caused.

I may have been in an unusual area of the train – on the new subways, there are not really cars separated from each other – but all patrons seemed more concerned than angry, almost bewildered by the enormity of what was happening. People were also considering what they ought to do, as citizens.

“I wonder if I should write to my Councillor or call her.”

“What would you say?” (Heads turned to listen.)

“I’m not sure. That I’m concerned. That I feel something ought to be done to make sure the city could manage in an emergency.”

“What kind of emergency?”

“Well, like a really bad snowstorm – it’s November, it could happen.” (It’s Toronto. People worry about bad snowstorms.)

“What could be done? Council has to ask the Premier to act, but what could the Premier do?”

Like everyone, I was listening to conversations and no one minded others joining discussions which might have seemed private on other mornings. One man listened, ignoring the newspaper held upright in his hands, the front page showing a picture of Mayor Ford speaking in Council chambers while his colleagues sat turned away from him. I realized that I would also like to do something to help in this situation, but I can’t think what that would be.

Five stops on one day is not an extended study, but it was enough to give an impression of how much Toronto’s dilemma is on the minds of people who live there. I left the subway feeling buoyed, oddly enough. I was heartened to realize that there are many people whose main reaction is a thoughtful and compassionate one. That reaction was best illustrated by the picture on the front page of the Globe and Mail which shows a sad-looking Mayor, sitting alone in his Council seat. This photographer saw the situation as my subway companions did – as tragic, on very many levels.

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