Event hoping to motivate people in the upcoming Toronto mayoral byelection

Tune In, a community concert event in West Queen West, encourages locals to envision the Toronto we could become leading up to the mayoral byelection. The Green Line team reports.

By Julia Lawrence, Mahdis Habibinia, and Anita Li of The Green Line

Toronto’s last municipal election in October saw the lowest voter turnout in history at just 30 per cent.

That’s why a group of young Torontonians are trying to motivate people to vote in the upcoming mayoral byelection next month through Tune In. The event explores the Toronto we could become through a night of music, art and community conversations.

“It’s likely that whoever wins this upcoming election in June will be in power probably until 2030 if they continue to run because of the power of incumbency,” says co-organizer Stefan Hostetter. “The last three mayoral changes have only occurred when the last mayor has not run. And so, it’s not just about now, it’s about the next 10 years.”

The event is happening on May 18 at The Great Hall in West Queen West. Hostetter and his co-organizer Norhan Haroun planned Tune In to encourage locals to get involved in city politics and create the change they want to see.

Centring joy is a big part of creating that vision. Attendees will experience musical acts, DJs and a drag king alongside community groups at the event.

Joy is a feeling we’ve all experienced, Haroun says. “We can all understand what that feels like, it all takes us back to certain moments. It elicits a lot of memories.”

“In those memories, we get to imagine and allow that feeling to occur. So, when we start thinking about what those conditions are, that’s what can get codified, that’s what can turn into policy,” Haroun says.

Emmay Mah, the executive director of the Toronto Environmental Alliance, one of Tune In’s community activators, believes building the Toronto you want to see involves more than just yourself.

To make a vision into reality, you need to work with others, Mah says.

“We really need to start with collectively building in our minds the city that we want, and that will enable us to work together towards that vision. So, I think an event like Tune In will really be inspiring for the people that come,” says Mah.

“They’ll hear from different voices from across the city. They might meet folks that share the same interests and values, and hopefully, they’ll find opportunities and ways they can get involved in taking action.”

As a DJ and an activist, Diana Chan McNally believes fun and politics can intersect. She wants to bring that energy to Tune In so Torontonians can imagine a joyful city they actually want to vote for.

“People are in survival mode. They’re doing whatever they can to just stay afloat, and that cuts out the ability to engage in enjoyment. It’s also pretty cost prohibitive to do a lot of things in this city. It’s a highly regulated city as well. So being able to go out and enjoy yourself is not as easy as it absolutely should be,” explained McNally.

Bringing joy and civic engagement into a space like Tune In is so important, she adds.

“We have so few opportunities to do that. And especially the intersection of politics and fun is not something that we necessarily think is ever going to happen. We usually think of politics being very dour, actually, but I don’t think it has to be that way.”

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