Ian Ross McDonald: Running to run
My grandfather spent his adult life atoning for having not become a Baptist minister. He was a doctor instead. He served in the Second World War, was president of the Canadian Medical Association, the Ontario Medical Foundation, and was also a school trustee in Peterborough, Ontario. He wrote a modest account of his family and upbringing for his children shortly before he died and I occasionally re-read portions for I don’t know why.
Recently, I have come to understand his accounts of life on the shores of Lake Superior and later Toronto as a kind of meditation on service and obligation—to his community generally and his family and friends especially. He did all those things because he felt that he had an obligation to if he were able.
So when people ask me Why are you getting into politics? the best answer I can give is Because no one talks about service anymore and given everything—climate change, the DTES’s tenacious poverty—more of us should, even though I think it may be harder now than it was back then.
And why school board, exactly? That’s the other question people keep asking. But that’s an easy one by comparison. I want to be a part of the school board because education—public education in particular—matters, and here’s why.
If you’re reading this, it’s because you’re at least casually interested in this city and the issues it faces. It is very likely you already have in mind issues that matter. Issues like food security or supporting local businesses. Or perhaps affordable housing and helping new Vancouverites feel like part of the city. Expanding public transit. For me the biggest issue is a conversation about out how we will address the environmental question and the looming crisis, and as an architect, specifically through building.
All of those are important, and they are all related. Any of them could be The Big Issue, but the truth is that public education is the First Issue, and we need to continue to support and advocate for the First Issue so that we can solve The Big Issues later. The fact is, public education is the only hope to ensure that 20 years from now we will collectively be able to confront all the dynamic and interconnected challenges and opportunities that the world presents to us and today’s children.
And I don’t have all the answers, but a few things seem clear given all of that. First, we need to be really serious about a meaningful integration of environmental concerns into our education system. It can and should take a variety of forms—this is a moment for experimentation. I understand that the role of the school board in this respect may be somewhat peripheral—such are the limits of its agency—but it can continue to support and advocate for programs like the walking school bus, outdoor classroom support, on-site composting, and green or living buildings.
I want to serve on the Vancouver school board because the Vision members there now are working to make Vancouver’s public education system better in exactly these ways and I want to contribute to that.
And to the final question that people invariably ask Do you have kids? I can only reply that I’ve been married for just over a month. We’re working on it. Vancouver’s public education system will be part of my future one way or another!