At 6 p.m. on Thursday, a small crowd gathered in the Warden Woods Community Centre to see how Dave Meslin proposes to transform city hall with his exhibition “The Fourth Wall.”
In theatre and film, the “fourth wall” describes the invisible barrier between the audience and the stage. In his presentation, Meslin states that this imaginary wall is an analogy that can be used in politics — where the audience consists of the citizens who watch the government on stage.
“What the exhibit is about is how we break down that barrier that people feel between them and the processes we have to collectively shape our city,” Meslin said.
Meslin proposes 36 recommendations he feels will make a difference. They range from redesigning public notices to make them more appealing and easier to understand to opening classrooms for students in City Hall to learn about the city and its processes at a young age.
Meslin said citizens should not just watch the government quietly and forget they have a voice.
“I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to get beyond the activist or the crowd engaged,” he said. “I’ve been thinking in my head about my mom or my sister, people who are smart and care about the city but are not engaged at all. I’ve been trying to figure out what’s preventing them.”
Municipal politics are very important because the decisions made by at City Hall will affect citizens more than those made on the provincial and federal level, he said. But there is little information for the public on how to get involved at the municipal level for their needs to be heard.
“Most people don’t feel connected to City Hall, their politicians, or to the system and it’s not because they don’t care about the city or their parks, or their hospitals, it’s that they don’t believe that change is possible,” said Meslin. “They don’t know how to interact with the system and they don’t think their contributions will make a difference.”
The exhibition explained that one of the reasons for the disconnection is location. There used to be a City Hall in Scarborough, but now, having one single location at Bay and Queen makes transportation and accessibility difficult.
Michelle Berardinetti is the councilor for Ward 35 in Scarborough. She thinks that Meslin’s “recipe for change” is a great idea and addresses problems that she and other Scarborough councilors face every day.
“Inauguration has been a challenge. I try to mostly work from home because downtown isn’t where we are, we are here. And we do spend a lot of time at the civic centre because that’s where a lot of our staff are,” Berardinetti said, “We want you to feel that you’re being listened to. If you have an issue our office is [at] your doorstep … We want that interaction with the resident.”
In order to have a happier and more successful city, Meslin says the political “fourth wall” needs to be torn down so the citizens and the government can work together on the same stage.
“It’s very idealistic and very optimistic, but I wrote it down as 36 concrete, simple, and tangible ideas that I think we can implement. It would make City Hall a place that isn’t the external stage that’s separate from us, but a place where we belong, where there’s a two-way dialogue,” Meslin said.