If Richard Underhill is successful in his latest venture, he’ll be spending a lot less time playing his sax.
On Jan. 2, the former Salmon Arm resident and member of the popular Shuffle Demons officially entered the race for mayor in Toronto.
Underhill made the move fuelled by a longtime passion for politics.
He has dabbled in the political process by appearing before council on budgetary issues and in posting an online petition that garnered 25,000 signatures and helped retain part of a transit system that was about to be gutted.
“I have been fighting this administration from the sidelines and I thought if I really have convictions and I really believe in the city, and I have a different vision for the city, why not join the mayor’s race?”
As a musician, Underhill often accompanied Jack Layton on the campaign trail and “had the honour” of playing at his funeral.
“The thing he brought to the debate was his willingness to be open to ideas, respect for other people in the political game, respect for his constituents and people with ideas,” says Underhill. “A lot of people gravitated to that positive energy that he put out and I feel I can try to do the same.”
Underhill says the current first-past-the-post system of voting does not belong in a modern democracy and citizens would be better served by proportional representation.
Toronto is considering a proposal for a ranked ballot, a system Underhill says provides broader representation and better decision-making.
Despite the controversy swirling around current mayor Rob Ford, Underhill believes that unless people become more aware and engaged, he could get in for another term.
“There are enough people who believe the hype,” he says. “If you tell the big lie and work with it, you can actually get people to vote against their own interests.”
Underhill introduced his “Crowd Sourced” platform at a Jan. 3 launch party, where he stated his concerns and derived a lot of excellent input from several of the 300 attendees.
Listed in the fringe section of a 23-candidate field, Underhill says that when the deadline for withdrawing comes in September, he will leave the race if it looks like he would be hampering a good candidate’s chances to win.
A longtime Toronto resident and vocal fan of the city, Underhill says, win or lose, he and his music career will benefit by the experience.
“Either I’ll end up as mayor and I’ll actually have a job that pays well or it will help my career.”