1. The current mayor and his party have been plagued by scandal. There have been numerous accusations about crooked contracts, bloated costs, Mafia connections, and political pay-offs. It seems to be the way we do business in this city.
2. The main opposition to the current mayor was from a woman who has spent 39 years working for the Parti Quebecois (the political party dedicated to promoting Quebec sovereignty and separation from Canada). She was one of the main forces behind the mega-city merger and wants to centralize power and take it out of the hands of the boroughs. She joined herself with a strong federalist and they promised to provide a broad and comprehensive basis of experience and viewpoints. Unfortunately, 2 weeks before the election, her right-hand man was implicated in a bribe and immediately resigned.
3. The third option was a man with little experience in city government. He promised more bike paths, a new tram system, and a greener downtown (less cars). He was squeaky clean in his finances, but he also believed that smoking was good for his health and that man never walked on the moon.
4. I will not even mention the communist or the gay pride candidates.
After some discussion with Dean and a few friends, I did not know what to do. I quite easily decided which councilors and borough mayoral candidate to vote for, but the city mayoral race left me dumbfounded. Each person had a major flaw and each person also had potential to do something good for the city, I believed, despite their patchy pasts. Do we not all have regrettable things in our past? All my research just convinced me all the more of these things. Dean was going to vote for the current mayor and he was very vocal about it. He will never vote for a separatist and he thought the other guy was a loose cannon.
All these questions were swirling around in my head the morning of the election. Who would do the best for the city? for my interests? Who would clean up the scandals? Who had the most experience? Who would stick to a budget and not raise taxes? Who would make things better instead of worse? My thoughts jumped from one to the other, alighting on no answer. So I asked God, "What is the question I should be asking? Can we just boil it down to one question instead of six?" And that morning I read John 18 where Jesus says to Pilate, the Roman governor: "Everyone who cares for truth, who has any feeling for the truth, recognizes my voice."
So the question I asked was, "Who will tell the truth?" Nothing else mattered right then. Not the past mistakes, not the future promises, not the affiliation or experience, nothing but their potential to embrace truth. I looked at all the candidates again and decided that I would definitely not vote for the current mayor. I did believe that # 3 was an honest man, but he seemed to have a skewed view of reality and a hard time recognizing truth at times. That left me with the woman. The separatist, as Dean called her. It was an uncomfortable choice. I have never supported anyone who was not a federalist. My western Canadian family and friends would have all shuddered that I was even considering the possibility, even though city politics are quite different from national politics.
Dean and I walked to the voting station Sunday afternoon and both cast our ballots. Afterwards, he asked me who I voted for and I coyly avoided the question. I did not want to see his reaction. I knew he would be disappointed and perhaps angry and embarrassed at my answer. I did tell him later on that night and we survived the conflict. A friend had jokingly warned me that if I voted for the PQ woman, our marriage would be over. I responded that everything would be fine, because we did not believe in separation. It was a funny moment. But I did take away a few things with me that Sunday afternoon.
1. God is often not concerned with the same things that we are concerned about in a political situation. He loves and cares for each candidate as much as he cares for us. They are real people with real families and if I invited them into my home for dinner, I would no doubt see what made them want to serve the city in the first place.
2. It is good to listen to the opinions and thoughts of others, but in the end, I must take responsibility for my own actions and stand by them with confidence. I bring a voice to this world that no one else does and even if I sing a wrong note on occasion, I still must sing to the best of my ability.
3. I live in Quebec where almost half of the population has voted for the Parti Quebecois at one point or another. It is good for me to try to understand what they are thinking and why. It is not a disgrace or a dishonor to the rest of Canada to put myself into the shoes of my neighbors and walk with them. We may disagree, but that does not make us any less part of the same family.
4. I know that despite my limited knowledge and my weak choices, God is still in charge. Jesus said to Pilate: "You have not a shred of authority over me except what has been given you from heaven." (John 19) And that's the final word.
I am not a separatist, but I am not ashamed to stand with one. Perhaps that's the reason some people started talking about separation in the first place: they felt that people were not willing to stand beside them.
This is a photo I took on our walk back from the polling station on Sunday. Beautiful fall sky and tall grass.