The city where I live had a provincial by-election on Monday. Politics in Quebec are a different bird than anywhere else in Canada, so many times it is not so clear who to vote for. The options presented to us were the Liberal party (the party currently in power dealing with some integrity issues), the Parti Quebecois (official opposition who rallies behind Quebec's sovereignty), the Action-Democratique du Quebec (a relatively new and untried party trying to put some new blood and new ideas into government but little idea of how to do it), the Green Party (environmental concerns are the main platform), and the Quebec Solidaire (feminist and sovereignist leanings). Like I said, not that straightforward, but I tried to do my best. Here is what happened.
The afternoon was fading away on Monday as I put aside my homework for a bit in order to read up on the parties before I headed off to vote. I was leaning towards the Liberals, that being the strongest and most visible party, but thought I should look at all the options. On doing a little research on the Green, the PQ, and the Solidaire candidates, I decided that I was not on board with their agendas, so crossed them out of the running. That left the Liberals and ADQ. I read up on Mr. Fournier (Liberal candidate) and his CV was indeed impressive. If one wanted a high profile representative (with a cabinet position, nonetheless!), he was the one to vote for. The guy running for the ADQ was a 29-year-old family man who runs his own business, comes from Bolivia, and is committed to helping the immigrant population which currently stands at over 50% in St-Laurent. So, it was decades of political experience versus brand-new immigrant guy.
As I was walking to the polling station, talking to God about it, wondering what to do, a few key factors came up which influenced my decision:
Factor number one: One thing that stuck out in my reading was that this riding, since its inception in 1966, has always swung Liberal. It is taken for granted that people vote Liberal here, and vote strongly that way. The fact that Charest (the premier) appointed Fournier to a cabinet position before Fournier even won the election testified to the assumption that things would go that way again. Though one should never hold a politician's long experience against him, sometimes that longevity can cross over into entitlement, and this had that air about it, at least in my opinion. If you had been in my neighbourhood in the past few weeks, you would have seen the large posters splattered everywhere with Fournier's face on them. A lot of money was behind this campaign. No one else even came close to Fournier's marketing blitz, in fact, I probably saw only two other posters compared to the fifty or so advertising Fournier. Though money to spend on a campaign can be important, it seemed like money and an impressive resume were all the Liberals were offering. Nevertheless, I did not want to judge the guy too harshly.
On the other hand, Jose Fiorilo (ADQ) just seemed like a normal guy. He had no impressive political resume. His greatest assets were speaking a plethora of languages, dealing with difficulty earlier in his life, having what seemed like a large, happy family, and building a successful business for himself. That sounded good, but his ability to be effective in the political realm was an unknown. Plus, the ADQ have had having trouble establishing their credibility, so would voting for him be throwing away a vote? Factor number two: one thing that Jose said stuck with me: "I’m just asking for people to give me a chance, This is just a by-election. I tell people -’If you give me a chance and you don’t like me in 18 months, you can always vote me out in a general election.'" I had to give the guy credit for meeting the challenge head-on and inviting accountability.
Factor number three: While I was talking to God about it, I thought about the one thing that annoyed me about Jose's platform: he promised that he would be an advocate for the allophones in St-Laurent. What about the rest of us who have lived in Canada all our lives? Really, do immigrants need their own politician now? There are already so many of them in this area....and then I stopped. I was sounding like a racist, a prejudiced person, an unloving person, an unwelcoming person, a person who does not care about the underprivileged, or about the "other." Not like Jesus at all.
So, I made a decision to vote against my prejudice and to vote for enlarging compassion in my heart. Compassion is not to be confused with the politically-correct term, "tolerance," which is a relatively weak and passive position in my opinion. But real, sacrificial, compassion. I was voting for the good of someone else and not primarily for my own interests, because I needed to root out the selfishness I had just seen there. I prayed the prayer that Jesus did, Your kingdom come and Your will be done (here in this St-Laurent by-election) as it is in heaven, and after I had cast my vote for Jose, I left the end result in the hands of God. Ultimately, I am only responsible for what is in my heart and not how a whole city votes.
Later that night, Mr. Fournier was declared the undisputed winner by a large majority. Though the man I had voted for only came in a distant third, I was filled with hope for some reason. I suppose it was because I knew something had changed in St-Laurent that night. Something that the polls could never reflect.
This is a view of the sunrise this week from my bedroom window. I love living in St-Laurent!