Election Season

During this time of year in Montreal the distant squeal of seagulls sounds a strange urban alarm clock. The snow finally starts an erratic thaw, something that makes city parks seem like a stew of fermenting grass and animals.

The only thing comparable in the almost eternal summer of Miami that I enjoyed not so long ago was the arrival of vultures every October to signal the end of summer. As you’d walk through the chaos of that city’s bizarre downtown, you’d step over odd bits of pigeon they would fling off the rooftops, and that’s how you knew fall (or what passes for fall in Florida) was coming.

"Let's talk Quebec..."
In the midst of the new season there’s now an election slated for May 2. Suddenly bicycles hitting the streets again have to dodge campaign signs hawking Canada’s political parties. To be sure, Canadian politics is a much more buttoned-up and gentlemanly affair than it is in where I'm from. But one of the most fascinating aspects of the Canadian political spectrum is the hues it takes on through the prism of Montreal.

Just take the following only-in-Montreal scenario: the riding I live in is represented by Gilles Duceppe, the leader of the Bloc Québécois, which is a federal-only party. The party’s long-term objective is to make Quebec independent from the rest of Canada (this is where the Canadians reading this blog go: Riiiight, and your point is???).

This means Duceppe is in the fascinating position of being the leader of a federal-level party whose eventual stated purpose is to leave the government in which it participates.    

Contrast that scenario with that of Jack Layton, the leader of the New Democratic Party who represents a riding (district, if you're in the states) in Toronto. Like Duceppe, Layton is a Montrealer. Like Duceppe, Layton grew up in Quebec, where his party currently holds only one seat. Layton’s face is emblazoned on posters all over town, even though voters in Montreal only vote for the MP in their riding, not from the rest of Canada (and the Canadian readers go: duh, stupid!!!). Now I get that he’s trying to marshal votes for the other candidates his party is running here. But I think it’s still interesting, given that in Canada you don’t vote for prime minister, you vote for MPs.  
"Let's Work Together (to keep graffiti off this bike rack)."

It’s a juxtaposition that is perhaps only intriguing to a foreigner; you could say one politician is hyper-local, the other is hyper-national.  

This is a topic I certainly hope to revisit as the election looms closer – because for a foreigner watching national politics from Montreal is sure entertaining.  Especially since what passes for scandal in Canada wouldn't make a nun blush in the states!


If you look at the bracket that I picked before this NCAA tournament started, I picked NONE of the eventual Final Four. The one silver lining for me, however, is that Virginia Commonwealth University out of my hometown of Richmond, Va., is one of those Final Four teams. And Shaka Smart, with whom I attended college, is its coach. The Rams have never gone this far in the tournament, and have felled giants along the way.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please note that when requested I keep e-mail addresses and other contact info confidential. I moderate these comments.