Who are you going to vote for? Why?

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Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan


Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

I stumbled into a heated discussion of the provincial election campaign at an SAQ outlet last week. It was wild – a mashup of federal, provincial and municipal matters and candidates (one insisted she was not going to vote for “Trudeau”), but also full of anger and a feeling of being deceived one time too many by politicians – the brew that supposedly elected Mr Trump. I left with my bottle of Grand Ballon, my head swimming. It may be helpful, I thought, to list some issues worth paying attention to before we vote, October 1.
First, clear the table. Every campaign is heavy with promises, with “we care so much about your problems”, and with grand principles. They mean exactly nothing, becoming irrelevant once a new government is elected. So, no generalities and feel-good stuff. Second, shouldn’t our issues be relevant to the Pontiac? Shouldn’t they impact our lives, right here? Third, shouldn’t candidates project leadership – indicating that they will lead, will speak for us, and not be mere mouthpieces for their party? We are voting for our reps, not for party spokespersons. We aren’t voting for our teams; an election’s not a sporting event. Fourth,
forget promises that pass the problems onto hiring new civil servants (from Montreal) to handle our files – tourism, investments, etc. That’s not action.
How do our candidates rank on these four score-cards? Anyone who
promises two or more of these should drop to the B list. Make a list! Refer to it.
Next, break the issues into categories that matter: health-care, economy & investment, education, transportation, and, finally, the environment and our quality of life.Then fill in each with the questions that matter most to you and your family.
Examples: “Health-care” includes the inter-municipal pool (health, education, recreation); no parking fees at the hospital – we all have to travel, that’s our fee. Keep the CLSC’s 24-hour emergency clinic open; Gatineau wants to close it. Order more specialists’ visits – easier for them to drive here than for two hundred patients to drive to them. Bring back some local management; the CISSSO has one of the worst management records in the province; why should they also manage our area’s needs? Decentralization = democracy and efficiency.
“Economy” is a massive file, from bringing immigrants here as investors and consumers to assisting new businesses: the abattoir, cannabis production, and protect existing industries: dairy needs supply management, forestry needs local
wood allocations, tourism needs support (Coulonge Chutes Park) and services: cycling, quads, accommodations.
“Environment and Quality of Life”, another full file: improve phone and internet services; oppose the Chalk River radioactive dump upstream (Rolphton’s plan to entomb an entire reactor there, too). That dump is the single largest threat to Pontiac’s future. Funding for rural arts & culture; experimental minimal income programs; end under-regulated dumping in rural areas; protect farm land (but not rough land) within the zoning. Your issues? Upgrade some arenas?
“Education”: school boards or not? If we don’t need local management for health, do we need it for education? Agricultural research station, a local cegep, work-experience credits.
“Transportation”:Hwy 148 upgrade (surface, more lanes), commuter services (if no train, more buses), an alternate route in and out of the Pontiac.
These are only the most obvious, but, I hope, demonstrate the need for us to insist on specific promises and plans. These may appeal to you or not, just keep those that do on your own list. But do make a list. It’s a defence against the barrage of promises and emotional appeals. We’ll still be dished up reheated fears about
separation – that main handle by which we’re jerked through every election. A list keeps the candidates honest, and makes our own responsibility easier to pick a candidate and then to actually go and vote. The tsunami of words, promises, statements of concern, plus accusations and counter-accusations – the obstacle course we each must run to fulfil our democratic responsibility to vote.
Oh, yes, calling everyone a fool doesn’t help in the slightest.