The Montreal elections are currently underway, giving candidates about 6 weeks to campaign to the public before the November 5th elections.
I know there are stark differences between how Americans and Canadians campaign, how the rules of campaigning are much shorter for Canadians (and much stricter). However, it's not an excuse to leave voters in the absolute dark about what a candidate stands for.
Aside from Mayor Denis Coderre, who clearly has a heap load of articles and announcements because he wields the power of the city, I'm very frustrated at the second mayoral candidate, Valerie Plante from Projet Montreal. In the day of social media and the internet, it's one thing to have a good looking website but content is king.
And....where's the content?
I get that Projet Montreal doesn't make much headlines, and that's fine! But I want to know as a voter, is what a candidate stands for. Where are the promises and mandates that you would implement at City Hall if you're elected? What budgets are you planning to make your projects come to fruition? Currently Project Montreal's website is severely lacking on information on any platform. I hear wind of Ms. Plante's stance on public transit, but it's nowhere to be seen on Project Montreal's website. Instead, we're treated to 6 forms asking the public "what do you guys think?" From experience, any time you ask the public what they think about one very general topic like transportation, you will have a million different answers and no closer to any solution. Instead, the party should be establishing their own stance and their own ideas clearly and in some greater detail. Are we supposed to think that the party will take all these suggestions, hand pick a few and then try to pursue them at City Hall? That is a recipe for failure.
While I'm not a huge advocate of Coderre, at least he's made one proposal clear so far, and that's to invest in green alleyways. He didn't ask the public about it, he just went ahead and threw his idea out there - you like? Or you don't like? Very clear choices for the voter. At least I have some idea of where he stands.
Also, you only have 6 weeks to campaign before election day. How is it that none of these candidates have it written down on their website what their proposals are for the future of Montreal? If I were a candidate, I'd be out there guns blazing with my proposals, have a budget set, how to get that budget, who my backers/sponsors are, etc. I have zero information on either candidate. Sure Coderre says he'd pledge $1 million, but where is it on the website? Is this just news for the press or is this really something he's going to pursue on behalf of his party? Complete mystery.
US system is much more democratic
It doesn't matter whether it's municipal of federal elections, Americans have more leeway in spelling out to voters what they stand for. For one, their system lets the public decide on sweeping municipal, state and federal laws (not the MPs). For example, in Montreal, it was the MPs who voted for the ban on pit bulls and pit bull-like dogs from being owned. It was not the public and in fact, a large number of citizens opposed such law. Had the law been passed during elections, where they had a chance to vote on the matter, it would've been a truly democratic process on whether that bill should be adopted or not. Unfortunately Canadian politics suffer under MPs who are supposed to vote on behalf of the people, but really are just voting for their own party. That's why you have oddball MPs who have zero experience in politics run and win because you just want the leader of the party to win, but you don't necessarily agree with the MP winning your riding. It's weird.
Anyway, another thing I liked about the American political system is the overloading clarity of the candidates. What's incredibly impressive are the non-party affiliate businesses who set up websites about candidates for states and federal elections. Take for example, Voter's Edge, a comprehensive profile website that had put together all the sponsors, money, and background on a candidate for several states.
In this link, you can see Kamala Harris's profile, her experience, educational background, her beliefs, her sponsors, her statements, etc. SO informative. She eventually went on to win as Senator for the State of California. As an American citizen, I received my ballot in the mail and looked up every single candidate that was running for Senator through Voter's Edge. I got to learn what they stand for and who sponsored them, and based on what I learned, I voted accordingly. THIS is what I'm talking about for Canadian elections! Why am I faced with 6 forms asking for opinions when I get a meager paragraph of ambiguous promises that doesn't mean anything?
Where's a Voter's Edge for Canadian elections when you need one? Where is the transparency?
Valerie Plante, ok I know you're name and you're from Projet Montreal. She talks about the metro project and putting families first, why isn't any of that on the website? Other than that I have no idea who she is. It's the same thing for Denis Coderre. Is there a rule somewhere that you can't divulge any plans on a website? On social media? Do they do this on purpose to keep voters in the dark? They probably do that so as to not involve the Millennials in the elections. They're still doing it the old fashion way.
It also bothers me that there isn't a single Canadian company out there who has the incentive to build a website about every single MP (that's not a party website), and give the public more information than a paragraph, a phone number and an email address. How embarrassing!
Americans create websites for initiatives all the time. The most recent and most successful was the legalization of same-sex marriage. Marriage Equality USA has a stunning website that, for two years, was keeping track of the status of every state on the legalization process. There was an interactive map, details on ballot initiatives and whatnot. Incredibly comprehensive, with passionate individuals who pooled together resources of lobbyists, activists and donors. Same-sex marriage was a hot topic, though not all American campaigns are as successful or initiate as much fervor. Canadian politics are not as passionate because they're only allowed 6 weeks to campaign, but I feel voters aren't given much to go on. Relying solely on news media to spoon-feed us with the information, because finding out the information on your own is not easy and requires a lot of digging - and nobody got time for that. Hence, we elect bozos to City Hall and we reap what we sow with their wacky laws and never ending complaints.
I am frustrated with the Canadian political voting system, voters are not as involved in the city's decision at all. These public consultations are just another check box to have under their belt but I really doubt it would make a huge difference in decisions made behind closed doors. And I feel it's sort of moot point to vote, because you're voting for a political party not the MPs that are in your riding. God knows what the MPs in your riding decide on, it's not for you to decide on any of the laws they vote on, and that is incredibly disempowering.
When I moved to LA, I was still vague on how the US political system worked, but it was incredibly easy to learn. The municipalities gave you booklets for free to learn about the bills being proposed, the candidates who ran in your city, where your polling station would be and more. Campaigners left soliciting pamphlets and brochures in your mailbox, but informative ones. The people really did have a say in political candidates and the bills and laws that would pass through. In Montreal? We don't get to have a say on anything except during municipal elections that go by so quickly that most people aren't even aware that there was even an election that was going on! That's how sad the state of politics are in Montreal, you don't even know it's even happening in your own back yard.