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Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 03.19.05
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

Tossing his hat into the ring and all that

People often ask me, "Why don't you run for public office," usually adding, "if you think you're so smart?"

In fact, I have often thought about throwing my hat into the ring. It's an old hat, kind of beat up and there's this stain on it from that unfortunate collision at the Tom Jones concert. It's quite well-shaped for throwing, though.

But then I think, "Do I have what it takes to represent my fellow citizens? Am I ready to sacrifice my time, my energy, my family life, my hat?"

The answer to these questions and any question starting with "Dad, can I?" is "No." I am, frankly, far too selfish to enter the political arena. Plus, there are those incriminating photos.

That doesn't stop me from offering sound political advice, especially in the realm of municipal politics, which I was most intimately exposed to during my time as a reporter, not to mention my time trying to get the zoning changed on my street to allow live nude dance lessons. (No really, it's art.) In fact, I like to think of myself as the Karl Rove of municipal politics, except I'm not quite so right-wing or pudgy or filled with self-righteous evangelical zeal or devious or oh, never mind.

Here in Stanstead at least, some people are already talking about this coming November's municipal elections. For the first time in this province, all municipal councillors and mayors will be elected at the same time. In the past, the four-year terms have been staggered from town to town. In some municipalities, half the councillors were elected in one election, the other half two years later.

This worked out pretty well for most, but this is Quebec and we must all do things the same way. We call this "working for the collectivity," although most other democracies would call it "benevolent fascism."

So while I won't be running for office this fall, I can offer the following savvy campaign advice:

Bilingualism

It's amazing how much you can get away with simply by nodding your head earnestly or looking contemplative, but at some point someone will ask you a question in French. Therefore, the question of your bilingualism or lack thereof may come up. Be sure to use some of these phrases in response: "I know enough to get by," "Open communication is more essential than perfect communication," "What's important is having some English representation," "I plan to take lessons" and "Quoi?" Do not say, "Screw French. We'll just conduct our meetings in English," (exception: Lennoxville borough).

Campaign flyer

You can't visit everyone in person. So make up a flyer that outlines your qualities and platform with a snappy title like "Vote for New Blood" or alternatively "Vote for Experience" (not advised: "Vote for the Guy With the Lemming").

Be sure to make the following promises: lower taxes, more openness at town hall, improved roads, and better teamwork, even if you've never looked at a municipal budget before, plan to immediately resent citizens who come to council complaining their water smells like a dishrag, actually mean "improving MY road" and hope to create team-like factions to make the mayor's life as miserable as possible.

Campaigning

Running for town hall is just like running for higher office except it's easier to spread rumours. While outwardly you may be promising a mud-free campaign, it's simple to plant the seed that your opponent plans to instigate Recycling Police to monitor how many wine bottles residents go through a week. When your opponent denies this, accuse him of flip-flopping on the issues.

"Let's Get It On" as campaign theme song?

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