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Ross Murray's Border Report
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Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 10.26.09
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

Municipal election? Yes, no, or none of the above

Is there an election in your municipality? Are you sure? What if you're wrong? Won't you feel silly showing up at town hall November 1 and there's nothing to put an X on. Luckily it's a Sunday so there won't be many people around. But still, the embarrassment will burn deep.

Wait a minute, you're saying. Doesn't every Quebec municipality have an election November 1? Not necessarily.

In some communities, entire councils have been filled by acclimatization. This occurs when people are so accustomed to the council they have that they say, "It's yours again if you want it. Whatever. We'll be watching 'Rug-Beating with the Stars' if you need us."

Or maybe your municipality simply decided not to hold an election. Sure, it's the law, but it's also the law in Quebec not to smoke within 30 metres of a building, and yet sticking your head outside the door to exhale the smoke appears to be close enough.

So how can you tell if your municipality is preparing for an election?

Good question. You're lucky I'm here.

First of all, check the recycling bin at your local post office. Is it full of notices from your town hall referring to something called "an electoral list"? These often appear before an election. Their purpose is to determine whether you are you and to inform you that, if you are not you, you should come to town hall to tell them you are someone else. When you arrive at town hall they may tell you, "Oh, by the way, there's a municipal election coming up."

They may also tell you, "We've received complaints about the Tonkinese cats in your garage." But that's a whole other story.

Here's another way to determine if there's an election: are people suddenly talking to you? In the grocery store, for instance, where everyone normally avoids making eye contact with you, are people shaking your hand and appearing interested in your theory connecting water fluoridation and the impending robot rebellion? Then there very well may be an election in your town -- which will, of course, become moot once the automaton leaders throw off their shackles.

A third way is to check for posters around your neighbourhood. Do you see any faces? Don't get them confused with real estate agents. (Honestly, where do all those real estate agents come from? They must breed like Tonkinese cats!) And don't panic; despite appearances, they're probably not selling insurance. They may in fact be electoral candidates.

Examine the signs carefully. Do they include words like "honesty," "leadership" "experience," and "change"? Then the person on the sign may be running for office. Do they contain the words "reward," "armed robbery" and "FBI"? Then the person on the sign may be running from the law.

What about the media? Any help? Well, certainly the newspapers have had stories on the most important elections in Quebec, namely Montreal, Quebec City, and Lennoxville. But it's hard to find references to elections in the smaller communities. This is because there's a perception in the news media that the only things small municipalities care about are sewer and garbage. Incidentally, the perception is mutual.

But municipal governments do matter. It's the one level of government where citizens can see real results. If I want to set up a business selling Tonkinese cat pelts, I can seek a permit at town hall or try to make eye contact with the mayor at the IGA. You can't do this at the other levels of government.

If I wanted to propose to Prime Minister Stephen Harper that alternative energy could be generated by harnessing children to Nintendo Wii's, I couldn't just walk up to him. Well, I could but he'd issue a security certificate against me.

In other words, municipal politicians deal with more cranks, kooks, and complainers than all other politicians. This is especially so in small towns, where not only do we know where you live but we know where you work, who your cousins are and what you did at the office Christmas party in 1998.

So if there is an election in your community November 1, get out and vote. Your municipal representatives deserve that much. After all, you're the ones they'll have to deal with. Not to mention me.

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