This weekend, Quebec’s chief electoral officer Pierre Reid and his team launched a province-wide campaign to encourage more people to vote in the Nov. 5 municipal elections.
The Quebec turnout averaged 47% in 2013 (Hudson’s turnout was dead on the average). Reid thinks the best way to improve participation is to appeal to the 67% of young voters who can’t be bothered.
The way I see it, voter apathy isn’t the problem, it’s a symptom of the public’s disgust with elected officials who don’t or can’t deliver what they promise.
How many times have we seen political candidates make promises that have no reasonable chance of being kept?
Then, rather than admitting their responsibility for their failure to deliver, they climb into their bubble and accuse their critics of fomenting negativism.
This bogus us-versus-them myth becomes the justification for ramming through legislation or bylaws without consultation or information.
The failure to manage voter expectations is the biggest single issue plaguing western democracies. It’s behind Trump’s election, Brexit, Catalonia’s referendum and Scotland’s secession bid. The Liberals’ failure to manage expectations is behind Justin Trudeau’s fall from grace.
Going door to door in Hudson’s municipal election campaign is turning out to be a real eye-opener on the outgoing administration’s failure to manage expectations. It also puts the lie to voter apathy. District 5 has 835 registered voters and the vast majority of those I’ve met are eager to talk about what they like and don’t like about their town.
Our conversations usually begin with well-worn issues such as substandard snow clearing and crumbling infrastructure. They quickly morph into specifics. Young families wonder why there isn’t more for them, such as a water park or a public tennis court. The biggest concern among the elderly is is losing autonomy in a car-oriented community where practical, sustainable quality housing is in short supply.
Active seniors who chose Hudson for the outdoors lifestyle are the angriest. We’re overtaxed and ignored when we complain, they tell me. Cycling on Hudson roads is downright dangerous. Walking trails aren’t contiguous or well maintained. Many say Hudson is under-serviced when compared to its neighbours and to West Island municipalities.
Development doesn’t seem to be a hot-button issue. Voters of all ages tell me they don’t oppose well-planned development but given the choice, they like Hudson the way it is. Bigger isn’t better. Don’t over-extend. Build on what exists and look for ways to improve what we have without raising taxes.
Many blame the outgoing council for the lack of civility in public meetings and the lack of clarity on budget and development issues. The single most disturbing comment I’ve heard: “We would have had second thoughts about moving to Hudson if we’d known the administration was in such disarray.”
I ask people whether they’re planning to vote, either in the Oct. 29 advance poll or on election day Sunday Nov. 5. Their stock answer: yes.
Then I’ll ask them why they think more than half of Hudson’s eligible voters don’t vote.
The answer I hear most: it’s because people feel nobody’s listening to them anyway so it doesn’t matter how or whether they vote.
I listen, make notes and refrain from making promises. I figure it’s a start.