10 August 2008

Bye-election Next Door

On 8 September there will be bye-elections in three ridings, two in Québec and one in Ontario. The one that's been hitting me in the eye is the one in Westmount-Ville-Marie, which is the riding next door to mine, covering Westmount and the downtown of Montréal.

As an aside, I have to object to Elections Canada's having dropped the "e" of the "bye" in bye-election. What's up with that?!

I took some photos of the signs that are up for the four major candidates (haven't actually seen any other signs), so here they are with some comments. Forgive the quality of the photos, but I was actually on my way home from the Atwater Market with delicate raspberries and blueberries in my shopping bags, and the photos were taken one-handed while walking toward the bus stop.

First up (and worst quality photo), the Liberal.

Marc Garneau is best known as Canada's first astronaut. In political circles, he is known as the Liberal candidate who lost to the Bloc québécois when he ran in Vaudreuil-Soulanges and was snubbed by the current Liberal leader Stéphane Dion when he wanted to run in Outremont. (Those who follow such things will remember that Dion's hand-picked candidate lost that bye-election to Thomas Mulcair of the NDP.) Perhaps the fuzziness of the photo I took was prescient, or at least appropriate. ;-)

What strikes me about the poster is the stodginess of how the photo is included (in a box, not incorporated in the graphics) and the high-school-like web site address: votemarc.ca (French version votezmarc.ca). The posters are in two versions, English and French, and attached back-to-back around poles. I find this interesting, as the "two versions" approach (versus the "bilingual" approach) is usually the mark of the Québec government, whatever party is in power. The federal Liberals have usually taken the bilingual approach.

Next up might be Garneau's stiffest competition, the NDP.

Anne Lagacé Dowson is a pretty well-known radio personality (especially for those of us who have our radios permanently tuned to CBC Radio One). She has taken a leave from her journalist role to run, and is hoping for a repeat of the Outremont results in this neighbouring riding which includes another slice of a wealthy section of town (Outremont being a much more francophone wealthy area, Westmount being a little more anglophone and mixed).

You'll notice that I managed to cut off the NDP logo, hidden right at the top of the poster in the green area, but it certainly wasn't as prominent as the candidate in any case. And, speaking of green, I wonder if that splash of green at the top (doubtless to make a point and a swipe at the Green Party) also explains why these posters are much smaller than the other three party posters (about a quarter of the size).

Third up is the Bloc québécois.

I don't think Charles Larivée has any chance of winning, or any pretension that he will, but the Bloc will always run a candidate in every Québec riding, whether or not the anglos dominating the riding would ever consider voting for them. On this principle, I think the Bloc should start running candidates in Labrador, and maybe certain parts of the Ottawa Valley on the 'wrong' side of the river, but that's my own hegemony talking.

I laughed out loud when I saw the slogan on these posters: "Présent!" For those who don't grasp the meaning behind it, including Barry Wilson of the local CTV News, this is a very effective dig at the Liberals' practice of "opposing" the Harper government's legislation by sending in a small number of their MPs to vote against, but keeping enough of them absent so as to allow the legislation to pass and avoid an election. Get some principles, Liberals!

This poster is in French only (hey, this is Québec after all), but the Bloc website is, interestingly, also available in English and Spanish. I don't see any Spanish anywhere else!

Last up (and here's hoping this is predictive of his results) is the Tory.

I actually know very little about this candidate, apart from what is on his web site. It looks like he has been a behind-the-scenes actor in the Progressive Conservative Party and now the Conservative Party for some time, but without electoral success. If the Tories are going to win any of the three bye-elections, it won't be this one.

What's interesting about his poster is that it takes the federalist "bilingual" approach (see above) and it has a slogan that means nothing at all. I guess they're trying to suggest that Québec is getting stronger because of the actions of the Conservative Party, but it rings like an observation and you would really have to stretch to attribute any strength-getting to something that the Tories have done. Maybe it means relative to Ontario, which is due to the Tories' having attacked Ontario so much. I'm not so sure I'd be proud of that.


A final observation about web sites. With the exception of the Bloc candidate, each of them has set up a web site under her/his own name, which I find a bit disturbing. It used to be that Canadian politics was about the team and, yes, about the contribution that the individual would make to the team. VotezMarc.ca, AnneLagaceDowson.ca and GuyDufort.ca, whatever their actual content, are a bit too individualistic for my taste. As for Charles Larivée, his poster leads us to the web site of his party, but his party is obviously counting much more on winning the bye-election in Saint-Lambert, because that's where all the emphasis is for the bye-elections.

And yes, I will be glued to the TV on 8 September because I am a political junkie and a stats nerd and election results are almost as good as a baseball game for stats. And besides, the Olympics will be over by then and the new TV season not begun — I need something to keep me off the streets.

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