running for office: my platform

by Hugh

I must say all the tizzy about the last Quebec election passed me by, and I wasn’t interested in the least – though I was surprised by the result. I expected a PQ or Lib majority, with ADQ also-ran as usual. But things are up in the air now. Still, I think Charest has proved himself unable to lead; Boisclair is completely vapid (and gratingly arrogant as well); and Mario Dumont has been a politician since he was a teen, which indicates to me a profound lack of character. Solidarity is a dreamy bunch, and the Greens offered nothing interesting (tho that’s who I voted for).

But rather than JUST complain about what appears to be the dismal state of Quebec politics, I thought I would list off some policy positions that would excite me:

1. replace “je me souviens” as a provincial motto.
[UPDATE #2: Turns out my (anglo) understanding of “je me souviens” is very different from other people’s understanding of what it means. Still, the main principle is this: that Quebec has done extraordinary things in the past 35 years – totally changing the power structure of the Province… and that a collective, and serious, “Now What?” must be answered – so the backward-looking “Je me souviens” at least should be updated with something looking to the future.]

a motto should define the province … and what does our current motto say? it says: “we define ourselves as a province by celebrating our anger with the past, and our animosity towards defeat, betrayal, colonial oppression.” That is: “I remember the shit that happened in the past.”

Why not make it more explicit: “On est en calisse a cause de ce que vous avez faites?”

[UPDATE/ASIDE: I have always understood that “Je me souviens” refers to the Plains of Abraham … that’s what Anglos are told anyway. But it occurs to me that I might have that wrong, and perhaps there is a totally different interpretation on the other side of the linguistic fence… please let me know if so]

Or better yet, instead of having a motto that celebrates how pissed off Quebec is about the past, how about a motto that celebrates how Quebec will kick ass in the future? How about, “Bientot, vous en souviendriez aussi.” Or: “Doing better than you.” Or: “Looking forward to being an independent nation.” Or: “Unique in North America.” Or even: “Forget the past, we’re conquering the future.”

Whatever the political message, for God’s sake let’s make it a *positive* one looking forward, and not an official statement that says: “we are obsessed with, and pissed off about, the past.”

By the way, i have said this before: I don’t see my politics along the federalist/separatist lines: that political issue does not interest me nearly as much as what this place I love is like. Canada or Quebec is less interesting to me than: what are the policies of the government I am voting for?

2. official endorsement of net neutrality
I believe net neutrality is a core issue for a successful society. freedom of information flows means more innovation, means a more successful country in the long run. pls, guarantee free info flows on the net. see the canadian activists.

3. access to government data in open formats
One thing history proves: The government cannot be trusted to make good decisions. And the government makes decisions based on data they collect. But often you can’t see the data. So. Make the data open for all, in open formats, and let citizens make proposals based on the data. check out civicaccess.ca, and Watch this video.

4. proportional representation
why are we afraid of proportional representation? see fair vote canada. principle:

Current system: 49% of people in every riding vote for party A, 51% vote for party B. Result: Party B gets 100% of seats.

Proportional system: a certain number of seats are given to parties based on % of popular votes. My pal Andrew tells me PR transformed New Zealand politics.

5. healthcare – figure out global best practices, and build systems accordingly.
i feel so unequipped to figure out how to solve the healthcare problem. I am a longtime opponent of 2 tier healthcare, but my wife is a doctor: so much is wrong with the system. one thing I know: emergency rooms should all have management system studies done. they are inefficiently run … and that costs money.

but my main proposal: do a big study on health systems in the rest of the world, figure out our objectives, figure out best practices to meet those objectives, and then build policies and a health care system around that. get universities involved, and open source the whole thing.

it seems to me so much of our healthcare debate is completely blind and uninformed, and that;s no way to figure out how to fix the (supposedly) most important issue in our country.

6. climate change / kyoto protocol / energy
Actually do something. including:
-push forward on churchill falls II, the big hydro project. unpopular with environmentalists (like me), but being a producer of clean hydroelectricity is one of Quebecs great advantages in the world – environmentally and economically.
-mandate that Hydro-Quebec more actively promote energy efficiency in homes and businesses – give targets
-comprehensive urban planning strategy for montreal and quebec city, to reduce CO2
-increased funding for public transport (funded by increased gas taxes).
-push forward on the climate exchange at the Montreal Exchange

7. education
-improve education in the trades (carpentry, electric, plumbing etc). there’s tons of money in the biz, and not enough qualified workers
-increase uni tuitions. can’t believe i am saying this, but quebec has both the lowest tuition rates AND the lowest university participation in canada. so whatever we are doing isn’t working.
-free software in schools. make hacking & digital media production part of the curriculum.
-mandate that every quebec citizen be fluently trilingual (french, english, and one other language: spanish, chinese or arabic)

8. economy

-support small business… I don’t have any specific recommendations here, but would convene a group of successful small entrepreneurs and figure out better policies to encourage small businesses.

9. Defense & Security
I am a pacifist who believes that a country should have a strong agile military. so:
-Beef up army budgets
-withdraw from afghanistan – has anyone even defined what success would be there? anyone heard of benchmarks, measuring progress etc?
-take a stronger role in UN

10. Arts

-continue strong support for the arts – maybe take Ireland’s approach: no income tax on income from art.

That’s a start. Responses and condemnations welcome.