Nov 2012

Thoughts from Montreal on the US Election

Some thoughts on today's US Presidential vote...

Here in Montreal, our mayor Gérald Tremblay has just resigned for his now irrefutable complicity in corruption. His reign—whose original platform was based on improved economics and on writing the wrongs of the previous administration—will be remembered as one of the most closed and secretive governments in the history of Canadian politics.

While managing to improve the finances of the city, Tremblay turned a blind eye to proper infrastructure, allowing mafia-run, short-term-gain construction companies to thrive. He also did a complete about-face on the forced merger of the City of Montreal, eventually allowing the greater tax pool to sway him from the mandate that originally won him office.

He will also be ruefully remembered for his failed attempt to ostracize the Greek and small business communities of Parc Avenue by changing the name of the street—to commemorate late Premier Robert Bourasssa. This without consultation from the people of the affected burroughs, leading him to opine in his defeat that he had "learned that the opinion of citizens is important."

Overall then, Tremblay's rule can be categorized as follows:

1. Financially successful
2. Covert
3. Exclusive and ostracizing

Meanwhile, in the States we have two candidates running for the next presidency.

The incumbent, Barack Obama, has had some financial success (as evidenced by increased market and housing figures, lower unemployment, a stabilized economy, etc.). He has opened up diplomatic ties with much of the global community, particularly with the Big Three of the United States' traditional opponents: Russia, China, and the Middle East. In so doing, he has harmed ties with a few key allies, most notably Israel, who are trying desperately to maintain influence while being surrounded by enemies. Obama has also done his best to serve all Americans (at least in his rhetoric) including Republican Americans on his list of intended beneficiaries—for health care, social programs, reprieve for small-income families, and employment.

The challenger, Mitt Romney, and the Republican party which supports him (that is currently in control of the American senate) will no doubt improve the US economy. Big Business tends towards Republicans, and Romney is a big proponent of Big Business.

Romney has been overt in his discourse on the separation of America, in propounding the "us and them" mentality—and many Americans agree that there needs to be a greater defense of "us" at the risk of losing it to "them". "Them" includes those of foreign extraction, those of non-Judeo/Christian religions, those who are part of the 47%.

I live in Canada, where what defines us as being Canadian—more than maple leaves or beaver tails, or anything else for that matter—is the fact that we are not American. We are the greatest trade partner of the US, our culture (even here in Quebec) is replete with American television, music, art, news, and influence; notwithstanding, we have our own identity whose most definable trait, from coast to coast, is that we are different from our American cousins.

But the truth is, we aren't really. In a global context, Canadians and Americans are practically the same. Canadians and Americans are indistinguishable to the rest of the world. Even Francophones (who have their own language, culture, traditions, etc.) share many, many similarities with Americans: same continent, similar democracies and freedoms for the citizenry, most of the same cultural influences, customs, cars, computers, iphones, and fears.

So, speaking as a NORTH American, here's what I would expect, were I able to vote in today's election (eligible to those who live only 45mins away in neighbouring Vermont):

A vote for Mitt Romney, from my humble, Canadian perspective, is a vote for the economy; a vote for exclusive thinking; a vote for "us". And from my experience of our former mayor here in Montreal, I see a lot of Tremblay in Romney.

So isn't it just possible that the Mitt Romney's government of the United States might, before too long, be described as

1. Financially successful
2. Covert
3. Exclusive and ostracizing


Globally speaking, I believe nations benefit more from trade, diplomacy, friendship, peace, and letting go of "us and them" thinking, than from isolationist politics, narrow-mindedness, elitism, enmity, war, and desperately clinging on to the fear of losing "us".

From my perspective, I'm thinking we could use a few less Gérald Tremblays in this world.

Which is why today, if I could, I would vote for Obama.