Words almost failed me (some disturbing trends)

Lise St-Denis – Credit to Adrian Wyld

First: Lise St-Denis crosses the floor to join the Federal Liberals, indicating she came to her decision after realizing that her constituents voted for Jack Layton, and Jack Layton’s dead. Her constituents, suffice it to say, feel differently.

It brings up an interesting problem in Canadian politics. An individual MP is free to defect to another party whenever they like, and in turn face the possibility of loosing their seat at the next federal election. But they don’t need to run again in a by-election, and this to many Canadians is seen as unfair. Of course, when it’s playing in your favour, you’re not likely to complain too loudly, and therein lies the rub so to speak. It can be advantageous to everyone, yet comes at the cost of uniting opposition against the practice in the first place. Tricky indeed. Ms. St-Denis is putting a lot of faith in the Grits at an odd time, given the NDP leadership campaign is in full swing and, for that reason, the Grits are at a disadvantage vis-a-vis current media coverage. Unless they plan on maintaining their relevance by poaching candidates from other parties, I’d suggest Mr. Rae and Ms. St-Denis look to their constituents and their past and come up with some new ideas, and quick too. The NDP will be flooding Canadian media with new ideas for the next three months.

What I don’t get is how any elected representative could ever think this is a good idea. Yes, in a sense, Canadians are supposed to vote for the individual within their riding whom they believe best represents their individual goals and aspirations, regardless of the candidate’s party affiliations. But that doesn’t mean party affiliation is completely meaningless either, as the party represents the unified wishes of like-minded Canadians. This requires the development of a pre-existing trust between party and candidate, a trust that is supposed to be carried on by the elected candidate when they go to work in Ottawa with the other elected officials of the party. Now Ms. St-Denis is working for a party whose platform her constituents did not approve of. I suppose it doesn’t matter – she doesn’t live in her riding anyways.

Second: Joel Gauthier resigns from the AMT amidst growing criticism after the Train de l’Est project balloons to more than twice initial planned costs (about $715 million at last count). The train won’t be ready to go until Autumn, of 2013. The public statement from the AMT is simply that he resigned his position. Whether this is corporate parlance actually meaning he was forced out and/or paid to leave remains to be seen, though I feel my suspicions would persist regardless of any apparent explanations. Imagine yourself in his shoes, at the top of the AMT. What would it take to get you to resign such a position?

Do you still get a healthy severance package if you resign?

And what gives him the right to resign? He’s not elected, yet he’s apparently in charge of a regional transit authority built with provincial tax revenue. Given his resignation, how wil he be held accountable for his negligence? Or is the resignation the penalty? Seems inadequate given just how badly this project is going. Keep in mind the exorbitant yet total cost of the Métro extension into Laval cost about the same yet serves considerably more people.

With regular delays, inadequate services at individual stations and a general lack of rest facilities throughout the system, not to mention cost overruns and consistent delays with regards to infrastructure development, one wonders if the citizens wouldn’t be better off if the head of the AMT wasn’t also an elected member of the city council? At least that way the people would have the final say.

Third: the English Montreal School Board has decided to close three schools, and more school closings will likely take place in the coming year. As you can imagine it affects schools in working and middle-class neighbourhoods where there simply aren’t enough ‘English’ students to justify continued operations. Some parents are considering relocating while others will now have to pay for additional transit costs. Most disconcerting is the effect this has on children, which no one ever seems to consider. There are major problems with the way we teach children in our society without adding the complexities of long-distance travel, relocation and the likely disruptions to many friendships. These may seem trivial concerns to individuals or corporations, but school closings invariably have a destructive effect on communities and our society as a whole.

I can only repeat an earlier statement: we can’t keep doing this, and our kids would be better off if they were multi-lingual to begin with, so why not start right now? A single metropolitan city with a unified, multi-lingual, secular and cosmopolitan public school board. Anything less is inefficient by design and will only serve to further erode the public’s trust in public education.

We must end segregation in Montreal’s public schooling system, forever. Eliminating the socio-cultural segregation which plagues our public schooling system would do us all a favour by allowing a more immersive learning environment where our children will be pushed as hard as you might expect in the private sector. We could streamline operations and eliminate redundancies, not to mention pool resources and offer better salaires. And best of all, we won’t have to keep closing schools and we’ll further eliminate a continuing source of school-based gang violence.

The common thread of these three cases is the corporate structure and individualistic mentality of the decision makers of our public institutions. Whether its the head of a regional transit agency, an elected representative or the members of a school board, all seem to be acting with self-preservation in mind. There is no altruism nor any legitimate effort to take responsibilities for their actions. It’s no different than the revolving door of Chancellors who have passed through Concordia’s administrative division and walked back out with multi-million dollar severance packages. They were clearly only in it for the money. Apparently everyone is these days.

And that’s how you gut a society of its inherent socialistic tendencies – remove the elected altruists and appoint money-counters, for if we’re lucky they may throw a few dollars our way.

Sometimes I wonder how many good ideas and brilliant minds have slipped out of reach or otherwise would never consider a job working for the people out of distaste for just how self-serving politics has become these days. This kind of behaviour seems to be the norm, and the people are far too exasperated to really do anything about it.

A shame really.