When in Doubt, Participate Anyway

by Elisabeth


The snows are melting away and leaving trails of garbage, once hidden in the crunchy, white, coldness. The Cabane a Sucre’s are dusting off their menu’s and opening their cans of maple syrup over sliced hotdogs. Today, citizens of all walks of life will meander to schools, churches and community centres to cast their votes. Today is election day for the Province of Quebec.


It feels strange to cast a vote in a place you are leaving. I almost feel guilty for it. There has always been a tension for me and voting in the provincial elections seeing as I never planned on staying, and I don’t speak the language very well.


I’m in the linguistic minority. It changed my values, and my experience of Montreal. I came from a political family where politics were a part of everything we did. I had my political “awakening” at the Battle of Seattle in 1999. Politics became a part of everything I did for the next few years.


Everything changed when I moved to Quebec.


Despite my best intensions, my French never got good enough to listen to a debate or read pamphlets. I’d go to feminist marches, or indigenous rights symposiums, but began to notice separatists, or militant activists with dubious platforms amongst the rabble. I was plagued with the question:


What’s going on?


It was the same question I would ask when I was at the health clinic, or getting my license renewed. The same confusion. The same nervousness. It took the breath out of my fight and made me step back and re-evaluate. I couldn’t fight if I didn’t know anymore what I was fighting for. Or whom I was fighting with.


I am a believer in voting for the party that you think would do the best job. I told someone recently that I don’t do fear-based voting- the kind of voting that you do against a party rather than for it. It became a heated discussion because, around here, there is always the looming threat of separation.


I don’t think we can ever move forward if we vote with fear. Fear keeps us stuck with the same parties and platforms. Fear keeps us where we are.


That said, the process of democracy is about popularity. Popular ideas; common enemies; aligned objectives. You can get some momentum with some bad ideas. I cast my vote today for a party that I normally would never vote for. It just so happened that their party line reflected more of my beliefs in an array of choices where the majority don’t at all. My beliefs have changed since living here as an Anglophone. Part of the minority. The party I voted for definitely won’t win.


It makes me wonder if, when I go back to BC, I will carry this political uncertainty with me? I’ve become less of a political person because of the passionate political scene here. The high emotion, the fear, the anger that comes with the electoral process- I find it exhausting. Yet I strongly believe in participating in the election- as a citizen. If I can leave the people of Quebec one small thing, it’s my ballot, which I cast in all integrity. After ten years, I at least owe them that.