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The politics of perception

by admin October 20, 2009

The politics of perception

by admin October 20, 2009

Roger Rashi, local activist and political organizer, has a lot to say about the current state of politics in our city. While he currently works for Richard Bergeron’s Projet Montréal campaign, Rashi has a few opinions that show he’s not blindly following the political party pack.
For one, there’s his view on the status of politicians: “In our society politicians are looked down upon; municipal politicians are at the bottom of that totem pole.”
The reason? “When people look at municipal politics, all they see is graft and corruption. City politics are seen as base and petty &- pothole politics.”
Mayor Gérald Tremblay’s scandal-ridden term at city hall has only lowered people’s expectations of their municipal politicians.
“Municipal politics has always been a battle between people and capital, if we want people to invest themselves at the municipal level, we have to make them the number one priority.” Rashi also blames private influence for the smeared reputation of municipal politics. “If you can influence the awarding of contracts, you’ve got a ticket to becoming a millionaire. That’s unacceptable.”
When people see blatant corruption taking place at city hall, they lose faith in the system. The danger is that people react to political scandals by not voting. “When less people vote, politicians become less accountable, and eventually people become even more disinterested. It creates a vicious cycle that can be hard to escape. For that reason ethics one of the core concerns in this year’s elections.”
While Rashi remains optimistic that change can be achieved, he won’t be celebrating until some real action is taken. “Montreal has seen progressive reform parties that promised sweeping change and greater accountability before,” he said, referring to the rise and fall of the Montreal Citizens Movement. The MCM was a municipal party that came to power in 1986 on a reform platform. Despite their ambitious agenda though, the MCM did not live up to their expectations. “The MCM’s failure took a lot of wind out the reform movement’s sails. This time, reform cannot fail, it has to be approached seriously.”
If we’re serious about progressive politics, we need to involve young people, according to Rashi. “When I was at university, students were passionately involved in politics at all levels. Its not that there aren’t important issues at stake, students don’t seem to realize how their actions can sway the debate.”
Rashi pointed out two issues central to the current campaign that are of great importance to students &- whether they’re just here for four years or plan on living in Montreal much longer.
The first is public transportation. “The number of cars on Montreal streets has doubled in the past 10 years. We’re on the cusp of a major crisis.” The issue of mass transit is of primary importance to students, who are among the most active users of the system. And as public transit falls under a municipal jurisdiction, “students need to vocalize their concerns and let municipal politicians know what they think.”
The second issue is tied to mass transit: the environment. “If you want to save the planet, you have to start at home. The municipal level is the primary level to address environmental issues.” Montreal has a pretty good record when it comes to the environment, but students can seek even more action from their municipal leaders.
Students are complicit in the declining participation rates at the municipal level. Currently, only 35 per cent of the population is expected to vote on Nov. 1. That means someone could be elected mayor with the support of only 15 per cent of the population. As the leaders of tomorrow, students must take initiative and get involved in local politics.

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Roger Rashi, local activist and political organizer, has a lot to say about the current state of politics in our city. While he currently works for Richard Bergeron’s Projet Montréal campaign, Rashi has a few opinions that show he’s not blindly following the political party pack.
For one, there’s his view on the status of politicians: “In our society politicians are looked down upon; municipal politicians are at the bottom of that totem pole.”
The reason? “When people look at municipal politics, all they see is graft and corruption. City politics are seen as base and petty &- pothole politics.”
Mayor Gérald Tremblay’s scandal-ridden term at city hall has only lowered people’s expectations of their municipal politicians.
“Municipal politics has always been a battle between people and capital, if we want people to invest themselves at the municipal level, we have to make them the number one priority.” Rashi also blames private influence for the smeared reputation of municipal politics. “If you can influence the awarding of contracts, you’ve got a ticket to becoming a millionaire. That’s unacceptable.”
When people see blatant corruption taking place at city hall, they lose faith in the system. The danger is that people react to political scandals by not voting. “When less people vote, politicians become less accountable, and eventually people become even more disinterested. It creates a vicious cycle that can be hard to escape. For that reason ethics one of the core concerns in this year’s elections.”
While Rashi remains optimistic that change can be achieved, he won’t be celebrating until some real action is taken. “Montreal has seen progressive reform parties that promised sweeping change and greater accountability before,” he said, referring to the rise and fall of the Montreal Citizens Movement. The MCM was a municipal party that came to power in 1986 on a reform platform. Despite their ambitious agenda though, the MCM did not live up to their expectations. “The MCM’s failure took a lot of wind out the reform movement’s sails. This time, reform cannot fail, it has to be approached seriously.”
If we’re serious about progressive politics, we need to involve young people, according to Rashi. “When I was at university, students were passionately involved in politics at all levels. Its not that there aren’t important issues at stake, students don’t seem to realize how their actions can sway the debate.”
Rashi pointed out two issues central to the current campaign that are of great importance to students &- whether they’re just here for four years or plan on living in Montreal much longer.
The first is public transportation. “The number of cars on Montreal streets has doubled in the past 10 years. We’re on the cusp of a major crisis.” The issue of mass transit is of primary importance to students, who are among the most active users of the system. And as public transit falls under a municipal jurisdiction, “students need to vocalize their concerns and let municipal politicians know what they think.”
The second issue is tied to mass transit: the environment. “If you want to save the planet, you have to start at home. The municipal level is the primary level to address environmental issues.” Montreal has a pretty good record when it comes to the environment, but students can seek even more action from their municipal leaders.
Students are complicit in the declining participation rates at the municipal level. Currently, only 35 per cent of the population is expected to vote on Nov. 1. That means someone could be elected mayor with the support of only 15 per cent of the population. As the leaders of tomorrow, students must take initiative and get involved in local politics.

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