Letter to the editor 2, January 18, 2018
Mr. La Rosa felt the need the repeat himself in the December 21, 2017 issue of YLJ – in the true form of a ‘professor’ who is confronted with a dim-witted student. He is desperately trying to tell us that the last elections were a great endorsement of the mayor, that the city is a splendid model of communications, and that the candidates had all ‘interesting and diverse’ things to offer to the electorate. Still, most did not show up.
Mr. La Rosa admonishes us not ‘give too much attention to those who give no attention to voting.’ His theory, of course, is that our politicians did all they could to interest the people of Saint-Lazare, therefore the politicians are exonerated of all responsibility if citizens are generally uninformed of what is going on at City Hall or if they do not feel the necessity of voting. According to Mr. La Rosa, it is up to the unappreciative citizens to demonstrate their interest in politics and make the efforts to meet with the great members of council. In other words, how ungrateful of us to criticize the mayor and how ‘undemocratic’ of us to point out the difficult outcome of the last election.
What Mr. La Rosa doesn’t get is that voter apathy is a symptom of a deep malaise, especially in the context of a municipality. The onus of effectively communicating with the electorate falls squarely on the shoulders of city council, not the other way around. Politicians often promise to ‘listen’ to the people. This obligation means that they should do more than wait for the handful of habitual people who attend council meetings and committees: they should meet with the people wherever they are – especially those who are not involved in council activities.
I think Mr. La Rosa needs to understand the concept of legitimacy. He states, ‘In our election 63% didn’t vote for Mayor Grimaudo, so the least amount of voters were against him, that’s why he won.’ What he says invites two comments. Firstly, I agree that Mr. Grimaudo did legally win the election. Mr. Grimaudo, however, managed to obtain a mere 37% of those who voted – and since only 37% of the electorate did bother to vote – this means that only 14% of all eligible electors did actually choose Mr. Grimaudo – inversely, this also means that a whopping 86% of the electorate either didn’t vote for the current mayor or stayed home. This result triggers the twin issues of legitimacy, and voter apathy that Mr. La Rosa wish we would dismiss out of hand.
A mayor should be conscious that if he was chosen by an insufficient fraction of the electorate, he cannot claim that whatever he might have promised was ratified by popular consent.
Voter apathy is a serious issue that affects political legitimacy. This issue needs to be examined and fixed.