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Note: You can also read the complete e-mail exchange with Mr. Paul Shoiry (Sorry, French only for now).
Sillery, Saturday June 11, 2005.
Mr. Paul Shoiry, Alderman and Leader of the Official Opposition
Quebec City, Sainte-Foy-Sillery Borough
1130, route de l'Église, C.P. 218
Good day Sir,
I received in yesterday's mail your flyer inviting all citizens of the Sillery Borough to meet you in the community hall next June 15th. The agenda seems to be that first you'll present your accomplishments (past and future) in our Borough, and then you'll open the floor so we can voice our concerns and priorities concerning the "quality of life, whether in Sillery or in the whole city".
I thank you for your kind invitation. I have two comments and two questions, which I'd like to transmit to you in writing before this meeting.
First comment: Please be assured that I realize how difficult it is to be a good politician. I don't want to complain without knowing what I'm talking about, and then run away when it's time to pitch in to help change things! See among others "Aren't All Politicians Rotten?"
Second comment: One of my good buddies once said:
"Spending other people's money requires no talent whatsoever"
Beneath this witty remark, there is a lot of truth. There is a fundamental difference between spending other people's money, and risking your own money, or your own reputation, or even your own life.
A good manager allocates public funds according to the priorities that were dictated to him. That itself is a good thing, and we'll always need good managers. But only a leader is willing to stick his neck out to tell his constituents the truths they don't want to hear. Moreover, only a leader is willing to stick his neck out to protect his constituents against the powerful of this world.
After reviewing the list of your accomplishments given in your flyer, apparently mostly concerning road maintenance, I feel tempted to say: "But, wouldn't anybody else have been able to do that?" Of course, I see nothing evil in your accomplishments, and I'm all in the favor of having good roads. But I was wondering whether you might attempt some projects which would require no taxpayer's money, but quite a bit of "guts" or courage on your part!
So here are my two questions, each followed by a suggestion.
You seem to have dedicated your political career to road maintenance. Is a politician's job only to build good roads, or is it also to ensure that the people using those roads respect the law? Is it normal for pedestrians and cyclists to be constantly threatened by drivers who plow through red lights and use public roads as if they were private racetracks? Is it normal for taxpaying citizens to have their ears battered by car owners who replace their mufflers with "noise-enhancers", or who use woofers powerful enough to wake up a whole neighborhood, or who drive motorcycles whose only virtue is to be extremely noisy, and adored by criminalized motorcycle gangs?
I've lived in Sillery pretty much all my life, but my personal impression is that these behaviors have markedly increased in the past few years. My suggestion for a project which would require none of my money, but lots of your guts, would be to propose a new by-law in this city. This new law would simply state that if three citizens using a video camera can record a violation described above, then the City will prosecute the offender. The requirement for three witnesses would protect innocent drivers, and the requirement for a video camera would let us catch not only violations like plowing through a red light, but also excessive noise and speed.
Another interesting twist to this proposed by-law is that the fine would go directly to the three witnesses, so the homeless and jobless (who have time to sit at intersections during rush hour) could make tons of money! Also, an amount of money equivalent to the fine would be taken out of the policemen's pension fund, and given to the City. So the City wouldn't lose any money with this new by-law, and an incentive would be given to the (fortunately few) policemen who don't take their duty seriously enough.
Could this by-law be really adopted? Who cares! Just proposing it would help! But it would require "guts". Remember, Quebec City policemen these days wear military camouflage pants, as a barely veiled threat to the City that they have the guns, and that the City better increase they pay. I think we need a tough politician to remind these policemen that it's the elected officials who rule us, not people in military fatigues who have guns.
Do you consider "Quality of life" to be a purely material issue? In other words, do you think the politician's job is only to supply good roads, clean drinking water, good hospitals, etc.?
I tried to explain this in another open letter, "Open Letter to the ACMQVQ". As a "stretch project" requiring little money but quite a bit of political courage, you could publicly ask the Mayor if he would participate in a campaign against blasphemous language, which is so prevalent among French-Canadians. All this would require is, for example, displaying posters inside bus stops. My suggestion would be something like: "Christ, Hostie, Tabernacle". This would require guts, because most people don't like to be told they are not perfect and have things to improve. It would also require guts because these days attacking Catholics is fashionable. Please note I'm not asking you to defend the Catholic religion, but the right of Catholics not to be constantly insulted in public places.
If you accomplish these two projects, Mr. Shoiry, I think I will refuse to vote for you when the next municipal election comes up. I will rather start a campaign to have you elected as Prime Minister of Canada!
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