CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 10 . . . . November 4, 2011
During a lull in any conversation, drop the name of a politician-it does not matter if it is municipal, provincial or federal, and guaranteed there will be comments as to the named person's performance. "If I was in that position, here's what I'd do...." and Monday morning quarterbacking would ensue.
After the Ballot, follows the terms of two new Quebec politicians: Daniel Turp, Parti Quebecois candidate for the Mercier riding-a small riding in area, but large in population, and Charlotte L'Ecuyer, Liberal candidate for the riding of Pontiac-small in population, but large in area. The film follows their first term, starting with their election.
Both have clear plans in mind. L'Ecuyer inherits a two-year-old strike at a local sawmill, and those involved look to her for a resolution. She also wants work done on Highway 148 which has claimed a number of lives, including her husband. Turp's constituents want what most cities want-infrastructure maintenance and/or improvements, lower taxes, money for various causes.
Initially, both new politicians are filled with enthusiasm and optimism, but the job is to become a learning experience for both. Committee meetings alone go on for hours. L'Ecuyer states, "The time goes by quickly. Before you know it, it's midnight." Often, the clock is shown as both are working past two and three in the morning.
Change is not always possible. L'Ecuyer asks the Minister for the words to tell the sawmill workers that jobs will be lost. She talks about jobs going to China and has to tell them that those who can should look into becoming woodworkers and fashion articles that could be sold. She receives no support from the government on this issue and is to sell this idea to many angry and now disillusioned workers. Her words sound hollow, but she delivers them anyway and is seen as a huge disappointment to her former supporters. The province allocates a fraction of the required funds to make the highway safe. So this dream is out of her reach as well.
Turp, loyal to Bernard Landry, the PQ leader, is shaken when Landry resigns after a leadership review. Turp is working on four to five hours sleep each night. He asks the government questions on an issue regarding housing but is frustrated by no answers. Both are asked if they are tired. Turp says, "Very tired," and L'Ecuyer, "Tired? I'm dead!"
After the Ballot shows both the devotion and the inability of elected politicians to get things done. The wheels of politics are grinding, but despite the rocky term, both run and get re-elected for another term.
Although the film is centred on Quebec politics, it serves as a microcosm of all political life: good people who try to make a difference for those who elected them and the challenges and roadblocks that come their way. While this would not remove all criticism directed at politicians, it does put on a very human face to a calling that most people feel they could do better.
After The Ballot could be used in a Politics or Civics course, but also in Anthropology, Psychology, Sociology or Career Counselling. It is all in French, so the sub-titles could be distracting, and it would be too long to show at once, but there is much in this film worth seeing.
Frank Loreto is a teacher-librarian at St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School in Brampton, ON.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.