Vision Critical, the Vancouver-based market research company, recently published a report with the headline “Most Canadians Satisfied With Municipal Governments”.
Reading this in Montreal, the average reader is likely to spit coffee across his or her monitor 19 times out of 20.
This is after all, the place where the Charbonneau Commission broadcast has become an afternoon soap opera watched by all, introducing the public to a series of characters with amazing nicknames like Mr. 3% (the amount of his commission), and Mr. Sidewalk. You don’t want to know why he’s named that. The mayor of Laval, as a result of testimony at the commission, has been charged not with mere fraud or incompetence, but gangsterism.
So Quebec-based readers will study this new report with some interest, reading up on the absolutely foreign idea that someone somewhere is basically fine with their local elected officials.
The overall result of the Vision Critical report found that 71% of Canadians counted themselves happy with municipal politics, with the caveat that “many people also feel alienated and disengaged from city hall.”
Vision Critical assigned some colourful names to describe the various categories its respondents fell into: Happy Campers, Angry Activists, Retiring Skeptics, and Young & Ambivalent, for example.
In a Vancouver Sun editorial explaining the results of the study, pollster Angus Reid explains the rationale behind the nicknames, “the word ‘retiring’ represents a double entendre. This group is most likely to be retired. And, based on their levels of participation with city hall in the past, they also seem to be most likely to be retiring from civic engagement.”
The report also polled an international audience, finding that Canadians were happier with municipal government than Americans or Britons, but less pleased than Australians.
The Australian detail is interesting in the wake of Vision Critical launching its “City Speaks” project in collaboration with the municipality of Surrey, in B.C., which is modeled on a similar initiative that Newcastle, Australia has implemented for the last four years. The program is an internet-based means of engaging citizens directly with city politics. Is it possible to draw the conclusion, then, that the more people know about municipal politics, the less happy they’re likely to be?
With an election coming up in Calgary this year, it will be interesting to keep an eye on the dynamic between the Activists, the Ambivalents and the Skeptics, and how they may affect the relative calm of the Happy Campers.