Warning: you're about to feel like an underachiever. At just 21 years old Isabelle Lessard has, according to reports, become the youngest woman elected mayor in the history of Quebec.
Lessard's ascension into the highest office in her small Nord-du-Québec town of Chapais was all but assured after her opponent dropped out of the race.
She told Narcity Québec that while she had always had an interest in running for office, she attributes her rise at such a young age to newfound confidence to seize key moments. It was also the culmination of a personal journey.
"It was really the opportunity that presented itself because as of the day before the close of nominations, no one had run for mayor yet," she said.
"People lost interest and at one point the thinking was pretty simple. I said to myself, 'someone has to do this, people have to step up, people have to get involved.' And if we're always waiting for others to do it for us, when do we get to be the ones to step up and do it?"
But Lessard admits she wasn't always such a go-getter.
"In high school, with studies and everything, I had a lot of anxiety, it was not easy."
"Then recently, in the last year, I've been working really hard on myself to feel better and be better about myself."
As for her constituents' reactions to her win, the new mayor said that in a town where everybody knows everybody, most are happy to see her represent them.
She also says she understands the criticism about her age and level of experience. She's eager to not only prove herself but also become an example of youth leadership.
"People had concerns like, 'she's a woman, she's young, it was done quickly, does she have the skills?'"
"But at the same time, these are questions that are legitimate I think, because yes indeed, it's true that I'm young, no I don't have any previous political experience, but it's all things that are developing and I really trust that it's going to go well."
She said she feels the pressure to perform well, "but at the same time, I have enough confidence in myself and the people around me that it doesn't keep me up at night. It's all qualities that make me a good leader. I'm going to have missteps, it's going to happen, but I think I have the qualities to at least start well and be successful in many places."
In addition to plans to push forward development projects, attract entrepreneurs and build civic pride, Lessard wants to make the local government feel more accessible.
"What's also very important is that people have a voice and that voice is heard," she told Narcity Québec.
"So I focused a lot of my short campaign on being accessible to people, being available to people, and working with people."
"For me, I want that to be something that is put forward more and more."
Her advice for people thinking about going into politics? "Dare to go forward. Because at the end of the day, we are the change," said the mayor with passion."
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
The Montreal election saw a low 38.3% voter turnout. Out of the 1,111,110 eligible voters in Montreal, only 425,766 went to the polls.
Élections Québec pointed to three main reasons why people don't turn out to vote: "a lack of time, a lack of interest in municipal politics," and "a lack of knowledge about municipal issues, the candidates and their ideas."
While the size of the municipality doesn't necessarily affect voter turnout, people are more likely to vote if "they have a strong sense of belonging to their municipality," the office said.
"The vote increases with the number of years lived in the same municipality and at the same address," meaning that people who have established roots in the city are more likely to go vote.
Homeowners are more likely to vote than renters.
Officials are also contending with a generational divide — a problem that's bigger than just this one election. Élections Québec says "young people today vote less than young people from previous generations."
It's trying to combat this trend with educational programs and awareness campaigns, including Voters in Training, a mock election in which students vote for actual candidates.
Is online voting a possible solution?
Élections Québec said it's "in favour" of using technology and admitted that "internet voting has the potential to improve access to voting, particularly for certain groups of voters."
In 2020, the office presented a study to the National Assembly that listed "thirty-some recommendations aimed at ensuring that internet voting respects the principles underlying a democratic vote."
However, the office warns against "rushing" the introduction of online voting.
The study identified a path toward testing internet voting — but made clear such tests could only come after a lengthy review of possible challenges.
Among the disadvantages to online voting listed on the Élections Québec website are difficulty verifying voters' identities and susceptibility to "hostile acts." It also says that "there would be no written 'paper trail', so verifying or recounting ballots would not be possible."
"The risks must first be managed in order to preserve the integrity of the elections," Élections Québec said in its statement. "An online voting system must meet the highest standards of accessibility, security and reliability, which takes significant time and resources."
Élections Québec also noted that some evidence shows online voting does not necessarily have an effect on voter turnout, especially amongst young people.