How to Lose Friends & Alienate People

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If you’ve been following the news of late, you may be asking yourself just how the PQ got elected back in September. I honestly don’t know with certainty why, but I’m fairly convinced the PQ’s victory is a direct consequence with popular displeasure with the PLQ under Jean Charest. The printemps érable didn’t help Charest either, as police brutality by the SPVM was viewed by the public at large as an extension of a dictatorial and aggressive state. Moreover, sticking his neck out and forming UPAC and the Charbonneau Commission, while ostensibly the right thing to do (and I should point out, Charest is not implicated in the slightest), was political suicide because, frankly, people are so goddamned stupid these days they equate the person calling for an investigation with the person complicit in the crime.

Unless I missed something, Charest hasn’t been implicated, indicted, or in any way involved in the on-going corruption scandals plaguing Montreal’s construction industry, yet was popularly believed to be exceptionally corrupt.

Curious that.

And now, not quite six months after Charest was unceremoniously booted from office by the slimmest of margins, the PQ under Premier Marois isn’t doing much of a better job. In fact I’d argue it’s doing a worse job.

But what’s truly amazing is just how well the PQ is destroying its own credibility. Or at least it seems rather impressive to me.

What preoccupies me is whether the PQ will undermine itself quick enough to provoke a strong public reaction against them, or whether they’ll so masterfully weave bullshit into a cohesive nation-building myth they actually manage to secure enough interest to actually call a referendum on Québec sovereignty (which as you might imagine, could mean just about whatever the fuck you want it to – every single Canadian citizen is 100% sovereign – our Constitution and Charter clearly define our rights and responsibilities, a proper social contract; without handing you bags of money I can’t imagine how much more the PQ plans on making you, me, or any of us for that matter).

So all that said, let’s take a quick gander at how the PQ is undermining itself. If nothing else, hopefully a series of outright idiotic incidents will make the collapse of the separatist movement in Québec a comic affair we’ll all share in laughing about later on.

Oh, and for the record, I’m exceptionally proud of the socially-progressive identity that has been crafted in Québec, particularly over the last fifty years. I believe the elusive Canadian identity can at least in part be found in the culture and society of my home province, whether the SSJB and PQ like it or not.

I’m also seriously thinking about joining both these organizations. The SSJB was once far more ‘federalist’ in political orientation (or at least Canadien Supremacist, if I may coin such a term).

Without further delay…

Step 1: Keep beating a dead horse. Even though support for Québec independence is low and the PQ has a minority government by the slimmest of margins, Premier Marois insists that “just as soon as we have the winning conditions” a referendum (presumably on the future of constitutional relations in Canada, but really, who the fuck knows) will be called and (apparently) Québecois will unanimously support the move for an independent Québec. The more she pushes the illusion of the necessity of Québec independence, the more she defines herself as a one-trick poney, something most Québecois may not approve of – after all, assuming she ever got her way, she hasn’t demonstrated she could lead an independent nation. This is largely because of…

Step 2: Alienating your support base. Such as the once-cohesive student protest movement that actually forced last fall’s election. Cutting $124 million from the post-secondary education budget while also not finding a viable solution to post-secondary education costs to the student is indeed a terrible situation, far worse given that it seemed the Charest administration brought in the tuition hike specifically to avoid the cuts. And what’s really puzzling here is that one would assume a liberal, if not to say progressive political party like the PQ would be in favour of more Keynesian economic theories, including managed deficit spending, as a necessary evil so as to maintain open access to high-quality universities. But no, not only are there cuts, now it seems as though there isn’t even a guarantee of possible future re-investment in education. If there’s anything a society should go into debt for, it’s without question the education of the next generations.

Which brings us back to alienating the base – it doesn’t help Marois much when Parizeau gets on her case for poor economic judgement. Remember, Parizeau is the economist who was supposed to have all the answers to the numerous questions about how Québec’s economy would work if we were independent. For the over 40 crowd, he may be seen as more ‘with it’ than the current administration, which is kind of all over the map. This can be illustrated by…

Step 3: Public demonstrations of disinterest, disengagement or flat-out pandering. Too much to list here, but I’m suspicious when cabinet ministers suddenly find money – $46 million to be precise – despite announced cuts and active cuts in related sectors, in this case education and healthcare.

Then there are the overt displays the PQ quite simply isn’t serious about governing. There’s no excuse for sleeping through Question Period. If you’re too sauced to pay attention, don’t bother showing up, but let’s be real, if you can’t manage to stay awake during what typically amounts to be a combative, argumentative session of political theatrics, you might not be cut out for the job. If Daniel Breton has trouble sleeping (as I and countless hundreds of thousands of other Canadians do), then he should see a doctor, take sleeping pills at night and coffee during the day.

There’s really no excuse for ‘being confused’ about simple government procedure and knowing how you want to vote on a given issue, yet somehow the PQ managed to vote against its own interests and support the opposition party’s motion which heavily criticized the PQ’s planned mega cuts to education. Being on the verge of tears in front of the TV cameras didn’t boost my confidence in our elected officials much either.

And then of course there was the ill-conceived trip to Scotland and, worse still, the failure to adequately prepare to be interviewed by the British Press. As you might expect, what Ms. Marois wanted to say and what was not the same thing, and though some logical or rhetorical incongruities may happen from time to time when discussing or debating large complex issues, the simple fact remains that Ms. Marois did not explain herself properly in either language – and if she had chosen to answer in French, for clarity’s sake, I’m certain the BBC could scare up a translator. Or perhaps Ms. Marois is so caught up in PQ rhetoric she actually believes Anglophones are insulted by French.

Québec independence is a joke – is it any wonder Alex Salmond tried to keep his distance, and opted for closed door meetings?

She’d be wise to watch out for strange bedfellows. Though the Scotland trip was poorly received and French Socialist President (and Malian saviour) François Hollande has already stated he doesn’t want to get involved, there are plenty of rightwing and far-right nationalist parties throughout Europe who share, at least on paper, a desire for greater independence for their ‘oppressed and marginalized peoples’. In Flanders, a right-wing party that seeks to break up Belgium once and for all. Elsewhere in Europe, nationalism has far more sinister tones and implications.

I suppose I’ve made some kind of a point, but I need to end on this:

How much is this actually costing us? Not just in terms of tax revenue wasted pursuing this pie-in-the-sky ‘goal’, but in terms of lost morale, population decline (whether as a result of putting off starting a family because of politics or losing your progeny to an unstable and stifling socio-political climate), diminishing investor confidence?

We’ve been dealing with this go-nowhere issue for more than 30 years (it’s been at least that long since anything of consequence actually happened, and there I would point to repatriation of the Constitution, the Federalist victory in 1980, Bill 101 and the dual Charters of rights, liberties etc as the major successes to come out of that era. We’ve ben waiting for the other shoe to drop for a long time.

And it’s gotten us nothing and brought us nowhere. Contemporary PQ politicians don’t even bother laying out a plan, presenting their transition procedure, or even philosophize about how we’d carve out our academic and intellectual sovereignty in a world that’s getting smaller with every great technological leap forward.

To paraphrase Marshall McLuhan, we’re driving towards the future, but our leaders (if you can call them that) keep their gaze uniquely focused on the rear-view mirror.

Do we let this go in the name of political correctness, or as a result of catastrophic laziness, until we don’t recognize you we are nor what we’ve made of ourselves?

Does a nation have to grow up?

2 thoughts on “How to Lose Friends & Alienate People”

  1. Hi!

    Thanks for commenting. Some thoughts on what you said:

    I’m of a similar opinion re the PQ, one reason why I don’t vote for them. They appear to be socialists ‘in sheep’s clothing’ so to speak, and their appeal to baser nationalist instincts often come too close to imitating the same far-right racialist rhetoric we’re seeing in contemporary Europe. At a certain point talk of cultural weakness and the need to ‘solidify’ a type of cultural purity, via socio-political bulwarks of varying kinds, becomes so over-played the real issues lose all meaning and get drowned out in the propaganda of a small clique of elites. It’s all the Tories ever seem to accomplish, Marois and Harper are peas in a pod.

    Concerning Charest – he lost by two seats, admittedly one of his own, and has not been charged with any crime. How caught up in our own imaginations are we as a society when we wilfully choose to ignore the very basic fact that Charest has not once, not ever, been charged in committing any crime of any kind. Maybe he did turn a blind eye. Maybe he had no choice. At least one witness at the Charbonneau Commission (which Charest called) made a thinly-veiled reference to burying someone in cement. Charest has a wife and kids, he’s got a lot of living left to do.

    In any event I’m just guessing – I dont’ know and who does, but I do know he hasn’t been charged, and I do trust our judicial system.

    As to the Constitution, it is a political document that reflects both the day it was written and the people responsible for writing it.

    Consider it’s phrasing too; ‘founded upon principles’ – it’s true, we’re a product of a religiously motivated settlement and forced conversion program dictated by foreign empires, whether we like it or not – and ‘supremacy of God’, not The God, not any particular God, nor, significantly, any particular self-proclaimed messiah. No Christ. No Moses. No Mohammed. ‘Founded upon principles’ and ‘supremacy of God’ is purposely vague and tending towards the secularism that Canada more-or-less officially tends towards. And of course, the next thing it says is that we have freedom of religion and conscience. It’s progressive enough to be vastly applicable – the Canadian Constitution is the most widely copied constitution document in the entire world, more so than its American counterpart – and yet there’s also room for refinement.

    In other words, our fundamental freedoms guarantee our sovereignty, and not the preamble to a legal document.

    As to your difficulties finding Canadian identity, I can only fully recommend the works of John Ralston Saul, particularly A Fair Country, although the Penguin Canada Extraordinary Canadians biography series (which Saul edits) is an excellent introduction to Saul’s way of thinking. I’d particularly recommend the dual biography of Lafontaine and Baldwin, which Saul wrote.

    The creation of Canada was far from accidental. I’m a sovereign Québecois who’d prefer my people work with other Canadians and create something far greater than itself.

  2. I don’t agree with some of your points. Full disclosure, I turned 18 in 1994 and the first time I voted was for the referendum and I voted yes. I am still a seperatist, but I have never voted for the PQ because, even if the media paints them as leftist, they we’re always too much to the right to my taste.

    So, on to my point: even though Charest hasn’t been mentioned in the Charbonneau hearings, he was implicit in most of the corruption by turning a blind eye towards it (just as Tremblay was here in Montreal).

    Second point, I find it hard to say that every canadian citizen is 100% sovereign as long as the 1982 constitution begins with the phrase : “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law”. Ok for the rule of law, but the supremacy of God means that (not in actual fact, I’ll admit) that we must surrender our sovereignty to an imaginary (in my opinion) magical being somewhere in the sky.

    Secondly, I’m a separatist, but for every province. I’ve travelled throughout this huge country, and their is no Canadian culture to speak of (just as there is no Québec culture, or Ontario culture, etc…).

    That being said, I think what this country (whether it be Canada or Québec) needs, is a greater decentralisation of power towards the cities. Ottawa should only take care of the army, provincial gvt make sure that people are educated healthy and housed and have an intercity roadway and communication system while the rest of the powers be delegated to municipal gvt.

    Most of my friends, whether they are anglo or franco, identify much more with Montreal than Québec or Canada (same with me), and I have more in common with someone from Ottawa than someone from Gaspé.

    Who knows, maybe in this era of global communication and trade agreements, the city-state will once more become a reality?

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