Gong Show {Part Deux}

The PQ has backed itself into a corner.

The more they turn up the heat on the charter issue, the less palatable it gets.

When they turn around and then start pushing the referendum issue, this doesn’t work either.

So then they come back with more on the charter, and have demonstrated themselves to be as autocratic and authoritarian as I can imagine the Union Nationale once was.

They’re bleeding supporters to QS. The PQ vote is going to become a rump of wayward ideologues so hell bent on realizing Quebec independence they’re willing to break with their base, turn their backs on their progressive roots and even accept the insane fabrications of a daffy former celebrity as gospel (rather than the sensible thing, which would have been to distance themselves from the the nearly nonagenarian Janette Bertrand).

In case you missed it, she spoke of how Muslim men (rich McGill students) had paid off her building’s owner to allow for segregated swimming times at Le Cartier’s pool.

It’s a great story about how Muslims are using their immense wealth and influence to gently erode the parity between men and women in quasi-secular Quebec.

I’m sure it spoke volumes to the hysterical soccer moms who listened in rapt attention to Ms. Bertrand’s every word at the so-called Secular Brunch.

Here’s the one tiny problem – it never happened.

The Parti Québécois have demonstrated themselves to be ignorant of the basic fact checking done by journalists (insert your own joke about the journalistic standards of the Quebecor/Sun Media chain) and so it shouldn’t come as a surprise when Le Cartier’s manager made it abundantly clear whatever yarn Ms. Bertrand was spinning certainly doesn’t have any basis in reality. He emphatically denied anyone has ever been paid off or that any religious group demanded their own day to swim in the pool.

You’d figure the PQ would be message-control savvy and not have let some old gasbag near the mic without a prepared script, but alas, as bullshit goes they gambled and thought it wouldn’t come back to bite them in the ass, unaware Le Cartier’s management may now be contemplating chucking Janette to the curb for the unwanted and unnecessary political involvement. I’m sure there’s got to be a clause in the condominium agreement owners can’t slander management with outrageous lies.

But this is consistent – the PQ’s base never questions the authority of their leaders. We need to face facts – Catholicism didn’t die in Quebec during the Quiet Revolution, all the mindless, uncritical devotion just switched orientation from one autocratic social machine to another.

When questioned about the Janette ring-leader’s ability to conjure up magical tales of religious minorities dismantling the very fabric of our culture, Pauline Marois, undeterred, simply said she stands by Janette Bertrand, who was ‘simply speaking from the heart.’

I.e. – yes, I know it was bullshit, but don’t tell me it never happened, somewhere, some time.

In the PQ playbook the end always justifies the means.

And this happening the day Radio-Canada announced that Marois hubby and multi-millionaire Claude Blanchet arranged a sneaky campaign financing scheme that skirted established financing rules by having two engineering firms convince their employees to take the form of a financial ‘straw-man’. Granted it wasn’t a significantly large sum of money, but enough to remind us that, for all the mud slung at Philippe Couillard, Pauline Marois and the PQ are just as sketchy financially speaking.

Sometimes I think all politicians in this country are completely incapable of playing by the rules, and those who succeed the most do so only because they manage not to get caught (or else have plenty of underlings to toss under the bus). As this campaign draws to a close my initial impression of Pauline Marois – that she’s a basically a slightly more charismatic, gaffe-prone and unapologetic version of Stephen Harper – hasn’t changed a bit.

And yet it’s all still so far away from a slam dunk. For all of the PQ’s foibles and poor politicking, they somehow maintain a sheen of respectability in Quebec that would never be tolerated anywhere else in Canada and doubtless only at Tea Party rallies down south.

The most absurd moment from last Thursday’s debate was when Legault, David and Marois accused Philippe Couillard of being insensitive to the ‘crucial issue of protecting our national identity’. Couillard had dared to mention he thought bilingualism was an asset.

Any normal person would agree with this fully. I can imagine many péquistes would agree – in person. But during campaign season it seems at least three parties are towing the PQ’s line when it comes to language – French is threatened by all other languages and is the only way of uniting all of Quebec, ergo, it must be championed to the point of discouraging bilingualism ‘except for those who need it most’.

In other words – it’s okay for the privileged elites of Montreal and Quebec City to be bilingual. It’s okay for the rich to be bilingual. It’s okay for the province’s businesspeople, entrepreneurs and all the movers and shakers in media to be bilingual.

Just not the common folk. If they learn English the whole culture of eight million people is at risk.

People who make these arguments elsewhere are derided for their profound ignorance on the issue. Here a politician risks political suicide by proposing knowledge of English might be advantageous on an individual level.

Bilingualism is an asset and it’s scientifically proven to enrich an individual’s ability to speak many languages. Bilingualism begets multi-lingualism, and all tongues are strengthened in the process.

The idea that learning English will kill Quebec culture is absurd.

That three ‘respectable’ political candidates would jump on Couillard’s back for suggesting Francophone Quebecois learn English, and then further insinuate that Couillard is oblivious to the imminent threats against Quebecois culture and identity is even more absurd.

There is no threat and Couillard acknowledges that and stands by it.

Continuing to do so in a calm and collected manner is only going to continue winning him points.

There has to be a breaking point in Quebec politics in which a significant chunk of the population asks themselves whether or not they can trust people who live in a fantasy land where learning English is somehow the final nail in the coffin of a cultural identity reflecting 8 million people.

Ms. David’s comments from debate night proved how little she actually knows about the language of business in Quebec.

She said the towers of downtown Montreal and the Outaouais (meaning Gatineau’s government office complexes) are filled with English speakers.

I suppose this is true to one extent – corporate Montreal and civil service Gatineau are two places where multi-lingualism is an asset. But to say English is taking over. Bullshit. Complete, total, utter bullshit.

I don’t think Ms. David has ever set foot in a Montreal office tower. She knows nothing of the corporate culture in this city.

The truth is that Montreal’s white collar workforce is multi-lingual, multi-cultural and intelligent enough to want to engage and exchange on the cultural and linguistic level with their co-workers, colleagues and friends. The primacy of the French language is unquestioned in the corporate environment, but English is used too. Using both doesn’t mean one is losing ground to the other – this isn’t a zero sum game. After all, English is the language of a considerable number of clients, customers and contractors throughout much of North America, and Quebec does business outside its borders.

Couillard understands that it is inevitable that English (and who knows, Mandarin, Spanish, German, Arabic etc.) will be spoken in our universities, hospitals and yes, our corporate office towers, and that this isn’t a threat to anyone’s cultural identity.

So as much as I don’t care for the PLQ, at the very least they’re not going to push Bill 14 or 60 and recognize legislation of this type to be as damaging as it really is.

It’s unfortunate but this campaign has demonstrated the near total intellectual poverty of our politics. Our choice is between a neurosurgeon with enough sense to know bilingualism is an asset and racism shouldn’t be institutionalized and three people who all fundamentally believe that independence will solve all our problems and the best way to fix the economy is to force doctors, nurses and teachers from their jobs and legislate No English policies in our CEGEPs and boardrooms.

What a choice: reality or fantasy.

***

Post-script: local human rights champion Julius Grey filed an injunction in Quebec superior court as representative of four McGill students denied the right to vote because they ‘lacked the clear intention to be domiciled in Quebec’.

Hearing to be held Wednesday or Thursday morning. Stay tuned.

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