We need to change the question of Québec independence.
From the ground up, in fact.
For nearly forty years Montréal has been on a veritable decline – in terms of economic security, long-term investment, population growth and relative political power among others – and the single driving force of this decline is the as-yet unresolved (and I would argue fundamentally dishonest, historically inaccurate and politically hypocritical) issue of Québec separation.
We’ve been lucky – the decline has been steady and, at the best of times, appearing to be on the way out. It certainly helped that, since the creation of the Parti Québécois most of the significant prime ministers – Trudeau, Mulroney, Chretien and Martin – have Québec roots and strong personal connections with Montréal. But alas, it’s 2013 and the City of Montréal finds itself in a perilous state. Now the prime minister is a schmuck, a mail-room clerk with a spending habit, decidedly anti-Québécois in manner and speech. We also have a separatist dimwit premiere trying to impose austerity measures, something I would have figured ran counter to progressive, perhaps even historically Keynesian economic approaches valued by the PQ. A considerable portion of the local population is now thinking about greener pastures elsewhere, a brain drain is occurring, militant student protesters clash with police in our city’s streets, we have no faith in municipal officials and our initial enthusiasm about Ms. Marois (thinking she might, at least, focus on the economy, progressive social values and seek to run a corruption-free government) has all but disappeared as we begin to see her true colours as a vindictive and short-sighted wannabe iconoclast.
We have a place-holder mayor and our public focus, of late, has been on the over-zealous actions of a state-sponsored public annoyance while we wonder whether the Charbonneau Commission has anything more than quick wit and a sharp tongue-lashing in store for the criminal shit-stains who have robbed us of an immense wealth in tax-revenue with kick-backs and socks stuffed with cash.
Our city isn’t just held hostage by an unstable political situation, it’s that such a situation is being purposely maintained, and has been for quite some time in fact, quite to the benefit of the organized crime element in the city. As long as the political situation remains unstable, political parties of every shape and size will seek to attain some new leverage by feeling compelled to bend or break rules to secure a militant voting base.
Is it any wonder our best and brightest refuse to involve themselves with politics? It’s a losing proposition, particularly if you actually value clean government over whatever bribe might get waved in your face. The altruistic among us leave – if we can’t get our shit together here why even bother trying to create a more perfect and just society, we were best suited to make it happen, and look at us now. Forty years of stasis.
At the provincial level it seems as though one party is in bed with the mob while the other is in bed with the unions that work for the mob. The rest don’t owe anyone any favours and thus aren’t likely to get elected, even in a province as progressive as our own. This situation trickles down to municipal level, especially when it concerns Montréal – that from where nearly all the money flows. Either way you slice it, it’s the people who wind up fucked.
This has been going on for far too long, and I know I can’t be alone thinking we fundamentally need to change the question, change the political situation, so at the very least it is the people of Montréal who force and shape the issue.
As long as the question of Québec independence remains unresolved, we cannot hope to grow, to develop, to progress as a city. We’ll remain stuck between the apparently competing interests of Québec and Canada. We’ll remain hostages.
If the twentieth was the century of nation-states, then the twenty-first shall be the century of great cities; already we’re seeing the development of an entirely new network of key cities that focus the world’s cultural, social and political development, a trend that will assuredly grow as cities begin to implement new methods to lessen their negative environmental and ecological footprints. A lot of progress will flow forth from cities the world over, and I want Montréal to regain its position as a global city, a leading city, a city that defines itself and future orientation, rather than one caught between outside interests attempting to settle scores from a quater-millenium ago. Our greatness cannot and will not be denied.
I want the brain-drain to end, I want an end to the instability. Most of all, I don’t want our city to continue having to go hat in hand to various levels of government seeking funds to grow. Enough is enough, we have nearly two million people within the city and another two living in bedroom suburbs that simply would not exist without the city’s economic power. Why are we not in control of our own destiny?
Is it not time for us to be masters in our own house?
I propose we change the debate – permanently – so that Canada and Québec work for us, and we cease to be the battleground for this ridiculous war of attrition. Let’s be real – don’t tell me these student demos concern the rise in tuition exclusively – this is just as much an expression of extreme public distaste for the Harper regime and the ‘out-of-left-field’ development of a socially-regressive and economically incompetent conservative element in Canadian politics.
But we cannot be a permanent political battleground, which is why we must forge ahead and seek to do what is best for ourselves first and foremost. I’m not advocating that Montréal seek to make itself a sovereign and separate entity – far from it – but it wouldn’t hurt us to steer the conversation, and possibly seek to create new revenue streams and strategic wealth reserves so as to throw a bit of weight behind our demands, our interests as a city and metropolis.
So how do we change the conversation?
Either Montréal will become Québec’s metropolis and economic capital or it will be rejuvenated as Canada’s cosmopolis and international city. But it’s high time the matter is settled permanently so that we can get on with our lives and start planning our city’s future.
That, of course, is far easier said than done. The spineless Parti Québécois has so far fell so short of numerous campaign promises it is now focused nearly uniquely on punitive measures designed to limit the Anglo-Québécois community to a permanent underclass. Provisions in Bill 14 to change the bilingual status of numerous ‘historically Anglophone’ communities is quite literally erasing their existence and making it impossible for their presence throughout much of Québec to be sustained.
Hitting Montréal right in the pills are the provisions that demand all entreprises over ten employees to conduct all official business in French. For the innumerable start-ups and small businesses that actually drive the local economy, this may prove the final straw; why stay here when your clients are all in Silicon Valley?
The PQ wants to go further still by making it impossible for Francophones and Allophones to attend bilingual ‘Anglophone’ post-secondary institutions (literally telling adults where they can go to school, and what languages they can choose to be instructed in). And despite massive cuts to education and healthcare, there’s apparently more than enough money to continue funding the OQLF, who rather than do anything to encourage people to speak French, send petty, short-sighted zombies to harass local small businesses, charging them if they dare display a sign in English (which now includes the On/Off switch on microwaves, signs that say WC above the loo, the words pasta, caffé, steak).
All of this isn’t just bad for Québec’s Anglophones mind you, it’s bad for Montréal as well. Montréal’s future as an integrated cosmopolis is largely dependent on how the Francophone majority interacts with the Anglophone minority, and how both communities seek to pursue enhanced cultural integration. The inter-married, multicultural and multi-lingual among us should be particularly prized as a clear sign of the future – languages can coexists, even at an official level, with no cultural loss or societal deterioration. Those come about when we retreat into our silos and define ourselves in terms of opposition. It screws up literally everything we’ve been working towards over the course of the last 371 years.
Quick aside, I was overjoyed to see how quickly all this OQLF bullshit went viral, attracting international scorn and further serving to remind the world of what a pathetic laughing stock the PQ really is.
For a party that claims to wish to defend the ‘European’ or ‘Latin’ in North America, it’s remarkably poor at recognizing most Europeans have openly accepted multi-lingualism and it hasn’t had any negative effect whatsoever on the sanctity of the myriad languages spoken in Europe. For a party that suggests it is emblematic of a bright future for Québec, it’s remarkably poor at understanding modern communications and social media technologies as well. Perhaps this explains their inability to recognize our nascent high-technology start-ups, the ones that function principally in English and are focused on international business development, are so crucial to our future economic success.
In any event I digress. The future of Québec and Canada is a question Montréal wants solved, needs to have solved, in order to free us to grow, to become the great leading city we’ve always been destined to become.
I call on our potential mayoral candidates to state not a cop-out position of official neutrality on the issue of Québec separatism, but rather state a defined position that the problem must be solved immediately, and that until the issue is settled, Montréal will do what is best for its own citizens.
I would go so far as to recommend Montréal begin setting aside money as a permanent source of capital (much like the current Mayor of Atlanta did, setting aside a $100 million war chest of sorts to use as equity for a variety of long-term development projects). But we should take it a step further, seeking to unify all school boards into a single city-administered public education department and finally desegregate our schools, followed by mandatory bilingual public education (French being the majority language of instruction regardless of mother-tongue) in addition to taking a leadership role in maintaining decentralized public healthcare services. We already know superhospitals are an obsolete concept, and we should reconsider gutting our historic hospitals and selling them off to condo developers – these are our properties, our resources, and they ought to be ours to administer and use as we see fit.
Montréal must do what is best for its citizens, first and foremost. If we are unique amongst Canadian cities we should be cognizant as well of our uniqueness among Québec’s cities too.
Remaining in the middle, caught between competing interests gives us nothing but fodder for our media, and countless reasons to hate on each other, returning to solitudes and silos, something we once turned our backs on as regressive, counter to our nature.
Our city will only succeed when our own citizens recognize their inherent, personal sovereignty, and the sanctity of our own society and culture.