Tag Archives: Parti Québécois

An Ocean Liner to Boost Casino Revenue

Really wish I had taken this - props to whoever did. The Casino, previously the Québec and French pavilions of Expo 67.
Really wish I had taken this – props to whoever did. The Casino, previously the Québec and French pavilions of Expo 67.

So Loto-Québec is planning on introducing drinking on the floors of the province’s four casinos, as part of a broader effort to update and modernize the casinos to increase revenue and draw higher attendance. Currently both are down, prompting the péquiste health minister (?) to state “it’s time we got our heads out of the sand and ensures our casinos can be competitive.” As it stands, Québec’s casinos are the only casinos in North America where the consumption of alcohol is not permitted on the gaming floor.

The plan is that, by getting on board with open drinking on the gaming floor, many more people will visit and revenues will increase. Gérard Bibeau, the head of Loto-Québec believes nearly $100 million in lost revenue could be generated (though it seems he’s basing this calculation on the idea that attendance is down specifically because drinking isn’t permitted. I would hope attendance is down because a sufficient number of people would rather save their hard earned money rather than risk it). Bibeau suggests that the $100 million figure represents what could have been pulled in by the casinos if not for a 4% drop in attendance over the past few years.

Hmmm. What’s been happening that might convince people to stay away from casinos for the past four or five years…?

Loto-Québec’s prohibition of drinking while gambling on the casino floor is certainly particular, especially when you consider that it’s not a prohibition on drinking and gambling in the wider sense. Anyone can drink and gamble themselves into oblivion at video lottery terminals (VLTs) located in every dive bar in the province – and plenty have (though officially the bartender is supposed to discourage this, if I’m not mistaken). And from my experience working in dépanneurs I can tell you drinking and gambling certainly go together, though it has never been my experience that these activities ever did anyone any good.

But I digress.

Many moons ago it was a lovely Tuesday night in the suburbs and my buddies and I were bored. We were young, temporarily unimaginative yet also cognizant that we couldn’t quite figure out what to do with ourselves. So we piled into a car and took off for the Casino de Montréal. It was my first and last time there and I broke even, winning and then losing $100.

The first thing I really took notice of was a geriatric sitting in a pink jumpsuit, slumped ever so slightly over on one side, an oxygen tank leaning against her high chair. She had a neon yellow elastic chord attached from her jumpsuit pocket to a debit card locked into a one-armed bandit, pressing the button as though in a trance.

These are not the people we want in our casinos (admittedly I’m making a jugement call here, but she did not appear to be a high-roller; she looked like a senior citizen gambling away her pension cheque). Adding drink to the mix will make this problem worse. We want other people’s money – tourist money.

When the Casino de Montréal opened in 1993 it was a bit of a big deal. It’s a surprisingly large casino by Canadian standards, featuring over a hundred gaming tables and 3,200 gaming machines, not to mention the bars and restaurants (three and four respectively) as well as the cabaret and assorted meeting and banquet facilities. As intended, it’s open all day every day of the year and is located far from the city, isolated from the pedestrian and public transit pace of the downtown core on Ile-Notre-Dame. It came to be a year after the city’s 350th anniversary as part of a series of civic improvement projects instituted by Mayor Doré. In this particular case, it allowed for two iconic Expo pavilions to be preserved and rendered permanent. As such, it is peculiar for a casino, as it features low ceilings, natural sunlight and openly encourages its patrons to step away from the tables to smoke, drink and socialize.

When it opened, it was supposed to be classy. The restaurants were top-notch, the chefs and wine selection unbeatable. There was even a dress code – jackets and ties for men, no hats, no jeans etc.

I think this is something we should maintain. Everything about our casino, as initially intended, was almost designed to de-emphasize the gambling. It’s not a big gray box. It doesn’t disorient the patrons by omitting windows. It invites patrons to step away from the gaming, to go outside and get some fresh air. These are design elements we should continue to value.

There’s no doubt our casino and state-regulated gambling is useful – it funnels money from the people’s pocket back into the government purse. Loto-Québec is a provincial crown corporation whose mandate is ‘to operate games of chance in the province in an orderly and measured way’ and I would argue strongly they do a generally good job, even though I’m morally opposed to the practice in the first place.

I suppose it’s not so bad if it’s rich people who’re losing their money – they can afford it.

But all too often casinos wind up preying, even if indirectly, on the poorest elements of society – they people most desperate for a financial break are all too often those with bad finances and who exercise poor jugement with their money. And whereas there once were controls – like the dress code and limitations on drinking on the playing floor – these have been shelved to accomodate the poor yet regular patrons who provide the bulk of the casino’s revenue during a prolonged period of economic instability, such as we’re experiencing right now.

But my question is this. Is this really the best way to increase revenue? How much extra coin could this actually produce?

And why look to locals as our main source of casino revenue?

And why isn’t Montreal’s casino generating money specifically for our own needs? The city could use revenue generated by the Casino de Montréal more immediately and doubtless more efficiently. As an example, with new legislation, the Casino de Montréal’s revenue could be re-directed towards costly and necessary infrastructure improvements to local schools (you’ll no doubt recall many local schools have severe mould and asbestos problems). Or to provide scholarships and bursaries for post-secondary education. Or to help defray the massive cost overruns of the new hospitals. or to improve public transit. The list goes on. As it stands today this money is sent to Québec City, where I suppose it’s moved back into general revenue.

This doesn’t help us much at all, yet Montréal is on the hook for nearly every negative repercussion from casino operations in the city – everything from the social problems associated with gambling addiction in our poorest neighbourhoods to the inevitable suicides and road accidents that happen on the otherwise deserted junction of Ave. Pierre-Dupuy and the Pont de la Concorde.

So let’s do something different.

The city ought to take in a greater share of our casino’s revenue, but we can’t argue this position unless we’re willing to provide our own plan to increase attendance and revenue. Thus, I would argue strongly that the city should look to acquire the single greatest missing piece from our casino’s master plan – a hotel – and assist in redeveloping the Casino de Montréal with a new hotel & resort component. This in turn could be part of a larger plan to increase the use and revenue generated by all the diverse functions of parc Jean-Drapeau.

But where would we build a hotel? Ile-Notre-Dame doesn’t have much space to support a large hotel, and construction may render the island temporarily unusable.

Permanently mooring a cruise ship or ocean liner within proximity of the casino presents us with an interesting possibility to get everything we need for a major casino expansion without having to build much. It would allow us to rather suddenly put a lot of hotel space more or less in the centre of the city’s park islands. Rather than building new we simply tow a full expansion into position. It would look good, it would be exceptionally unique and would further serve to provide a lot of direct financial stimulus for our otherwise underused (and at times worn-down) parc Jean-Drapeau.

Inter-island Channel, Parc Jean-Drapeau
Inter-island Channel, Parc Jean-Drapeau

And wouldn’t you know it, we could park a cruise ship or old ocean liner right here between the inter-island bridges. One would fit perfectly (though we might have to dredge the channel and temporarily remove one of the bridges) and I think in a broader sense fulfill a grander scheme for the park islands. I’ve often felt that this grand playground lacks any unifying cohesiveness – it’s simply the space we put all the stuff we can’t place elsewhere. We’ve purposely concentrated a lot of diverse entertainment in one space and have done well in maintaining that space’s utility within the public conception of the urban environment. Yet it’s still very detached, isolated even, from the rest of the city.

I feel a floating hotel solves more than one problem, using the location’s relative isolation to its advantage. For locals and people from the region, it could provide a much-needed ‘urban resort’, a place to get away from it all that’s oddly located in the middle of everything. For foreign tourists or families on vacation, it provides a hotel in a controlled environment almost exclusively dedicated to family friendly activities. Re-instituting the dress code and prohibiting drinking from the gaming floor in this newly expanded casino could serve to help sell the image of a classy and unique vacation experience catering to a wide variety of tastes.

Think about it – Parc Jean-Drapeau is a large multi-use park with a considerable natural component, occupying roughly the same amount of space as Mount Royal Park (2.1 square kilometers). It features, among others, a beach, an aquatics centre & rowing basin, manicured parks and trails, an amusement park, a historic fort and a premier outdoor concert venue. Placing a hotel in the middle of it, associated with the aforementioned casino, would surely drive up revenue not only for the casino but everything else going on at the park as well. It could conceivably make the park more useful during the winter months and provide sufficient new revenue so as to redevelop the Biosphere, Helene-de-Champlain restaurant and give the whole place a facelift too. And I don’t think it would take much of anything away from the city’s existing hotels as, from my experience, parc Jean-Drapeau is nearly exclusively used by locals, being perhaps a little too detached for tourists.

SS United States by Wikipedia contributor Lowlova
SS United States by Wikipedia contributor Lowlova

For your consideration, this rather handsome looking (and famous) ocean liner, the SS United States, can accomodate 5,000 people and is in desperate need of a buyer to keep her from the breakers. The idea of permanently mooring an ocean liner somewhere in the Old Port isn’t entirely new either. Aside form the fact that it’s already been done elsewhere, our own Mayor Drapeau wanted to use an ocean liner to house Olympic athletes during the `76 Games, with the idea being that the ship would be converted into a floating hotel, casino and convention centre afterwards as part of a broad facelift for the Old Port. His preferred vessel was the SS Normandie.

Definitely worth reconsidering, in my humble option.

If you happen to be looking to buy a cruise ship, look no further.

Separatism is a Scam

20120814
Not the work of the author, though this author would gladly high-five the illustrator for a job well done

This article was originally published on Forget the Box.

I was remiss to discover that a recent poll suggests maybe as many as 42% of Anglo-Québécois thought of splitting the province and moving elsewhere when the PQ got elected back in September.
And a few days later another poll suggested 58% of Anglo-Québécois said they feel comfortable and integrated into Québec society, enough so, I would imagine, that they feel no urge to leave.
This number needs to be far higher, but it takes a community – a real, tangible community – to do something about it. A community that doesn’t exist by virtue of handouts from various levels of government, nor to please care-taker cabinet ministers, one which carves its own path as it sees fit, secure in its ability to fund and stimulate its own growth and development. If Québec’s Anglophone community can do this, we could secure Québec’s place in Canada.

And why not, what’s not to like? Québec is a good place to live, despite the corruption and high taxes. We have an evolving social state that can provide immense benefits you simply won’t find elsewhere in Canada. We live with tangible public freedom, safe and secure from too much external pressure. And if we figure out how to become masters of our domain we can and will achieve a prolonged economic resurgence, one immeasurably beneficial to all strata of our society, further serving to position Québec in its rightful place within Confederation – the voice of progress, the province of the future.

Québec has potential. Québec is a safe bet.

Besides, with every new generation of Anglo-Québécois, we become more integrated and better adapted to this society, and our inherent integration better suits us to the evolving global village in general – we become international citizens by virtue of the society of our birth. This, in conjunction of what we perceive to be an unstable socio-political situation at home convinces some to leave permanently; our numbers have indeed been reduced by roughly a quarter-million people over the last forty years. But for those who stayed, our acceptance of bilingualism has quite frankly put us in an excellent position to reap the benefits of multilingualism and multiculturalism as personal lifestyle choices.
So why not choose to be Anglo-Québécois, the quintessential example of the culturally integrated Canadian?

Somewhat paradoxically, if you don’t feel your French is sufficient enough to live and work in Québec, it’s likely more than sufficient for a wide variety of well-paying government posts throughout the vast expanses of our immense nation. And doubtless you’ll find not only Québécois ‘ex-pat’ communities in all major and minor Canadian cities, but local Francophone populations as well.

And yet despite all this we’re to believe that the French fact in Canada is under immense pressure to assimilate into, get this, a vast and apparently omnipotent Canadian identity, clearly defined as the opposition to everything that Québec is.

The Québec sovereignty movement defines itself in how it is not Canadian, but curiously it also assumes the monolith of Canadian identity, one that simply does not exist.

There is no ROC from which the separatist movement can define itself against, and separatism for that and many other reasons is quite simply a scam.

A nationalist movement based on a snake-oil salesman’s understanding of history, as opportunistic and omitting as you might expect.

***

As a person who has worked for two non-profit academic organizations that dealt expressly with the articulation and popular development of Canadian identity, culture and society, I can tell you there is no single, definitive Canadian identity. At our best we’re cognizant that ours is an evolving identity striving for a broad set of rights and responsibilities common to all citizens as framework for a modern political identity, but at our worst we define ourselves in terms of what or who we are not. You’ve doubtless heard the warning before – Canada cannot be defined in terms of how un-American we are. So too for that reason, Québec cannot define its character and identity in terms un-Canadian it is. When you look to see what lies tat he heart of Québec society, you find the very roots of Canadian progressivism, and that from which all of Canada grew.

And we’re expected to believe the trunk will live long and prosper while the roots are ripped from the soil; it astounds me how a political party has been able to convince so many of us of the seriousness of their message without ever producing any kind of plan for exactly how they propose to remove an already sovereign province from Confederation.

The PQ tells us not to worry about it – we’ll figure it out as we go along.

It’s not just that the PQ is both inept and lackadaisical in their efforts, it’s that they haven’t really ever bothered to explain to the public what they would do in a simple and straightforward manner. It’s as if they don’t even believe in the likelihood of separation, so much so that they wouldn’t bother wasting the time or energy to draw up a ‘to do list’ of sorts. No, no of course not – under promise and over deliver, right? Keep it vague; keep it emotional.

Ours is tabloid politics. Sensational. Scandal-plagued. An ad-man’s wet dream, presto plastic pop politics, delivered straight to the heart like hot lead from propaganda machine gun. We don’t have a government; we have a bullshit machine that feeds the media, keeping us distracted from the fact that we who disdain and decry the mindless election of the federal Tories have subsequently elected a government with a leader of similarly dubious charismatic qualities and a profound lack of innovative, imaginative spirit or long-term vision.

The students are learning this lesson quite literally as we speak.

So are all the small-business owners who have felt the sting of an inebriated sense of entitlement by a marauding gang of over-zealous ‘language cops’ – have you ever heard of anything quite as absurd as this?

Remove steak from the menu.

Remove WC from atop the washroom door.

Pasta is an unacceptable term in an Italian restaurant.

Use masking tape to cover the On/Off button on your microwave.

And chew on this while we’re at it – the OQLF has a budget of $24.7 million – enough to pay full annual tuition for nearly 9,000 students.

The PQ wasn’t happy at how quickly world media picked up the story and was hypercritical of the current, temporary separatist government.

In her efforts to garner international support, Marois has come up flat, embarrassingly so.

***

But back to us, those who are smart enough to brush this off and say to hell with it, I’m going to ride this out. How long can idiocy of this magnitude really last?
We can’t speak for all of Québec and we might not be able to do much at the moment to change things on the whole, but we can at the very least determine to coalesce into a more cohesive whole.

If we stay and grow we don’t just secure our own social and cultural survival, we’ll gain economic and political power too. If we stay we’ll eventually attain full acceptance from the Francophone majority, if not full integration. And if we stay, succeed and grow we will also fundamentally change the social and political balance in Canada, for there will be a post-modern Métis society concentrated in South-western Québec, as Québécois as they are Canadian, sustaining itself.

But make no mistake, the people who keep the peoples together will have no choice but to support themselves completely. There’s no White Knight coming to save us; if we don’t save ourselves, by finding our own opportunities, developing our own charities and eliminating out-migration, no one will.

***

Over the last few weeks the Anglo-Québécois community has felt the sting of a vindictive and comic government hell-bent on the destruction of Canada via the removal of Québec – the original Canada, the place from which all of Canada grew, from where all the money, labour and intellectual capital flowed for the hundred or so years prior to and immediately after Confederation. The PQ will have you believe that Québec has no place in such a nation, and further still has so little in common with the Confederation that it must go forward as an independent country. They’ve been beating this drum for more than forty years, and it’s been about that long that Québec has generally been on the decline in terms of political influence in Ottawa and economic influence nationally.

As the movement developed over the years it moved from the original goals of a) securing the French language through legislation (mission accomplished by the way – Bill 101 as it was written in 1977 is more than sufficient to guarantee the supremacy of the French language in Québec forevermore), b) minimizing the revenue waste and corruption of the previous Liberal and Union Nationale governments (again, job well done – Lévesque’s government from 1976 to about 1981 was one of the least corrupt in Canadian history) and c) re-negotiating Québec’s place in Canada (again, kudos – though the 1980 Referendum was a Federalist victory, Trudeau made good on a campaign promise to repatriate the Constitution and develop a civil rights charter, itself based on the PQ-written Charte des droits de l’homme; the original referendum question was to do just this – re-open Constitutional talks, not independence, so again, I doff my hat in memory of Oncle René).

But as many go-nowhere independence movements, the PQ has transformed into something far less inspiring, and polls continue to suggest that interest in separation is still far too low amongst Franco-Québécois, meaning that regardless of Pauline Marois’ narrow-minded vision, the so-called winning conditions still elude us.

And as such we’re stuck in an interminable limbo.

In the meantime the PQ government has no choice but to feed the machine as it were, and as they backtrack on various campaign promises and make horrific cuts to healthcare and education (something that affects all Québécois, regardless of mother-tongue), and so, true to form (because we’ve seen this many times before), they push increasingly unnecessary, needlessly divisive and draconian legislation designed to fight a war of political attrition against a non-existent enemy.

Enter legislation to eliminate government funding for Anglophone CEGEPS, of which there are five out of 48, with roughly 30% Francophone enrolment.

Or legislation such as Bill 14 that seeks to eliminate the bilingual status of a number of small ‘historically English’ communities throughout the province.

Or another bit of legislation, designed to require many small enterprises to function in French.

You see, the Anglo-Québécois are viewed as suspect requiring such legislation – it’s all too often about making it clear English won’t be tolerated so long as the façade of French linguistic annihilation can be maintained for all the good it does for our overly sensitive local media; geographically almost exclusively found adjacent to the Ontario and American borders they almost exclusively vote against referendums and the PQ. They can’t be swayed to vote in favour of separation, and so because nothing of substance can be done about it, a joker, a halfwit troll enters the arena as custodian of the Anglophone community of Québec. And his office churns out saccharine pop-propaganda, cutely entitled ‘Notre Home’ to remind us we’re Québécois too – that we belong.

It’s insulting, it’s juvenile and transparent in the worst possible ways, but it’s no need for alarm.

To borrow a line from the Simpson’s, the PQ is as impotent as a Nevada gaming commissioner.

Somewhat to his credit, Stephen Harper hasn’t bitten. The alarmist press claims its delicate and conscientious leadership on his part but I see it as simple dismissal. Harper takes the approach of a successful Second World War Battle of Britain bomber pilot – they never bothered learning the names of the green new pilots in their squadrons until at least five sorties, as the chances of a new pilot going down in flames the first time out was so unbelievably high. Harper’s not going to take Pauline Marois seriously until she either does something incredibly drastic (like a Unilateral Declaration of Independence) or has survived several elections and established a majority.

Neither of these scenarios seem likely to me – Marois and the PQ are filling a vacuum until a real party is established. And let me be perfectly clear – the PQ is not a party; it wasn’t created as a party, merely a protest movement to get Québec the recognition and respect it rightly deserved. Today it perpetuates old stories of racial and linguistic divides to perpetuate it’s very own raison-d’être. There’s no vision in reactionary, stifling social policy; Harper will learn that lesson himself in 2015. We can only hope Marois takes off long before that.

In the meantime the Anglo-Québécois needs to keep its collective head.

We cannot become a Diaspora. We don’t nearly have enough self-confidence. At best, if we do nothing, we die out slowly, a cultural oddity of no real significance.
And many of us think that way – tell a minority they’re the cause of the majority’s problems often enough and they tend to believe it. Those who have the means leave, and those who don’t grow sad, hold grudges, begin to hate, etc.

We’ve seen it a thousand times before. We’re human, and not too highly evolved either, because we continue that which does not work, that which has failed so many times before, and we keep it up because it’s all we know – we’re used to it. We’re so unimaginative and easily swayed by mere propaganda we habitually miss the forest for the tress, unable to grasp the reality of our situation.
We’re an odd minority, that’s certainly one way of looking at it, and more often than not it tends towards questioning how we ever came to be in the first place. We’re told we’re rich, powerful, conservative, monarchists even, regardless of who we really are and we truly do. We’re a scapegoat and a political tool. What’s ironic is that those of us who stayed – and who continue to stay – are those who lack the means to adequately safeguard our society and culture against unwanted, coercive assimilation.

The WASPs left long ago, Westmount shed its Rhodesians, and the language of corporate Montreal is most assuredly French.

But most importantly, and never forget this, French hasn’t disappeared, and neither have we.

But we’d nonetheless be very wise to not let the PQ bother us, to simply carry on with what we’re doing, living our lives as we see fit.
T
he question is not about whether Québec will separate, but rather how long it will take the PQ, as occasional agent of minor governance, to make this province uncomfortable for anyone who doesn’t see eye-to-eye with them, Anglophone, Francophone and Allophone alike.

They’re trying to shore up their position not by attracting new supporters, but by pushing people out of the contest altogether.

The only suitable response for those who have no interest in being dictated to is to learn French, integrate and bring our point to ‘les autres’.

Ultimately, ours is the position of open acceptance, and it’s the only way forward.

Changing the Game

Admittedly, not our proudest moment as Montrealers
Admittedly, not our proudest moment as Montrealers

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.

An illustration of the maturity of progressive Québécois politicians
An illustration of the maturity of progressive Québécois politicians

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).

Used Without Permission
Used Without Permission

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.

A member of the RRQ makes a compelling and insightful argument for the merits of an independent Québec state.
A member of the RRQ makes a compelling and insightful argument for the merits of an independent Québec state.

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.