Tag Archives: Pauline Marois

High Hopes

Credit to Canadian Press
Credit to Canadian Press

Last night Quebec won. All of Quebec, all of us.

We won because the party that promised another doubtlessly fruitless referendum and an unbearably regressive plot to institutionalize discriminatory hiring practices in the civil service lost, and lost big. Twenty-four seats in the National Assembly lost, including that of current party leader Pauline Marois.

Ms. Marois has so far indicated she will resign as leader of the Parti Québécois, as is the custom of Canadian political party leaders upon such a staggering defeat.

And to think we thought the race was ever close…

The problem from day one was that the PQ was so fully focused on the charter and a referendum they became blind to the actual wants and needs of the people of Quebec. They are precisely the kinds of issues that generate a lot of talk but won’t necessarily translate into actual gains. Sure, they mobilized people, but they mobilized the base, the die-hards. Neither of these issues could possibly attract more voters, especially not in the province’s two major cities. In the end it was all bark and no bite.

The PQ failed to realize aggressively campaigning on these issues would backfire as they would invariably open the party up not only to harsh criticism but perhaps more damagingly it would end up exposing the PQ’s weak flank – their ideologues. The dogmatists of the party have a bad habit of propagating hate-speech, slander, fictions great and small and even conspiracy theories to advance their cause, and as the ideas sank in popularity the hysterical rhetoric of the PQ’s backbench came to the fore.

Suffice it to say it’s a good argument in favour of tight message control.

Marois, Lis̩e and to a lesser extent Drainville spent much of the campaign clarifying and re-clarifying two focal points of the campaign that were specifically vague to begin with Рit was generally understood the PQ had no plan in place to kickstart constitutional negotiations, nor any idea of what kind of judicial trouble Bill 60 would get them in to.

And so there was no time left to speak of real, concrete plans to improve life in this province, opening the door to Philippe Couillard to define his own message as one that appealed to all the critics and Doubting Thomas’ of our province vis-a-vis independence and the charter, and all of us who’re most concerned about the economic wellbeing of our home province.

As the campaign entered the mud-slinging phase of the last week and a bit, all he had to do was pretty much the same as when he started and it was a sure bet he’d end up on top. The only good response to hysterical attempts at character assassination is not to acknowledge them. That’s strength, real power. It is literally rising above the fray and it conveys a powerful image.

So now that he’s Premier-Designate (because, of course, all Premiers are idiotically not elected directly by the people, but are rather appointed by the lieutenant-governor based on election results), we can all take a breather. A neurosurgeon for a federalist premier, one who acknowledges our primary position within Confederation, our influence on national affairs since before Canada was even a country, and the fact that knowledge of more than one language is both beneficial to the individual and in no way threatens the knowledge of the mother tongue. This is the man who will govern us for the next four and a half years.

I wonder how many of us secretly breathed a sigh of relief last night. I’m not fond of the Quebec Liberal Party though I did vote for a Liberal candidate I’m proud to say won her seat in the National Assembly. I breathed a sigh of relief not because I have any particular trust or faith in Philippe Couillard, but because I know he’s smart enough not to campaign on the politics of division and fear. I’m relieved because I trust people who have worked serious, professional, high-stakes jobs over career politicians.

Unfortunately, history is not on the side of the Quebec Liberals – most former Liberal premiers have started strong but wound up finishing wallowing in the mire. Coincidentally, so have most Montreal Mayors and Canadian Prime Ministers too. Perhaps the problem has more to do with the extant political system and how parties work than they do with the leadership.

So far Mr. Couillard has promised to create the most transparent government in Quebec history, to focus on job creation, and has pledged to work with the other provinces so that Quebec can take a more prominent role in national affairs. He will seek to develop new bonds with neighbouring provinces, and has also promised to cooperate with Quebec’s ‘big-city’ mayors to ensure metropolitan status carries a greater share of local responsibility and operational autonomy.

Denis Coderre, ever the shrewd politician, welcomed ‘the stability of a majority government’ without directly endorsing Couillard or the Quebec Liberals.

Mr. Couillard has also indicated former Premier Daniel Johnson will oversee a transition process, that he will work with all parties to develop programs and policies that address a wide spectrum of concerns, and that he will go ahead with the PQ’s proposed dying with dignity bill.

So far so good, especially on that last point. More than gesture to the PQ, it acknowledges a fundamentally good idea – inasmuch as human beings can control the creation of life, so too should they have control over their own deaths. It is a fundamentally humanist and progressive concept, and as you can imagine I’m all for it.

As to the rest of Mr. Couillard’s promises, I’m hopeful he’ll win me over and carry on with the work he laid out for himself. Concerning his key promise to improve the economy, apparently the Canadian Dollar rose modestly upon the news of the decisive Liberal victory.

I’m sure our local real estate market is also feeling rather bullish.

And now that this mess is all over with, we’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming.

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.

Voter Suppression in 2014 Quebec Election

Something tells me we won't be seeing major protests against voter suppression...
Something tells me we won’t be seeing major protests against voter suppression…

Hundreds of people have been turned away from voter registration centres in the Montreal region, notably in the Westmount-St-Louis and Saint-Marie-Saint-Jacques ridings, because they ‘lack the intent’ to stay, live and work in Quebec.

Nearly all of these people have something in common. They are students who were not born here.

The story broke two days ago when Dune Desormeaux (yes, you read that right, his last name is Desormeaux, as in Adam Dollard des Ormeaux, hero of the colonists of Ville-Marie) and another McGill student, Angela Larose (yeah – you can’t make this up) were both denied the right to register to vote because a reporting officer indicated they lacked the ‘intent’ to stay in Quebec and could not be considered domiciled here.

The basic minimum requirement to vote in Quebec provincial elections is very straightforward.

You must be of majority age, a Canadian citizen and have been domiciled in the province for at least six months. You also can’t be in provincial custodianship or a criminal in order to exercise your democratic right.

The reason so many were refused the right to vote comes down to the interpretation of the word ‘domicile’. According to the students interviewed over the last two days almost all of them indicated reporting officers took issue with the fact that they didn’t have Quebec medicare cards to prove their identities. When they indicated the reason was because they’re students and therefore can’t apply for medicare cards they were told the *clearly* lack the intent to stay in Quebec and thus cannot be considered as domiciled in Quebec.

It is a ruthlessly rigid interpretation of the law that is so extreme it begs the question – why are frontline elections officers judging people’s intent in the first place?

And is it really fair to question university students about their long-term plans?

And wouldn’t a more open interpretation of the intent rule subsequently result in more people voting and more people feeling attached and integrated into Quebec society?

Would you want to stay in a place that wouldn’t allow you the right to vote, despite the fact that you have all reasonable proof of that right?

Arielle Vaniderstine is a first-year McGill University student who was one of at least three I can verify who were told they can’t vote because their lack of a medicare card ‘proved’ their lack of intent to stay in Quebec. She had initially been told her registration was cleared but this decision was reversed the following day. She’s been living in Montreal since last June, is over the age of majority and a Canadian citizen. She proved her identity and address with the following documents: a passport, a birth certificate and a Hydro-Québec bill from last summer.

When I spoke with her yesterday she was troubled by the decision and her lack of recourse. She told me her first paying job was in Quebec and that she’s filing Quebec tax documents. She came here from Prince Edward Island because she wanted to experience Montreal and Quebec and develop her French language skills. She told me specifically that she wants to vote because it’s part of her intent to integrate into Quebec society and that our politics inspired her to exercise the only real political power any of us really have – our sole vote.

Unfortunately for Ms. Vaniderstine and the apparently hundreds of others turned away from registration centres in downtown Montreal the decisions of the reporting officers are final.

Worse still, after speaking with Elections Quebec spokesperson Denis Dion, it seems that there’s an almost ‘church and state’ like separation between the reporting officers and the elections board. Monsieur Dion told me the only real recourse is to take the matter up with the courts.

As you might imagine it’s unlikely this will happen. Students aren’t exactly rolling in the dough, so to speak, and they can’t possibly be expected to have the kind of scratch necessary to pursue this through the court system. A freshman could very well have graduated by the time the courts get around to hearing the case. Again, this really doesn’t encourage anyone to stay and fight for their rights.
It’s 2014 and people who have every right to vote in Quebec elections are being told they can’t.

Considering we still have segregated schools and rampant Islamophobia in our province, this should come as no surprise.

***

Now here’s where things get really shitty.

We live in a province where at least one political ideology is given carte-blanche on insane conspiracy theories.

Such as:

‘The FLQ was an RCMP false-flag operation to discredit the separatist movement’

‘The 1995 Quebec Referendum was stolen by federalists’

‘Official bilingualism is cultural genocide’

And according to the now resigned head of the Saint-Marie-Saint-Jacques (SMSJ herein) electoral reporting office in downtown Montreal, “it’s as if Trudeau airport were wide open and someone was passing out visas without asking any questions”. Mathieu Vandal resigned from his post Friday, saying he couldn’t cope with the abnormal influx of Anglophone and Allophone voters looking to register.

This is the kind of person put in charge of registering citizens to exercise their fundamental democratic rights.

And if that doesn’t make you cringe I don’t know what will.

Today’s news is that Pauline Marois is concerned about ‘electoral fraud’ in the adjoining ridings of SMSJ and Westmount-Saint-Louis and has indicated she’d like Elections Quebec to investigate. To be precise, the fraud she wants investigated isn’t voters being defrauded from their democratic right to vote. She wants an investigation into why so many Anglophone and Allophone voters have suddenly shown up to register in these ridings, insinuating she believes Mathieu Vandals’ initial, ignorant assertions.

The fact of the matter is that these ridings happen to have a lot of students and immigrants – two groups of people historically disenfranchised from local and provincial politics – who suddenly have every reason to vote against the proposed Charter of Values.

For these people, the charter represents everything wrong with this province, and all that we’re not. These people came here for a reason – because we are open, tolerant, cosmopolitan – and now a charter to institutionalize racism threatens all that is fundamentally good about this province.

It’s the kind of political issue so important it actually encourages people to get involved in politics. It should be very clear to everyone with the least political common sense in this province that the apparent increase in voter registration is not because of some vast federalist conspiracy to stick it to Pauline Marois.

Pauline Marois has brought this upon herself.

It demonstrates what kind of fantasy land the PQ and other separatists live in. They either don’t want to recognize our changing demographics or turn the tide by actually making it unnecessarily difficult for people to become Québécois. The charter and voter suppression are ways to make it uncomfortable for young people and immigrants sold on an ideal of liberalism and social democracy in Quebec. For Ms. Marois to take allegations of voter fraud seriously, it demonstrates she is no better than the kinds of delusional ultra nationalists that make up her voting base.

And by the way, who else is so pre-occupied with apparent (though in reality non-existent) voter fraud?

Tories. The Tories are so worried about voter fraud they’ve proposed the Fair Elections Act, an Orwellian document condemned for its overt anti-democratic tendencies by international experts.

Exactly the kinds of people both separatists and Tories have absolutely no interest in.

I’ll be following this story closely. More to come I’m sure.

This is Getting Ridiculous – Israel is no Friend of Canada

Hat’s off to the Beaverton for nailing it with this headline:

“Israeli Prime Minister Stephen Harper returns after long visit in Canada”

…and to the Gazette’s Terry Mosher, for much the same reason (*Note the comments and replace the Star of David over the PM’s mouth with a Fleur-de-lys over Pauline Marois’ mouth. Would that be as shocking? Would that be Quebec bashing? How would these illustrious minds of the modern age have responded to such a caricature I ask you? With equal apparent offence? I should think not…)

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last few days, the Prime Minister and avowed ‘friend of Israel’ has been touring the country like an invited rock star, along with an entourage including businesspeople, MPs, cabinet ministers and religious leaders, a group of about 200 in total. The entire trip is being paid for out of Canada’s general taxation revenue, meaning poor saps like you or I are subsidizing this ‘love fest’ in the Levant.

Now you’re probably thinking, well, this is what Prime Ministers do, they go to other countries and sign lucrative trade deals, don’t they?

But there’s no trade deal being signed, and we don’t buy much from the Israelis in the first place because they don’t build much of anything we could use.

So why is Harper dropping a significant amount of coin for a ‘Tories-only’ trip to the Holy Land?

Is it to improve relations between the two countries? Hardly. Only Tories were allowed on this trip, no representatives from any other major political party in Canada was allowed to go. And as to the private business types who were allowed, well, they’re all major Tory financial supporters. If anything this entire affair seems to be little more than a carefully crafted media circus dreamed up in advance of the 2015 election.

Don’t believe me? Then watch the above video, wherein you can hear Tory MP Mark Adler whining like a little child that he won’t get an opportunity to get in on a photo-op near Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall, something the MP describes as the ‘million dollar shot’.

This is the kind of trash we’ve elected to parliament. What an unfortunate joke.

It’s painfully clear the Tories embarked on this trip for purely political purposes. Fellating the State of Israel is good for the Tories not only because it secures the apparently strategic old-fogey Conservative Zionist vote, but further seeks to remind the Canadian people that Harper’s talking points re: Israel sound to be just about the same as the American President’s or the British Prime Minister’s. And this in turn makes Harper look like he’s a ‘player’ on the world stage.

Mulroney would do the same thing back in the 1980s, ensuring that at every big NATO meeting he had his mug photographed next to Reagan and Thatcher almost as if he needed to prove he was one of the big boys of his day.

Politics is ultimately all about image; some things never change.

Then there’s Israel.

I understand why Tories blindly support Israel. It’s not because all Tories are committed Zionists, far from it (in fact, the old Reform Party, from which the current incarnation of the Tories emerged, used to have a bit of problem signing up Holocaust deniers and other assorted racist scum to run in federal elections, but hey, who the fuck remembers what happened twenty years ago?); Tories support Israel because the Yanks and the Brits do, and Tories have never had the confidence to pursue a Canadian-made foreign policy.

Nay, Tories have never had the balls to try and develop our own foreign policy. The Tory mentality is that whatever is locally produced must be deficient. This is why Deifenbaker cancelled the Avro Arrow, why Mulroney sold us out on free trade – Tories live to cut the legs out from under you and the whole of this nation. For the Conservative Party of Canada, this country only exists as long as other, bigger, more powerful countries count us as one of their friends.

Given this spectacle, it seems as though the PM earnestly believes Israel is indeed bigger and powerful than us.

And this in turn leads to Harper bromancing Benjamin Netanyahu. Why on Earth would Canada care what Israel thinks of us? Why do we need to court Israeli public opinion? Israel isn’t even in the same league as a nation as great as Canada, so why do we give a flying Philadelphia fuck what their current government thinks of us? Why does Stephen Harper need to make a big show of how Israel is our ally?

As friends go, Israel is a really shitty friend.

For one it’s highly likely, though unconfirmed, that Mossad assassinated one of this country’s greatest engineers and ballistics experts in 1990. Yes, Gerald Bull was a maverick who worked for some of the worst military dictatorships of the late 20th century and certainly shouldn’t have been developing super weapons like Project Babylon or improved SCUD missiles for the Iraqis (who were, to one degree or another, the West’s ally in the Gulf and bulwark against the theocracy which had overtaken Iran throughout the 1980s. It should also be pointed out that Israel sold Iran weapons during the Iran-Iraq War). But to kill a man who had done nothing to threaten Israel because some people thought he might? What the hell happened to the rule of law? Either way, if Mossad was concerned about Dr. Bull’s activities, they should have worked out an agreement with us first – he could’ve been designing artillery pieces for our own military from the comfort of the Kingston pen. Israel had no right to assassinate him and have never officially apologized for their actions.

Then there’s the issue of Mossad agents using Canadian passports to freely travel the world assassinating other people the State of Israel finds disagreeable. Yes, Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda apparently do the exact same thing – but isn’t this the point? I expect our enemies would do such things, but I’d also expect our friends to respect us more than that. Let’s not forget – a Canadian passport has always been a symbol of our nation’s international respect. Mossad’s use of our passports to assist in their efforts to go kill people doesn’t do us any good at all – it just means that the Canadian passport is worth scrutinizing even closer and is no longer the international symbol of openness and humanism it once was.

As Toronto Star columnist Tony Burman wrote recently, it’s time for Canada and Israel to stop living in a fantasy land. Israel’s lack of self-awareness, self-criticality and near total disregard of how the state appears from an outsider’s perspective would make the Parti Québécois blush. In fact, I’ve often been surprised Likud and the Parti Québécois aren’t closer, what with the common hatred of local minority groups and the insistence that only the majority’s religion is inoffensive, and that international laws and conventions don’t apply blah blah blah.

Peas in a pod…

This buddy-buddy relationship with Israel truly does nothing for us, though it does remind relatively intelligent people elsewhere that, when we’re governed by the more conservative elements of our society, we suddenly become very myopic in terms of foreign policy.

How can a nation such as Canada support one theocracy with secret, unmonitored, uncontrolled nuclear weapons (Israel) while supporting sanctions and eliminating diplomatic relations with another theocracy for their unconfirmed, apparent desire to produce a nuclear weapon (Iran)?

Shouldn’t the message be the same for all theocracies with nukes (i.e. get rid of your nukes, stand-down your military and then we can talk)? What difference does it make if Israel is a quasi-representative democracy, they have nuclear weapons and their deterrence strategy is to launch simultaneous nuclear strikes on any and all enemies if ‘overwhelmed’ by outside aggression, something which they came very close to doing during the Yom Kippur War of 1973. The Samson Option could include the use of as many as 400 nuclear weapons, many of which are of the thermonuclear variety with a one-megaton yield (fifty times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki). They can be launched by ballistic missiles with an 11,000 kilometre range, from cruise-missile armed submarines, from jet fighters or even delivered via suitcases.

The very existence of Israel’s massive nuclear stockpile is in itself a destabilizing factor in the entirety of the Middle East. The way we turn a blind eye towards Israel’s countless foreign invasions (Suez Canal, 1956; all of its neighbours, 1967, all of its neighbours for a second time in 1973, Lebanon in 1982, Lebanon again in 2006, and all this aside from regular military action on Palestinian territory), and the intolerance and racism of the Likud Party and it’s allies is astonishing. What does this say about our own government?

For a truly disturbing mini-doc on contemporary anti-African racism in Israel, see the video posted below.

Harper wasted an opportunity to excoriate the current Israeli government for its human rights abuses, weapons of mass destruction and the not-so-subtle anti-African sentiment that has resulted in more than one instance of sitting members of the Knesset demanding African immigrants be rounded up and put in concentration camps; a law recently passed by Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party will see undocumented African immigrants held for up to a year without trial. Instead of criticizing these laws, Harper said that anti-Zionism is the same as anti-Semitism.

I should remind the Prime Minister, and anyone else dumb enough to buy that nonsense, that these are two very different things, but neither apply to this article nor any of a torrent of articles recently published about this trip or about Israel broadly speaking. Harper is so loathe to criticize Israel the Tories had the Department of National Defence quietly removed any online traces of a report that a Canadian peacekeeper on a UN deployment was killed by an Israeli artillery strike in 2006. What’s particularly damning is that the IDF was either obscenely careless or bombed the UN outpost deliberately, as it was clearly marked on maps and familiar to IDF personnel operating in the region.

What’s particularly mortifying is that the Prime Minister has confused hatred of a religious group and hatred of nation, but has also posited hatred of a nation/religious group as what underlies criticism of Israel and it’s policies.

Again, I can’t help but draw the parallel to Québec. Criticize the PQ or the charter of values? That’s Quebec-bashing. Criticize the PLQ, CAQ, QS, ON etc. and that’s just politics.

Why is Stephen Harper telling me criticizing Israel’s current government is equal to hating Jews? Is he as dumb as those who endorse him, like world-class idiot Sarah Palin?

It isn’t and never was. Nor is criticizing the PQ and attack on all Québécois. Nor is criticizing the origins of the First World War an attack on any of the soldiers who fought in it.

But this is modern politics, and as long as people would rather react first and think second, Stephen Harper can make statements like this, and embark on taxpayer-financed trips such as this, without any repercussions. Similarly, Rob Ford can smoke crack right back into the mayor’s office and Pauline Marois may very well win a majority government by institutionalizing racism.

Disturbing, repugnant, ridiculous. But back to the issue at hand…

What kind of friend is Israel? And why must we support them at their worst? It’s obscene that the Prime Minister can score political points in Canada by sycophantically and uncritically praising the current conservative Israeli government, and by extension support the vilest elements of contemporary Israeli society who conveniently ignore the lessons of the Holocaust and marginalize minorities in their own apparently liberal democratic nation. That members of Likud would use the same rhetoric in attacking Arabs or Africans today as fascists used against Jews throughout Europe and North America in the early 20th century is appalling to say the very least

Stephen Harper does not speak for Canada. Any pretence he might have to this effect should come to an end well before the next regularly scheduled election. The Conservative Party of Canada is leading this nation down a road I’m quite uncomfortable with, and this campaign stop in the ‘Holy Land’ is just another fantastic reminder why the Tories are wholly unfit to govern.

So we’re getting light rail anyways…? (Updated)

I’m almost willing to place a bet on it…

When the time comes to publicly eulogize Richard Bergeron (which I hope is a very long time from now), someone will remark how the Champlain Bridge LRT is his legacy. There may even be a call to have it named after him, or some such thing, as inappropriate and random as the decision to name the dilapidated old gazebo in Fletcher’s Field after Mordecai Richler.

It would be inappropriate chiefly because neither Monsieur Bergeron nor Projet Montreal ever advocated for a Champlain Bridge light rail system; after all, their constituents reside in Montreal, not Brossard. Rather, they supported the creation of a tramway network in the high-density central core of the city, largely to alleviate congestion on our highest-use bus and Métro lines. (Author’s note: as Projet Montréal City Councillor Sylvain Ouellet mentions below, the party did in fact advocate for an LRT system – albeit somewhat euphemistically – to be included in the design of the new Champlain Bridge right after the Tories made their original announcement about a year ago. So perhaps it’s not as inappropriate as Richler’s derelict gazebo. That said, it would be odd to name a portion of an LRT system after someone – the Bergeron Branch on the (new) Champlain Bridge? Sounds weird to me anyways. Regardless, I hope that our future city benefits from a far more expansive light rail network and that we publicly recognize Mr. Bergeron’s role in pushing this idea.)

For an interesting perspective on the primary differences between light rail and trams, read this fascinating piece by Jarrett Walker.

The basic difference is generally assumed to be whether or not the vehicle travels on a separate track or lane (in which case it would be called light rail) whereas a tram shares the road with regular traffic. I’ve always thought of trams as short and light rail as considerably longer too, but there’s a lot of overlap. Mr. Walker proposes considering stop spacing – the distance between regular stops – as a better differentiator.

In our case, a Champlain Bridge LRT system may have tram-like stop spacing once it gets downtown, or where it starts in Brossard, but would be a true LRT over the bridge and through the Cité du Havre as it would, presumably, make far fewer stops. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Think about the proposed Champlain Bridge LRT system the next time you’re out waiting in the cold and two or three jam-packed accordion buses fly past you on Cote-des-Neiges Boulevard. That or a similar number of equally packed Métro trains at any a growing number of stations.

If an LRT system over the new bridge encourages more Brossardians to use public transit for their commuting purposes, great – this will help the new bridge last a little longer and may further serve, in addition to the ten lanes, to ease congestion and the subsequent concentration of vehicular emissions. But Montreal has its own public transit and pollution issues to deal with, dossiers we’ve neglected for far too long. Projet Montreal even proposed creating a sustainable transit fund, a trust of sorts, partially funded through STM general revenue and a tax on downtown parking (as well as other sources), designed specifically to fund the development and improvement of our public transit system. it astounded me to learn this wasn’t already the case.

Is it amateur hour in this city or what?

Seems like it these days. I’ve already mentioned that the Tories are shoving a bridge down our throats, without an open bid or architectural competition and, once again, preferring a European architect who builds with concrete etc., but what only dawned on me more recently are the implications of their proposal that the new bridge will include an LRT, apparently ‘as requested by the Québec government’ according to Minister Lebel. Funny, I thought Quebec City wanted control of all federal bridges in Montreal…

In any event, I highly doubt this means the Tories are going to help fund an LRT system, I figure at most they’ll include the cost of integrating an LRT track into the bridge, and leave building the vehicles, stations and the rest of the (presumed) system to the provincial government. And that’ll be Quebec’s contribution I suppose, assuming they go along with it in the end. I can’t imagine an LRT system will be delivered on the Tories’ expedited schedule. We’re treading dangerously close to repeating two fatal errors we’ve done, in separate instances mind you, in the recent past. The province was supposed to contribute an LRT to the Mirabel project so that the airport could be connected to the city. Never happened.

There’s not much out there about a planned route, nor whether the end product will tend more towards an LRT or a tram system. In fact, unless I’ve missed something, Marois and Lisée have been remarkably tight-lipped about the Tories’ bridge announcement but a week ago.

But if the péquistes want to save face and show they’re not completely out of the Montreal transit-planning loop, they’ll have to develop something, and soon too.

Or am I being too optimistic? This is Quebec after all.

Perhaps I should be more concerned about the potential for a lot of toxic filth sitting at the bottom of the river getting mixed up into our primary source of drinking water.

I suppose it’s just another reason we should build a tube-tunnel like the Lafontaine; sinking a tube into the water and atop the toxic sludge is probably the better option in this specific regard, but what do I know? Just another headache for the team that now has three fewer years to get the job done, and potentially one that, like so many others, will be ignored and passed down to future generations.

What a gift!

If this LRT ever does get built, I can imagine it running from somewhere central in Brossard (Dix-30 gets thrown about a lot) to somewhere central in downtown Montreal, perhaps on University as part of a new ‘southern entrance’ to the city that will come the heels of the Bonaventure Expressway’s eventual replacement. But this is all pie in the sky for the moment. All that’s been agreed upon for the moment is that the Fed will design a new Champlain bridge with an LRT incorporated. The rest hasn’t yet been nailed down and I can only imagine the fashion by which the Tories’ have conducted themselves thus far may not make for the most productive of meetings with the province.

There’s no debate whether we can get this done, it’s more a question of politics and political will. The PQ doesn’t like being told what to do or how things are going to roll, and it seems as though the Fed has perhaps even overstepped its bounds by treading rather forthrightly into areas of municipal and provincial jurisdiction.

As it pertains to us, all that matters is whether this is a one-off project or whether this evolves into something that actually supports the transit needs of the citizens of Montreal. This is my chief concern, as it should be your own. If this LRT system is another boondoggle, a white elephant to add to the local herd, we might never get a significant improvement to our public transit system ever again.

With low public morale comes a lack of political will.