Today was just one of those days I suppose. Perhaps you’ve had them too. A day were you read the paper and see the headlines and wonder just what it is you’re doing living in Montreal. Today wasn’t even particularly cold out either.
Rather, it was the enlightened goons who (somehow) managed to get elected to represent the collective interests of Quebec, with an apparent total disregard for the interests of many of its citizens, particularly those noble enough to stick it out in what’s increasingly starting to look like a city on the verge of real failure.
And I’ve been accused of being an apologist, not only for Montreal but Quebec as well.
In case this has all been too glib allow me to get straight to the point.
In an era of heightened awareness concerning campus sexual assault, the education minister has given his own ringing endorsement to fully legal strip searches of minors without parental consent or even police involvement, so long as it’s done in a ‘respectful’ manner. If you’ve just spewed coffee out onto your laptop reading that last sentence take a moment because there’s more. The strip searches are justified in terms of the student’s security, just like every invasion of the state into the personal domain. Always for our own interests, legally speaking. The reason this is news is because a fifteen year old girl was strip searched by her principle and another woman who worked at her Quebec City high school. They were looking for pot. They found nothing. The girl was coerced into removing all of her clothing without legal representation, without the involvement of police, an without notifying her parents.
She complained to a newspaper she felt violated. No kidding. This is Quebec in 2015 and it makes my blood boil.
Especially because you’d figure Yves Bolduc would have the common sense to realize he’s opened the door to so much potential abuse of minors in Quebec schools. Did he learn nothing from the Residential Schools Scandal?
And that’s just for starters.
Then the enlightened (pure sarcasm) head of the poorly named CAQ decided to let us all know he thinks every mosque in Quebec should be investigated so as to determine whether or not the imam/congregation preaches values that are in line with Quebec values.
What Quebec values?
The discrimination of ethnic and religious minorities? Undue persecution? Are those the values of which he speaks?
François Legault co-founded Air Transat. He was an education minister during the Landry Administration. He is an accomplished individual by any standard. Yet in Quebec he can afford to make statements such as these and be taken seriously, statements that would void whatever political credentials one might have in just about any other political jurisdiction. A career-limiting move, in corporate parlance.
Not here. In Quebec saying ‘every Muslim is guilty until proven innocent’ is just fine for the leader of a provincial political party. The only other political party in all of Canada that came close to this type of nonsense was the wildrose Party in Alberta and they imploded under the weight of their own ineptitude. Is it any wonder some Muslims living in Quebec (and by that I mean Montreal, let’s be real) don’t feel welcome and may actually get pushed towards embracing the more conservative if not fundamentalist aspects of their faith? They come here expecting liberty and tolerance and discover they’ve immigrated to the part of Canada that still hasn’t accepted Canadian values as defined in our constitution and charter.
Quebec is governed by a collective siege mentality that has ruined our economy and has entrenched social, cultural, political and economic divides across the province (all of which intersect as if at a bull’s eye squarely atop Montreal).
And then, rounding out the shameful day that was February 18th 2015 in Quebec, the heir-presumptive to the throne of the Parti Québécois, Pierre-Karl Péladeau, said that a referendum would not be necessary to achieve independence, and that a PQ electoral victory would be sufficient. A few hours later his aide would insist that this was not the case, that he misunderstood the question.
Independence. Nothing’s working and we’re still talking independence.
Some days I hate living here. Some days I hate living in the place I have always called home.
I don’t know why I’m able to somehow force myself not to be bothered by it on some days, while on others it forces me into the pits of despair. I also don’t know why I put up with it. Everyone I know tells me to leave or tells me that’s what they’ll tell their children; that there are no opportunities here, and that it’s foolish and naive to think things will change for the better.
I know too many people who made the right choice and left.
How awful it is to live in a city as tantalizing and generally enjoyable as Montreal, only to be made ultimately untenable by poisonous and petty provincial politics.
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, Lisée 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 – it 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.