Tag Archives: Québec Politics

Terminée

Terminée

Sometimes the gods just smile and align the stars just right.

Or in this case a tour bus for vedette Québec politician Pauline Marois, who was involved in running the province for a while about a year ago before she decided to start her campaign…

In terms of political clusterfucks of epic proportions, this one takes the cake.

I think the PQ is going to lose big, largely as a consequence of:

1. Selling out your base (via hiring PKP, pushing the unpopular charter, screwing students)

2. Running with the devil (PKP)

3. Retreating from the party’s key issue (independence)

4. Placing too much emphasis on the most divisive issue (charter)

5. Saying nothing of consequence re: getting more value from taxation, protecting the environment and creating jobs (bread and butter concerns)

6. Appearing hysterical in lieu of inspirational (David), funny (Legault) or rational (Couillard)

7. Claiming students from Ontario are trying to steal the election

8. Defending your candidate who spouts KKK conspiracy theories

9. Running a campaign against the former Premier, the man the PQ already defeated, instead of the new guy

Kyoto, not Kippahs

Before anything else, something funny.

Rick Mercer, as per usual, nails it. The Parti Québécois is completely delusional.

I’m not completely sold on the divorce analogy, unless Confederation is a kind of political polygamy. Ours is not a nation of two solitudes. At least not anymore.

I think the proof lies in the fact that Canada is very much aware of the Québec provincial election, the key issues, the leaders etc. It’s in the papers, on the airwaves and on the nightly news.

I would argue Canada pays more attention to a Québec provincial election more than any other province, something which strikes me as odd given another referendum is unrealistic at this time and the economic and social direction of provinces like Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia are arguably far more significant on a national scale.

As long as the delusion that ‘sovereignty solves everything’ is maintained Québec cannot expect to develop in any meaningful way. We will continue treading water, expending energy and resources without going anywhere.

This is not the time for more consultations, more studies, more constitutional debates. We need action. Steps must be taken to ensure we reduce CO2 emissions and protect our environment.

We need a provincial government that is going to prioritize Kyoto, not Kippahs.

Steps must be taken to address government waste. We are the highest taxed Canadians, and yet our debt and deficit continue to grow. Austerity isn’t helping because we haven’t addressed the root cause of our inefficiencies, and cuts to social services like education and healthcare are both unpopular and ultimately unsuccessful. The imbalance between high taxation and a low return on services and ballooning costs all point to a fundamentally mismanaged state.

There are only two concerns for any government these days – the environment and the economy.

Unless we take immediate steps to address and correct environmental degradation and economic inequity at every level of government there is no hope for any of us.

Think about how Mercer opens his rant – he talks about complacence.

Civilizations fall, and when they do, the whole Earth shakes.

A NASA-funded study has made the point as clear as day – unless political action is taken the world-over to address the key environmental and economic problems of our time we’re condemning our species to extinction.

The environment and the economy is all our provincial election should be about. Successful programs to cut carbon emissions and develop well-functioning social-safety nets are already the norm in some Scandinavian nations, and if there truly is a sovereign way of thinking in our province then we ought to be free of the bondage of nationalism, so that we can address the crucial issues that effect all of humanity.

Cutting our carbon emissions to Kyoto standards (or better) and ensuring a more egalitarian distribution of wealth in our province has the potential to be copied and improved upon by other provinces. If Qu̩bec chooses to lead, the other provinces will follow Рthis is a fundamental truth about Canadian political evolution.

Québec leads.

Which is why I’m so fundamentally disappointed in our current election. There is a palpable poverty of politics in our province. We pollute our political discourse with hate and fear and become so emotionally exhausted we have no time or patience to pursue vital social interests.

It’s terrifying really. How much longer do we really have to continue beating this dead horse?

For all the PQ’s talk of the ‘future of Québec’ it seems they are ignorant of the potential future of the world.

The people know what the real issues are, but are blinded by the manufactured existential crisis of sovereignty. It prevents union, it conjures up unnecessary divisions. It holds us back – all of us, regardless of race, religion or language.

It delegitimizes us and as long as it remains the focal point of our provincial elections will only continue to delegitimize us.

We have all the potential to effect positive change Canada wide.

But in order to do so we must first recognize that those who play upon societal divisions for political gain have no one’s interest at heart but their own.

So who will be the first to enter into the political discourse, the Parti Québécois is fundamentally illegitimate.

Gong Show

We all need to take a major chill pill.

After this past week, not only would I say any kind of a referendum on whether or not Québec seeks constitutional negotiations is out of the question, I’m also highly doubtful the PQ will even manage to form a minority government. Separation is nothing more than all it has been for over a decade – talk.

It’s all just a lot of noise.

The latest polls indicate anywhere between 50 and 50 per cent of Québécois (note: and by that I mean all of us, regardless of culture, race, language etc.) would vote against a referendum pursuant to constitutional negotiations seeking greater sovereignty for the province of Québec.

We need to stop worrying about Québec independence because it’s simply not in the cards. The referendum is about whether we start negotiations – there isn’t even a guarantee the other provinces or the fed would come to the table.

Based on the outcome of this election a referendum question might be off the table for as long as the next four years (assuming, somehow, Couillard manages a majority, sticks to his federalist inclinations and a Montrealer becomes Prime Minister next fall – it’s unlikely but within the realm of possibility. Think of what that might mean for our city, with francophone federalists at the three key levels of power).

All Couillard needs to do is continue talking about the economy and what brings Québécois together, and simply not get trapped by the constitutional trap set by the Parti Québécois. If he does this and continues at the pace he’s on, he might just push the Québec Liberals from their current 37% into more comfortable territory.

Much like the now infamous Pineault-Caron family shown above, all the Quebec Liberals need to do is simply let the PQ continue talking, and they’ll reveal themselves for who they are: fundamentally, inherently racist and appealing to a myopic minority of citizens who would literally step over their own mothers to achieve this twisted vision of national self-determination.

By all means, let’s give the PQ all the air time, because they’ve turned our politics into a veritable gong show and spent much of last week embarrassing themselves. Plus que ça change… Last week was one of the few in which Québec politics was legitimately enjoyable, in my opinion. Once it became glaringly apparent the Parti Québécois has a hard enough time running an election, let alone a country, the humour of our absurd situation came to the forefront.

This guy, Jean Carrière, wants to fuck Islam.
This guy, Jean Carrière, wants to fuck Islam.

In the last week we’ve witnessed a PQ candidate get unceremoniously ejected from the party for Islamophobic (and just plain dumb) posts on his facebook page. Jean Carrière was forced out and rightfully so, but it makes you wonder about the PQ candidate vetting process. This is politics 101 – nothing offensive on your most public medium.

You’d think a guy with a head this big would know the really obvious stuff.

And then a PQ candidate came out and compared the ritual of baptism and the medical practice of circumcision to rape.

Yeah, you read that right.

Gouin-riding candidate Louise Mailloux was also busted for – get this – propagating a well-known conspiracy theory originated by the KKK that Rabbis collect a tax from goods certified as Kosher and then use those funds to support the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians.

Louise Mailloux holding up a photocopied image of sheiks to prove a point about something...
Louise Mailloux holding up a photocopied image of sheiks to prove a point about something…

Worse, Ms. Mailloux has issued an apology, for hurting people’s feelings.

She has not withdrawn her statements concerning baptism or circumcision. Most importantly, she says that she ‘stands by’ her belief in the well-known anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.

And in turn, Pauline Marois stands by Ms. Mailloux.

Perhaps if any of these women had Jewish friends or acquaintances they might not be so public with their anti-Semitism.

It’s truly disheartening that some people in this province clearly aren’t concerned with multiple and very public displays of racism by a party ostensibly designed to protect a minority group from the apparently unrelenting assault of cultural assimilation.

If I could issue edicts I would demand our politics were racism free and didn’t involve propagating ideas dreamt up by hillbilly klansmen, but I suppose Ms. Mailloux feels some kind of kinship for the ‘oppressed whites’ of the American South…

And who can forget the spray-paint attack on Bernard Drainville’s PQ riding office in Longueuil?

graffiti-drainville-longueuil

Just a quick aside, Drainville’s office was tagged with the message above and swastikas were drawn over Pauline Marois’ face.

It immediately made me think of that time Morton Downey Jr. claimed he had been attacked by skinheads in a washroom at the San Francisco airport. The attack story was ultimately discovered to be a publicity stunt – the swastikas were drawn backwards, as if you were drawing them with a mirror…

In this case it’s the spelling that’s off. English speakers with an interest in protecting Judaism and Quebec politics likely would not have written “dont” in lieu of the far more common (and correct) spelling of “don’t”. Also, another word for yarmulke is kippah – with an ‘h’.

As much as some people would love a race war, I have a feeling this might actually be the work of an over-zealous PQ envelope-licker inspired by the likes of Pierre Poutine.

But I saved the best for last. The grand prix of political cognitive dissonance and selling out your base goes to the Parti Québécois by signing the reigning king of yellow journalism and Ford Brother enablement, the doyen of Québec Inc, Monsieur Pierre-Karl Péladeau.

The well-known union-buster.

Brian Mulroney’s prodigal son.

The man who owns Quebecor, Videotron, Sun News Network and the Sun Newspaper Corporation, arguably the single greatest sources of hysterical Francophobia, Anglophobia and general Islamophobia (not to mention piss poor journalism) in the entire country, is running with the party that once branded itself as a working class social grassroots movement to protect and preserve French Canadian culture from the perceived threat of Anglo-American monoculture.

A man who peddles in filth, a pimp of exploitation, a carnival barker – this is who the Parti Québécois has chosen as their economic guru. This is the man whom the PQ expects us to trust with the construction of a ‘national economy’.

So am I worried about Quebec becoming an independent country?

No.

The repercussions to the PKP announcement were swift. The major provincial unions, already siding up against the proposed secularism charter, have now indicated they won’t be supporting the PQ at all, marking a historic break between the Parti Quebecois and its traditional voter base.

What politicians consistently fail to realize – and this really is a national phenomenon – is that you can only be overtly contradictory, hypocritical, full of shit (however you want to say it) up to a certain point before people get fed up and reject a party en masse. Consider the Tories in 1993. Nine years of Mulroney’s bullshit and Canadians *destroyed* the political entity known as the Progressive Conservatives. What little remained quickly succumbed to the influence of the Reform Party, giving us the unholy amalgam of perverted Western ‘nationalism’, the oil lobby and social conservatives who hate gays and love war. Consider the Liberals under Ignatieff.

In Quebec, think Duplessis.

Question Traditional Thinking

Pierre-Karl Péladeau with the crack-smoking Mayor of Toronto Fatass McCrackington III
Pierre-Karl Péladeau with the crack-smoking Mayor of Toronto Fatass McCrackington III

Here are some basic questions all Québécois (Anglos and Allos included) need to ask themselves prior to voting in this year’s provincial election:

1. Why does Québec need to become an independent country?

2. Is there any actual empirical evidence either the French language or French culture of our province and/or country is in any way threatened?

3. Given that there is no official effort to assimilate Francophones in this country, why are separatist parties so concerned with the spectre of assimilation?

4. How would ten million ethnic French Canadians, almost all of whom speak and work in French on a daily basis, lose their language and/or cultural identity anyways? (without some kind of external compelling force)

5. Are Québécois specifically and French Canadians in general incapable of preserving and promoting the use of French on an individual basis? Why does the state need to be involved?

6. If we’re to have yet another referendum, what will it be on? Independence? Sovereignty? Sovereignty-Association? Another round of constitutional negotiations? Why isn’t this clear?

7. Is it right to destroy one country in order to build another?

8. When was the last time an ethno-nationalist movement created an ideal society anyways?

9. Is Québec a colony of the British Empire? Are we a colony of Canada? And if we’re not a colony, why do we need to be ‘free’? If we are held in bondage, who holds us down? And can any of this be verified, proven?

10. Are we not already free, given the protections, rights and responsibilities afforded by our national constitution and charter?

11. René Lévesque did not sign the constitution document; does this mean he spoke for all Québécois at the time? Does he continue to speak for us today? Have we, alone, been administered by the British North America Act since 1982? Are we not protected by both it and the charter regardless?

12. How can we continue to justify spending $25 million per year on the OQLF when the only good thing to come out of the organization was a report that stated, unequivocally, that French is not threatened and that Bill 101 doesn’t need beefing up?

13. If Québec were to become an independent country, how would it justify its actions to the international community? What is the basis for our desire to become independent? Is it based on 2014 conditions, or based on a laundry list of real and imagined aggressions dating back to the mid-18th century?

14. How can a political movement designed to protect minority rights (the PQ, as it was originally conceived) turn around and infringe upon minority rights (the PQ, today) and claim any kind of political legitimacy? Bill 60 is institutionalized racism: it specifically singles-out religious minorities working in the public sector and demands they choose between their jobs or wearing religious garments or symbols.

15. We speak often of perceived Francophobia and Québec-bashing on the part of the Anglophone media, yet the single largest source of anti-Québec sentiment in Canadian English-language media is arguably the Sun News Network and the associated Sun newspaper chain, both of which are owned by Pierre-Karl Péladeau, a PQ ‘all-star’ candidate who also happens to own Quebecor, the largest media conglomerate in the province. Given this concentration of power, money and media in the hands of a single political party, should we be so readily accepting of their negative portrayal of competing media? Is this not an immense conflict of public interest?

A Montreal Drive-By

Greene Ave at what is now Boul. de Maisonneuve, circa 1905
Greene Ave at what is now Boul. de Maisonneuve, circa 1905

So here’s the scene.

I’m standing with a friend while she waits for her lift on Greene Avenue in Westmount a few days back. We’re across from the entrance to Westmount Square, about half way between Saint Catherine’s and de Maisonneuve. As we’re chatting we notice a jaunty little tune is coming from somewhere. I figure it’s outdoor speakers at the new Cinq Saisons epicerie just up the way, but it’s getting louder.

We look up the annoyingly empty avenue and see a brilliant light coming our way and into focus.

It’s a rented U-haul pickup truck with a boom-box strapped to the hood and a gigantic menorah protruding from the flat in the rear, all lit up with lightbulbs.

As it rolled to a stop next to us, we saw two young Hasidic men in the cab, smiling from ear to ear.

They rolled down the window and wished us a Happy Hanukkah.

We smiled and returned the sentiment. And then they drove off, just like that.

A Montreal Drive-By…

***

I suppose some might be offended by such a thing, though this certainly wasn’t the case for either of us, regardless of the fact that neither of us are Jewish. Who cares? It was, fundamentally, an expression of good wishes between strangers. It is human to want another to feel good on a day that’s significant to them. How is it any different from wishing someone a happy birthday, or anniversary?

I’m not a Christian, but I won’t take offence if someone wishes me a Merry Christmas. And simple common sense and politesse dictates one return the sentiment as you receive it. I’m not going out of my way to respond with a Happy Holidays to a Merry Christmas, that’s just silly.

Some people in this province, in this city, would take a great offence at the scene I witnessed. I fear some would have responded angrily. Perhaps there’s a reason they were cruising down a deserted Greene Avenue instead of Pie-IX or Parthenais. Regardless, though it may have been an ‘ostentatious display’ of a religion, it caused no harm whatsoever. Contextually, it made sense (inasmuch as it was an appreciably quirky occurrence), it was the last day of Hanukkah.

It was nice. It was pleasant. It’s a story to tell.

And as you might imagine, it brought my mind back to thinking about the broad implications of the proposed (and inappropriately named) Charter of Quebec Values, let alone what it actually says about the society we live in. Bill 60 is nothing but an attempt by the separatists to re-cast Québec society in their image, and according to their often incoherent set of values.

It is an act to institutionalize racism. What would Madiba have thought of this? The great institutions of the province, and of this city in particular, are lining up to defy the law in its entirety.

Perhaps even more importantly, the mayors of Montreal and Québec City, Denis Coderre and Régis Labeaume, are indicating a rapprochement of sorts, and both seem to be asking for ‘special status’ vis-a-vis the proposed legislation, in addition to a general devolution of powers from the provincial government to the province’s two largest cities. This is a particularly interesting political development – a bloc against the PQ representing the interests of about 2.3 million Québécois – and two cities where the majority of the population is opposed to the divisive and thoroughly unnecessary charter. I’m in total agreement with Jack Jedwab; when Premiere Marois says there’s a majority of Québécois who support the charter, she is only referring to Francophones. As far as she’s concerned, the Anglophone and Allophone populations aren’t ‘real Québécois’ anyways.

It’s vile, disgusting, scraping-the-bottom-of-the-barrel nationalist-populist politics. Gutter politics, the foulest of the foul.

The péquistes, inasmuch as the people of Québec (all of us), need to realize this fundamental point:

Neither the French language nor French Canadian culture is in any way, shape or from threatened. There are ten million French Canadians living in North America and seven million living in Canada, the overwhelming majority of whom live in Québec. The Franco-Québécois community is growing and has been growing ever since the colonial period of the 17th and 18th centuries. There are more French-speaking people in Canada than there have ever been before, but by contrast, the Anglophone community of Québec is shrinking and has shrunk considerably. There are fewer Anglophones in Québec than there were forty years ago, and of those who’ve stayed, they largely learned how to speak French and got better integrated into Québec society.

And as to the immigrants, the first generation Québécois, they too have learned French, and are integrating into our society at their own pace. They’re of a naturally independent disposition, as are the Anglophones of the province, and they’ve formed bonds in their combined efforts to integrate into the broader society and culture.

And as you might imagine, nothing burns the ass of a dyed-in-the-wool separatist more than realizing the fundamental raison-d’etre for their political existence simply no longer exists.

There was once much less integration. There was once serious racial strife. There were once abuses and institutionalized racism of a different kind. There was ecclesiastical and existential oppression, there were (and still are) class struggles.

But people evolve and things change.

René Lévesque never wanted a political party. He wanted the PQ to be a simple political movement, uniting all Québécois in an effort to solidify greater provincial autonomy and bring the provinces and federal government together to re-negotiate the constitution. What he got, he did not expect. Lévesque believed things would not change, but Trudeau proved not only that things could change for the better, but further, that the independent and progressive mentality of Québec could ultimately be integrated into Canada as a whole. That’s why he won. Lévesque didn’t anticipate Trudeau would succeed in repatriating the constitution, ratifying it without Lévesque’s personal endorsement, and then further develop the Charter. Lévesque strengthened Canadian federalism inasmuch as he pushed a serious cultural reformation in Québec, one that would have the (again) unintended consequence of making Anglophones and Allophones better integrated in Québec society.

This is why we’re now dealing with Bill 60, a proposed law that would have been laughed out of any other self-respecting legislative body.

The péquistes know there’s nothing more that can be done on the language front – there’s no threat. This is why Bill 14 was dropped entirely.

So now it’s culture and this idiotic idea that hijabs, yarmulkes and turbans are somehow threats to the stability, sanctity and perhaps even vitality of Québec’s culture and society. Bill 60 is more punitive than Bill 101, and has the potential to put many more people out of work. Crucial people too – doctors, teachers, nurses, early-childhood education specialists and all manner of social and civil-sector workers. Middle class jobs, with good benefits, denied to those who dare to wear a religious symbol, regardless of how subtle and harmless it may be.

There is fear, easily-stoked, of a Muslim invasion, of foreigners fundamentally changing who we are. There’s no empirical evidence, there never is when the PQ asserts a danger, just rhetoric bordering on hate speech and the kind of easy panic you associate with poorly educated backwoods types and siege-mentality suburbanites.

Well to hell with them.

Let the fearful be afraid, let the ignorant remain in the cave.

I’m hopeful the entente cordiale between the mayors Coderre and Lebeaume leads to something really meaningful. They have the power to either make the bill completely unpopular and impossible to make into law, or, barring that, gain the special status our cities’ deserve.

***

I’m reading The Watch That Ends the Night, an impossibly brilliant book by the late, great Hugh MacLennan. In it, he describes Montreal in the early 1950s as follows:

‘In the West End are the old English families, and in the East End there are the old French families. And in between them a no man’s land of international people with international concerns. They occupy the centre of the city, and don’t have much to do with either of the other communities.’

There’s still a lot of truth here, though I would argue that in the last sixty years, the biggest thing to change is that the cosmopolitan middle ground has extended quite a bit in all directions away from the centre of the city, and at least on this island, the French and English camps that really were once two solitudes have integrated, at the very least, into the cosmopolitan aesthetic so popularized by those living in the ‘no man’s land’. And none of this has made us any less culturally whole, nor any less socially distinct.

We are what we are, as we are and have always been, so why are our politicians trying to forcibly change us?

I hope we’ve got some fight in us left, this bill cannot pass.