Tag Archives: 2012 Québec provincial election

Changing the Game

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

We need to change the question of Québec independence.

From the ground up, in fact.

For nearly forty years Montr̩al has been on a veritable decline Рin terms of economic security, long-term investment, population growth and relative political power among others Рand 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 Qu̩bec separation.

We’ve been lucky – the decline has been steady and, at the best of times, appearing to be on the way out. It certainly helped that, since the creation of the Parti Québécois most of the significant prime ministers – Trudeau, Mulroney, Chretien and Martin – have Québec roots and strong personal connections with Montréal. But alas, it’s 2013 and the City of Montréal finds itself in a perilous state. Now the prime minister is a schmuck, a mail-room clerk with a spending habit, decidedly anti-Québécois in manner and speech. We also have a separatist dimwit premiere trying to impose austerity measures, something I would have figured ran counter to progressive, perhaps even historically Keynesian economic approaches valued by the PQ. A considerable portion of the local population is now thinking about greener pastures elsewhere, a brain drain is occurring, militant student protesters clash with police in our city’s streets, we have no faith in municipal officials and our initial enthusiasm about Ms. Marois (thinking she might, at least, focus on the economy, progressive social values and seek to run a corruption-free government) has all but disappeared as we begin to see her true colours as a vindictive and short-sighted wannabe iconoclast.

We have a place-holder mayor and our public focus, of late, has been on the over-zealous actions of a state-sponsored public annoyance while we wonder whether the Charbonneau Commission has anything more than quick wit and a sharp tongue-lashing in store for the criminal shit-stains who have robbed us of an immense wealth in tax-revenue with kick-backs and socks stuffed with cash.

Our city isn’t just held hostage by an unstable political situation, it’s that such a situation is being purposely maintained, and has been for quite some time in fact, quite to the benefit of the organized crime element in the city. As long as the political situation remains unstable, political parties of every shape and size will seek to attain some new leverage by feeling compelled to bend or break rules to secure a militant voting base.

Is it any wonder our best and brightest refuse to involve themselves with politics? It’s a losing proposition, particularly if you actually value clean government over whatever bribe might get waved in your face. The altruistic among us leave – if we can’t get our shit together here why even bother trying to create a more perfect and just society, we were best suited to make it happen, and look at us now. Forty years of stasis.

At the provincial level it seems as though one party is in bed with the mob while the other is in bed with the unions that work for the mob. The rest don’t owe anyone any favours and thus aren’t likely to get elected, even in a province as progressive as our own. This situation trickles down to municipal level, especially when it concerns Montréal – that from where nearly all the money flows. Either way you slice it, it’s the people who wind up fucked.

This has been going on for far too long, and I know I can’t be alone thinking we fundamentally need to change the question, change the political situation, so at the very least it is the people of Montréal who force and shape the issue.

As long as the question of Québec independence remains unresolved, we cannot hope to grow, to develop, to progress as a city. We’ll remain stuck between the apparently competing interests of Québec and Canada. We’ll remain hostages.

If the twentieth was the century of nation-states, then the twenty-first shall be the century of great cities; already we’re seeing the development of an entirely new network of key cities that focus the world’s cultural, social and political development, a trend that will assuredly grow as cities begin to implement new methods to lessen their negative environmental and ecological footprints. A lot of progress will flow forth from cities the world over, and I want Montréal to regain its position as a global city, a leading city, a city that defines itself and future orientation, rather than one caught between outside interests attempting to settle scores from a quater-millenium ago. Our greatness cannot and will not be denied.

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

I want the brain-drain to end, I want an end to the instability. Most of all, I don’t want our city to continue having to go hat in hand to various levels of government seeking funds to grow. Enough is enough, we have nearly two million people within the city and another two living in bedroom suburbs that simply would not exist without the city’s economic power. Why are we not in control of our own destiny?

Is it not time for us to be masters in our own house?

I propose we change the debate – permanently – so that Canada and Québec work for us, and we cease to be the battleground for this ridiculous war of attrition. Let’s be real – don’t tell me these student demos concern the rise in tuition exclusively – this is just as much an expression of extreme public distaste for the Harper regime and the ‘out-of-left-field’ development of a socially-regressive and economically incompetent conservative element in Canadian politics.

But we cannot be a permanent political battleground, which is why we must forge ahead and seek to do what is best for ourselves first and foremost. I’m not advocating that Montréal seek to make itself a sovereign and separate entity – far from it – but it wouldn’t hurt us to steer the conversation, and possibly seek to create new revenue streams and strategic wealth reserves so as to throw a bit of weight behind our demands, our interests as a city and metropolis.

So how do we change the conversation?

Either Montréal will become Québec’s metropolis and economic capital or it will be rejuvenated as Canada’s cosmopolis and international city. But it’s high time the matter is settled permanently so that we can get on with our lives and start planning our city’s future.

That, of course, is far easier said than done. The spineless Parti Québécois has so far fell so short of numerous campaign promises it is now focused nearly uniquely on punitive measures designed to limit the Anglo-Québécois community to a permanent underclass. Provisions in Bill 14 to change the bilingual status of numerous ‘historically Anglophone’ communities is quite literally erasing their existence and making it impossible for their presence throughout much of Québec to be sustained.

Hitting Montréal right in the pills are the provisions that demand all entreprises over ten employees to conduct all official business in French. For the innumerable start-ups and small businesses that actually drive the local economy, this may prove the final straw; why stay here when your clients are all in Silicon Valley?

The PQ wants to go further still by making it impossible for Francophones and Allophones to attend bilingual ‘Anglophone’ post-secondary institutions (literally telling adults where they can go to school, and what languages they can choose to be instructed in). And despite massive cuts to education and healthcare, there’s apparently more than enough money to continue funding the OQLF, who rather than do anything to encourage people to speak French, send petty, short-sighted zombies to harass local small businesses, charging them if they dare display a sign in English (which now includes the On/Off switch on microwaves, signs that say WC above the loo, the words pasta, caffé, steak).

Used Without Permission
Used Without Permission

All of this isn’t just bad for Québec’s Anglophones mind you, it’s bad for Montréal as well. Montréal’s future as an integrated cosmopolis is largely dependent on how the Francophone majority interacts with the Anglophone minority, and how both communities seek to pursue enhanced cultural integration. The inter-married, multicultural and multi-lingual among us should be particularly prized as a clear sign of the future – languages can coexists, even at an official level, with no cultural loss or societal deterioration. Those come about when we retreat into our silos and define ourselves in terms of opposition. It screws up literally everything we’ve been working towards over the course of the last 371 years.

Quick aside, I was overjoyed to see how quickly all this OQLF bullshit went viral, attracting international scorn and further serving to remind the world of what a pathetic laughing stock the PQ really is.

For a party that claims to wish to defend the ‘European’ or ‘Latin’ in North America, it’s remarkably poor at recognizing most Europeans have openly accepted multi-lingualism and it hasn’t had any negative effect whatsoever on the sanctity of the myriad languages spoken in Europe. For a party that suggests it is emblematic of a bright future for Québec, it’s remarkably poor at understanding modern communications and social media technologies as well. Perhaps this explains their inability to recognize our nascent high-technology start-ups, the ones that function principally in English and are focused on international business development, are so crucial to our future economic success.

In any event I digress. The future of Québec and Canada is a question Montréal wants solved, needs to have solved, in order to free us to grow, to become the great leading city we’ve always been destined to become.

I call on our potential mayoral candidates to state not a cop-out position of official neutrality on the issue of Québec separatism, but rather state a defined position that the problem must be solved immediately, and that until the issue is settled, Montréal will do what is best for its own citizens.

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

I would go so far as to recommend Montr̩al 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 Рthese 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.

Upon Reflection…

As you might imagine I was pretty shaken up over what happened on September 4th.

The PQ victory doesn’t bother me, Richard Bain does.

Watching it all unfold live on Radio-Canada with Patrice Roy completely flabbergasted at what he had just witnessed, the near instantaneous transition of a boisterous crowd into total silence and the steady stream of updates over Twitter all packed a wallop I hadn’t expected to experience. I felt ill the next day at work. It was awful. Inasmuch as I love the adrenaline rush of watching news happen live in real time, in retrospect the sensory overload and crush of negative emotions was more than I was ready for. It really, truly hurt to see such things happen, in my city, my province.

I find it odd that I never expected it – this city has a bad history when it comes to mad gunmen. Perhaps it is the tradeoff for having such a generally low homicide rate – crime here isn’t rampant, it’s momentarily terrifying, and maybe that keeps us in check.

You can tell I didn’t grow up to experience the October Crisis. The Oka Crisis may have been on Mars for all I knew as a five year old.

This was new in a very precise way – an Anglophone shot two men in an attempt to assassinate the duly elected premier of Québec and possibly kill many PQ supporters and a good chunk of the organization in one swift blow. His motivation is not know – he may be a paranoid schizophrenic, a psychopath, or just a rage-head fuming over rejected plans to enlarge his hunting resort. But regardless of his mental state, he thought he was striking the first blow in an armed insurrection of Anglophones in Québec. To what end is unclear. What he thought he’d accomplish still a mystery.

I cringe thinking about what might have been. From the looks of things Denis Blanchette and Dave Courage, lighting technicians enjoying a smoke behind Metropolis, were in the wrong place at the right time. It seems as though they confronted Bain before he had a chance to get into the venue. His Chinese knock-off AK-47 jammed after a single round was fired, but it would tear through them both. Despite having other weapons in his nearby van, not to mention a pistol in his bathrobe, Bain retreated some to light the rear of the venue on fire. He would be subdued by Montréal police shortly thereafter. It could have been so much worse. Blanchette and Courage prevented a disaster of mind-boggling proportions.

There’s no question they are heroes in my book, but heroes through victimhood.

If it seems odd to you that I’m publishing this now, perhaps that says something too. I find it incredible how quickly we move on from something like this. Then again, what are we to do but move on. All I can hope is that we will all think before speaking in the future, and ask ourselves whether or not we’re individually stocking the fires of inter-ethnic discord and aggressive rhetoric, and what we can do as individuals to mitigate this problem. Violent language is far from harmless, as we saw with this latest electoral campaign. The campaign was vicious and people were too. And look what happened.

We can’t ever forget that we exist in a society, and we’re a society that swore off violence many years ago. Our differences, our problems – these will all be solved with the law we have.

After-thought: if you see any of that awful ‘Free Bain’ graffiti, write ‘Bath Libre’ directly underneath it. I will.

I Spoke Too Soon… Assassination Attempt Against Pauline Marois

Photo credit to PC/Paul Chiasson

I’m devastated.

Il doit être dit, cet homme est un fou, et il n’est en aucune manière représentative de la communauté anglo-québécoise. Nous sommes de tout coeur un peuple de paix. Nous l’avons vu etla choc et la terreur se fit sentir dans les profondeurs de toutes nos ames. C’était écÅ“urant. C’est horrible, mais c’est l’acte d’un fou, et non un peuple.

Nous sommes tous fiers Québécois, et je lève mon chapeau à Mme Marois pour calmer une foule joviale et montrant un réel leadership dans le visage d’une hostilité fou.

At about Midnight, September 5th 2012, a deranged man in a bathrobe entered the back of Metropolis and opened fire inside the venue, hitting two people, wounding them critically. He then tried to set fire to the building, site of the Parti Québecois victory party. Madame Pauline Marois, premier-elect of the Province of Québec, was in the middle of her victory speech when intercepted and whisked off stage by Sureté-du-Québec bodyguards. She was not injured though it appears as though the insane gunman got perilously close to her. I watched it happen live and it made my heart skip a beat.

The man apparently screamed in French that the Anglophones will rise, or revolt.

Police cannot confirm the type of number of weapons used. So far only one arrest and one suspect. Fire’s been put out, Metropolis safely evacuated, Marois uninjured as of 12:44am September 5th 2012

Photo credit to Olivier Pontbriand, La Press – A photograph of the apprehended gunman

CJAD now saying one dead. Unconfirmed. Video of the gunman has been released. Confirmed at 12:58am September 5th 2012 on CBC as they sign off to the National. They better be back in twenty-two.

Switching back to RDI. I think CTV has a live feed too.

Live feed on RDI

The gun looks a lot like an AK-47. I doubt its an airgun as some had stated earlier. It’s unclear how many victims. Conflicting reports about how many brought to hospital as of 1:06am

RDI just reported (1:20am) that the first victim was a replacement bus-driver for the media caravan. A last minute replacement bus driver.

Word has come out the victim is in fact an audio technician, and the bus driver is in critical condition (1:34am)

RDI video footage confirms the man was yelling “les Anglais se réveillent”, “this is payback” and “you wanna make trouble?” as he was being led to the police cruiser.

At 1:36am unconfirmed report comes in from La Press indicating a van filled with weapons has been found near Metropolis.

1:45am РUrgences Sant̩ confirms, one dead at the scene, one in critical condition and one being treated for shock.


Francoise David & Amir Khadir of Québec Solidaire

So was this Québec’s “everybody wins” election?

Charest is out and free to face the Charbonneau Commission.

Pauline Marois has become premier, a job she arguably deserves if for no other reason than her tenacity at retaining her seat and knowing her support base. Québec’s first female premier, a mere sixty-eight years after women gained suffrage in the province. I have sincere reservations about Ms. Marois, but she is now premier, and what got her to power may be very different from what gets her over the many coming hurdles. Among others, the Spring budget. As it stands, the PQ will not be able to pass a budget by itself. It will have to reach out to the Liberals and/or Caquistes for support. No easy task, but if she is as devoted to the prosperity and progress of this province as she says she is, she will gladly reach out to ideological opponents and govern by consensus. If not, we’ll be reminded of why there were so many defections but a few months ago, and in seven months will be right back where we started, another election.

Francois Legault holds the balance of power and performed admirably for his first effort leading his own party. He was gracious in defeat and a class act all the way. It’s not impossible to make the breakthrough he did, but rare, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the CAQ comes together in the National Assembly.

Pauline Marois, the premier-elect of the Province of Québec

The students have an elected representative in Leo Bureau-Blouin.

Amir Khadir and Francoise David have united two neighbouring ridings and will stand together in the National Assembly.

And lastly, the QLP did not implode, and retains the respect of official opposition. A good number of former cabinet ministers will keep their seats and the rump party has held a good portion of its territory and big name candidates. For Québec’s centrist-federalist middle-class, I can imagine this will be quite a relief.

As of the time of this writing, the typically firebrand Jean-Francois Lisée is dodging direct questions about if and when a referendum question will be called. He explains that the PQ will not impose a referendum. For the province’s federalists, perennially trying to explain the merits of Canada and cultural integration to people convinced they’ve been robbed of Shangri-La, there is comfort in knowing the party is stronger than its leader, and can survive without populism.

Jean Charest of the Québec Liberal Party

Charest will either choose to stay on to fight again, or retire in ignominy. Who knows what his fate is at this point. But after what he’s had to deal with in the last two years, and the last few months in particular, he may very well likely wash his hands of what can only be described as the least describable job in the world. Few Québec premiers get the chance to go out in any other way than ignominiously.

The biggest obstacle to moving forward has been removed without leaving a cataclysm in his wake. The first test will be how Pauline Marois deals with the inevitable – the difficulties of adequately funding our massive public post-secondary education system, not to mention striking a balance with all student groups. The election of Bureau-Blouin can be a major tactical advantage, and a successful resolution could be an easy quick win for the PQ. I’m not so optimistic however, as I believe she may in fact have to retract on several promises. We’ll have to see.

The early word is a participation rate in excess of 70%, not great, but not dreadful as in the case of most recent federal elections.

In broad terms we had a managed shake-up. All the necessary changes occurred, the autocracy of populism & majority government momentarily undone while retaining stability and all the necessary checks and balances. There’s no reason for any kind economic panic, as we all know this may be very short lived.

Prime Minister Harper acted quickly and congratulated Ms. Marois’ victory while reminding the Québecois now’s not the time to get into a constitutional mess. Sometimes I wonder how he opens a chess match…

Francois Legault, leader of the Coalition Avenir Québec

Independence was polling at the bottom of the charts despite the apparent PQ victory but a few days ago and from the talk of the party’s big mouths, restraint seems to be the order of the day.

The next seven months will doubtless be very interesting.

And tomorrow we can all go back to enjoying life and ignoring politics…