By Colby Cosh - Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 0 Comments
In Sunday’s Montreal Gazette, Don Macpherson offers a convincing argument that Quebec’s pasta-police scandal has been deliberately obfuscated by the Parti Québécois ministry. The Office Québécois de la Langue Française, he suggests, did not misinterpret the law in a fit of “overzealousness”: he figures they probably interpreted it correctly, as written. The main text of Bill 101 specifically insists that menus must be written in French; there are exemptions in the regulations for packaging of “exotic product[s] or foreign specialt[ies]”, but the exemptions don’t make any mention of menus.
Macpherson suggests that, in the great tradition of Westminsterian democracy, some anonymous uncivil servant is being thrown under the proverbial autobus for following through on both the letter and the actual intention of the law. “The point here,” he says, “is not that the names should be illegal, but that in Quebec, they are”—along with, as other reporting has revealed, English-language knick-knacks on restaurant walls and English-language buttons on their telephones and microwave ovens. “Zealous” surveillance of businesses for linguistic purity, after all, isn’t some wacky unintended consequence of Bill 101. It’s the essence of the thing.
But couldn’t this analysis be carried up to another level? The original flashpoint of the scandal was the OQLF’s orders to a restaurant that had the word “pasta” on the menu. Given the premise of cultural protection that justifies the existence of an Office of the French Language, shouldn’t the real objection be to the presence of… the stuff itself? Isn’t Italian cuisine just as much of a homogenizing, globalist cultural intrusion as the English language? Montreal is famous for just about every kind of cooking that’s not authentically Québécois, from French-French food to bagels and smoked meat to Joe Beef’s spaghetti homard. Doesn’t this represent a definitive failure of the PQ’s cultural immune system?
This is perhaps the real tension behind the Pasta Affair. The purpose of Quebec language law is to reinforce the permanent “just visiting” status of every ethnic and cultural group other than French-Canadians, including Montreal Anglos who are hardly less indigenous to the province than its francophones. It is thought unseemly to make this explicit; how much less so to point out that when it comes to a hundred non-language aspects of culture, Montreal is a resplendent machine, possibly unique in the world, of cultural remixing and appropriation and innovation.
One might even say it’s the English language of cities. And, of course, it’s precisely the lack of engineered cultural defence that made the English language so dominant on the globe. (It was carried abroad on a vast military empire, but then, so were Dutch and Mongolian.) But the minute the Parti Québécois accepted that premise, it would have to, in the words of Douglas Adams, vanish in a puff of logic.
By The Canadian Press - Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 3:59 PM - 0 Comments
QUEBEC – Justin Trudeau has pressed one of the hottest issue buttons in Quebec,…
QUEBEC – Justin Trudeau has pressed one of the hottest issue buttons in Quebec, saying there’s no need to toughen the province’s language laws.
During a visit to Quebec City, the Liberal leadership candidate was asked by reporters about plans by the new Parti Quebecois provincial government to create a new Bill 101. The government calls the matter urgent, following census data that suggests a decline in francophones’ demographic weight.
Trudeau’s response: the PQ’s language policy is unnecessary and counter-productive.
His remarks come as a new poll suggested a Trudeau-led Liberal resurgence in Quebec, a province the party once dominated under his father.
His opinion on language also echoes the position of his father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who brought official bilingualism to Canada and criticized the French-only policies of the PQ.
The younger Trudeau says adding teeth to Quebec’s Charter of the French Language risks reigniting old battles.
The new Parti Quebecois government has vowed to strengthen the law, saying it needs to protect the French language and culture. It campaigned on a promise to extend the law to junior colleges and smaller businesses. In the wake of this week’s census data, it calls the matter urgent.
But Trudeau isn’t alarmed by new figures suggesting a relative decline of French in Canada and on the island of Montreal, saying it is the result of demographics and a lower birthrate.
He says hardening the language law would only punish francophones who want their children to be familiar with English, which he described as the international language of business.
Trudeau, a Montreal-area MP, made the remarks as he made a swing through Quebec City to promote his candidacy.
He arrived as a new CROP poll published by Montreal La Presse indicated he could pass the NDP in popular support in the province.
A Justin Trudeau-led federal Liberal party got the support of 36 per cent of the 1,000 respondents between Oct. 17 to 22.
The NDP, which now holds most of Quebec’s seats, clocks in at 30 percentage points, followed by the Bloc Quebecois at 19 percentage points, the Conservatives at 11 and the Greens at three per cent.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 11:19 AM - 0 Comments
This week: kidney swap, Lance Armstrong, and protesting MP Kelly Block
Economics is the dismal science, but three Canadians who received new kidneys in August must feel good about it. The Vancouver Sun profiled a chain of donations made possible by the National Kidney Registry under a system devised by economist Alvin Roth, who won this year’s economics Nobel for applications of game theory. Three incompatible donor-recipient pairs in Ontario, B.C., and Quebec made a successful three-way swap of kidneys, bringing the total number of transplants performed under the registry to 141.
Is Somali piracy ending? The International Maritime Bureau reports that over the first three quarters of 2012, ships reported only 70 attacks off Somali shores, compared to 233 in 2011. Only one ship encountered trouble between July and September. The bureau praises EU-organized warships and stronger security aboard merchant vessels, but pirates still have 11 ships and 167 hostages captive.
Bike gang boss
Loathsome Lance Armstrong hit bottom as the International Cycling Union (UCI) accepted findings of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, banning the superstar for life and vacating his seven Tour de France championships. The UCI had been reluctant to act against Armstrong, but overwhelming evidence that Armstrong led (and provided muscle for) a doping conspiracy left cycling’s governing body with no choice. Nike has led an exodus of sponsors from Armstrong, and he may forfeit almost $4 million in Tour winnings.
The new Parti Québécois cabinet has promised that Bill 101 will not be extended to daycares, something the province’s family minister had seemingly threatened to do in an interview with La Presse. Nicole Léger’s comments expressing the intent to deny language choice in daycare was met with wrath from the opposition Liberals, whose interim leader Jean-Marc Fournier said, “There’s a limit on the state deciding everything for people.” The Parti Québécois’s minister responsible for language, Diane De Courcy, quickly popped Léger’s trial balloon. “Applying Bill 101 to [daycare] . . . is out of the question.”
By Martin Patriquin - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at 2:03 PM - 0 Comments
Marois has already overplayed her hand and completely misread the population she claims to represent
The Parti Québécois has been in power for 48 days. So far, the sky remains exactly where it was before September 4, the province hasn’t spiraled any closer to hell, no one has spontaneously combusted and, apart from some all-too-predictable parsing of PQ leader Pauline Marois and Stephen Harper meeting in the Congo—rarely have we seen such a high-stakes game of political brinkmanship that zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz—the province and the country hum along as though Quebecers had never even elected a cabal of evil separatists into government. So much for bogeymen.
Odder still: through a series of flip-flops and monumental cock-ups, the PQ government has seemingly been working as hard as possible to ensure a quick return of the Liberals to power. By at once overplaying its hand and completely misreading the population it claims to represent, the party of René Lévesque has gone a long way in proving how yawning that gap is between sitting in opposition and actually governing a province. And it has hurt them, to the tune of a 56 per cent disapproval rating in a Léger Marketing poll last week.
To put this in context, the PQ has yet to set foot in parliament (that happens October 30), and has as opposition the Liberals, a party thigh-deep in scandal—three of its former senior cabinet ministers having been caught in the Zambito dragnet—and lacking a permanent leader. And the poll was conducted on October 15 and 16, when the televised proceedings of the so-called Charbonneau Commission looking into municipal and provincial corruption were drawing a serious crowd, upwards of 111,000 viewers a day—”Quite high,” according to a Rad-Can flack I spoke with this morning. And yet for all the tales of their over-indulgences and skullduggery, the Liberals remain within the margin of error with the PQ, exactly the same as on election night.
Here’s why. During the last 48 days, the PQ has had to reverse itself on four major policy issues, including two language-related files, which you’d think would be familiar territory for the party. First off, there was the PQ’s reversal on the so-called $200 health tax instituted by the Liberals during the last budget. This tax, Marois declared last February, was “a veritable injustice to the economic plan” that was the “worst example” of the Charest-era soak-the-middle-class shenanigans. And yet as veritably injudicial as it may have been, Marois couldn’t bring herself to kill it off. It’s now part and parcel of the PQ platform.
What’s more, the PQ will exempt certain lower- and middle-lower class earners from its ”health contribution” (a Liberal talking-point phrase, by the by). These exemptions are nearly identical to those proposed by Raymond Bachand last year, in which 60 per cent of Quebec taxpayers would be exempted from or partially reimbursed for the $200 tax. Translation: Marois has spent a considerable amount of political capital to implement what amounts to a carbon copy of what Charest was proposing.
Second: PQ Finance Minister Nicolas Marceau has totally mishandled the PQ’s tax increases. (If you’re reading the following out loud, take a deep breath now.) Marceau originally wanted to tax those revenues above $130,000 at 28 percent and at 31 per cent above $250,000. He wanted to increase the capital gains tax to 75 per cent from 50. And he wanted to apply all these taxes retroactively to January 01, 2012. He has reversed the first two, and strongly hinted that he’ll renege on the retroactive tax as well. It’s really hard to do, but the PQ has managed to peeve both the left and right.
Third: the PQ announced that it would stop subsidizing those schools with entrance exams, apply Bill 101 to kindergarten and end English intensive courses in Quebec schools. Education minister Marie Malavoy said the first measure would force private schools to take its share of troubled and at-risk students, while the latter two were measures meant to avoid the spread of English—”a foreign language,” as she called it—to the all-too-malleable minds of young Quebecers. Trouble is, Marois has already had to walk back on the private school thing—defunding them is a near-impossibility, as La Presse’s Paul Journet recently pointed out—as well as Malavoy’s Kindergarten Bill 101 initiative. And those intensive English courses happen to be quite popular, even among language hawks; Le Devoir’s Michel David, who doesn’t exactly have a Maple Leaf tattooed on his chest, recently sung their praises.
The Liberals won’t have a permanent leader for another five months. But the PQ is already making life easier for him, whoever he might be.
By Paul Wells - Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 2:18 PM - 0 Comments
Paul Wells on the fundamental changes in the party’s language and identity policies
“Je n’ai jamais lu autant de violence envers nous les Québécois dans la Gazette, j’ai refusé de donner une entrevue à ce journal,” Sophie Stanké wrote on Twitter a few days after the Quebec election. Translation: “I’ve never read so much violence toward us, the Quebecers, in the Gazette, I refused to give this newspaper an interview.”
Stanké, an actress and TV personality, was the Parti Québécois candidate in Saint-Henri-Saint-Anne, one of the prettiest ridings in Montreal. She lost. The Gazette is still publishing.
I wonder who Stanké thinks is working at the Gazette. The paper has been published in Montreal since 1778. The very large majority of its employees grew up in Quebec. I will guarantee that if Sophie Stanké and Don Macpherson, the paper’s Quebec affairs columnist, sat down for a written and oral exam in French, Macpherson would get higher marks. And yet here was a candidate for public office drawing a casual distinction between “la Gazette” and “nous les Québécois.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 at 12:25 PM - 8 Comments
In the meantime, the federal government should back “prep work” needed for a Windsor to Montreal high-speed network, such as building road-rail grade separations, Masse said. Improving travel time from Windsor to Toronto by an hour to 90 minutes should be the initial goal, he said. “It’s doesn’t have to be high-speed, but can be higher speed,” Masse said. “Then it becomes real viable. That’s when we have a real ability to start connecting it internationally.”
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 1:42 PM - 40 Comments
An anonymous Conservative explains Maxime Bernier.
“It’s useful in inspiring the base and broadening public debate,” said one Conservative. “He’s mostly harmless, especially since the media knows he doesn’t speak for the government. I love what he’s saying.”
Meanwhile, the NDP’s Thomas Mulcair thinks Mr. Bernier should be ejected from the Conservative caucus if he has expressed an opinion that Mr. Harper disagrees with. From Mr. Mulcair’s scrum on Monday. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, February 7, 2011 at 10:59 AM - 41 Comments
Maxime Bernier doubles down on his criticism of Bill 101.
Some people say I am not a “real Quebecer” and are accusing me of “attacking Quebec” simply because I want to be more popular in the rest of Canada. They seem unable to conceive that it’s possible to have a different position than theirs on the basis of fundamental principles.
My position is this: Yes, it’s important that Quebec remain a predominantly French-language society. And ideally, everyone in Quebec should be able to speak French. But we should not try to reach this goal by restricting people’s rights and freedom of choice.
By Martin Patriquin - Friday, November 19, 2010 at 12:20 PM - 16 Comments
Former British PM Tony Blair on the rights of the religious to be heard
So Tony Blair, former prime minister of the Queen’s England, home of the shoe bomber and the London subway terror bombings, a country riven by tension over a growing Muslim population, walks into a Quebec hall to talk about reasonable accommodation.
Fish-out-of-water daydream? Set-up to a tasteless joke? No. The former British prime minister actually did as much in Montreal last week. Blair, at once a devout Catholic and ex-prime minister of notably secular Britain, has spent much of the last three years promoting the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, which aims to show how “faith is a powerful force for good in the modern world.”
“I became Middle East envoy for Israel and Palestine, so that’s been quite challenging. And then I decided to try and bring religious faiths of the world together and create an understanding, so that’s been quite a challenge, too,” Blair, sitting in an ornate red leather chair, said to a crowd of about 400 gathered in a downtown ballroom. “And then I decided to do some work on climate change, so this is probably an indication of Napoleonic delusion.”
By Philippe Gohier - Monday, November 23, 2009 at 3:37 PM - 32 Comments
At this weekend’s PQ brainstorming session—don’t call it a convention!—party members spent much of…
At this weekend’s PQ brainstorming session—don’t call it a convention!—party members spent much of their time debating just how far they should extend Bill 101′s tentacles. As reported by Le Devoir‘s Antoine Robitaille, party president Jonathan Valois even made a strangely personal plea to Montreal’s wretched Anglos, whose doughy delicacies he just can’t resist:
[That French is disappearing] is a feeling many Montrealers share. Sometimes, it annoys us when I can’t buy a bagel in French. It annoys me. And that’s part of daily life for Montrealers.
It’s all true. In fact, that’s why I moved to Toronto. My last apartment in Montreal was just a few short blocks away from both St-Viateur Bagel and Fairmount Bagel, and the stress was overwhelming: O lord, when will you finally deliver Jonathan Valois from the modern-day calvary that is bagel shopping in this godforsaken place?
Thankfully, where I live now, bagels aren’t worth buying in any language. Deliverance at last.
By Martin Patriquin - Thursday, July 2, 2009 at 11:00 AM - 20 Comments
Sovereignty strategist Louise Beaudoin on ‘Frenchification,’ Quebec’s self-confidence, and how to separate from Canada bit by bit
Louise Beaudoin has been at the forefront of Quebec’s sovereignty movement for over 40 years. As a cabinet minister in three Parti Québécois governments, she was largely responsible for the province’s language laws. Now, as a Montreal-area MNA, she is one of the main architects of the party’s new “plan for a sovereign Quebec,” which would use “sectoral referendums” in order to wrestle powers like taxation and culture away from Ottawa.
Q: Tell me about the PQ’s latest plan for a sovereign Quebec.
A: We thought it was time to remobilize the sovereignist troops and relaunch the sovereignty debate. We want to do away with the waiting game. It’s nice to say that we are going to wait for that big night where everything falls into place, but we know this won’t magically happen. So the best way to reignite the debate is this plan that [PQ leader] Pauline Marois has presented. We want to be transparent in what we are doing and what we want. The first thing, of course, is for Ottawa to respect the constitution of 1867, that is to say Quebec’s powers, as well as those that are shared with the federal government, as well as to reclaim certain powers that we think are necessary for Quebec’s development.
Q: In concrete terms, how do you arrive at getting these powers for Quebec?
A: We’ve already started. A year and a half ago we put forward our proposed law on Quebec identity and citizenship. When we get into power we will reintroduce this bill. Continue…
By selley - Monday, September 22, 2008 at 3:20 PM - 14 Comments
Must-reads: …Christie Blatchford on Gerry Ritz; Doug Saunders on the Eurabia hypothesis;
Must-reads: Christie Blatchford on Gerry Ritz; Doug Saunders on the Eurabia hypothesis; David Olive on uniting the left; John Ivison in northern Ontario; Rosie DiManno and Peter Worthington on Afghanistan; Scott Taylor on Canada and the Caucasus; Konrad Yakabuski on Justin Trudeau; L. Ian MacDonald on what Jean Charest’s up to.
On the issues
Behold: all the things we’re not talking about!
The Toronto Sun‘s Peter Worthington is not impressed by the “tomb of silence” in which the Harperites have sealed all matters military: notably, committing to withdraw from Afghanistan in July 2011 and replacing the outspoken Rick Hillier with Walter Natynczyk, who seems more shy about vocally “standing up for soldiers and reviving our combat character”—both of which, in Worthington’s view, seem to make the Prime Minister “nervous.” The army needs at least “an additional brigade,” he argues, and ideally to double in size, but recent events lead him to fear that “lethargy is again taking over before the military rebuilding job is done.”
“The yearning for peace in Afghanistan hasn’t dwindled,” the Toronto Star‘s Rosie DiManno assures us, but “there is growing disenchantment with NATO, which clearly can’t contend with a resurgent Taliban.” American troops redeployed from Iraq might be able to do the job, she argues, but “the whole point of NATO taking over responsibility of Afghanistan—besides justifying its existence post Cold War—was to put a multinational face, earnest and humanitarian, on the mission.” Due to many factors including the component nations’ inability or unwillingness to commit enough troops to combat duty, DiManno seems more or less ready to call that mission a failure.
By Martin Patriquin - Monday, September 8, 2008 at 11:15 AM - 13 Comments
Recently, one half of Deux Maudits Anglais spoke with Angry French Guy (real name…
Recently, one half of Deux Maudits Anglais spoke with Angry French Guy (real name unknown) who writes a spiffy little Quebec issues blog from somewhere west of Atwater Avenue in Montreal. As the quotation above his blog suggests (bless you, Chuck D) he is about as angry as we are goddamned – that is to say, very. He recently recounted a lovely yarn that smelled of 1970s-era language politics: a Montreal car dealer who refuses to translate his website into French. Nice guy that he is, Angry wrote him a note in his impeccable English. Much hilarity, and a complaint to l’Office québécois de la langue française, ensued.
By selley - Tuesday, May 13, 2008 at 1:13 PM - 0 Comments
Must-reads: Rosie DiManno on Afghan politics; …Terence Corcoran and Greg Weston on immigration reform;
Backlogged and gob-smacked
It’s not as easy to process 900,000 backed-up immigration claims as you think!
“There must be better ways to tame an unruly bureaucracy” at Citizenship and Immigration Canada than to hand unprecedented control over immigration to the minister, Terence Corcoran argues in the Financial Post. Bill C-50, which proposes to do just that, leaves the system vulnerable to “arbitrary political power and abuse,” he argues, and he doesn’t even understand how it’s going to solve the backlog. The big questions still need to be answered, he insists. Why issue temporary worker permits to people whose skills we need, and permanent status to hundreds of thousands whose skills we don’t? And why are we admitting no more immigrants today than we were in 1992?
Sun Media’s Greg Weston has discovered another “rather significant glitch” in the government’s plan to wade into the backlog and pluck out the people we need: “officials tell us there is nothing in their computers to distinguish the doctors from the ditch-diggers.” Continue…