By John Geddes - Saturday, December 29, 2012 - 0 Comments
How many senators did Prime Minister Stephen Harper appoint in 2012? How many years does the government allow, in its latest plan, for “development and acquisition” of F-35 fighter jets? How many premiers, provincial and territorial, attended the November economic summit in Halifax? (Hint: Saskatchewan’s just phoned in.)
In all cases, the answer is an even dozen. But for our purposes here—in this third annual installment of a year-capping look back—we’re interested in 12 only as the number of months in the calendar. Select just a single story for each, and 2012 might almost begin to show some semblance of coherence.
By Paul Wells - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 2:08 PM - 0 Comments
What an amazing op-ed Philippe Couillard, the physician who is generally regarded as the front-runner to succeed Jean Charest as leader of the Quebec Liberal Party, has published this morning in Le Devoir.
It’s an attempt to define liberalism in a Quebec context, but along the way it establishes Couillard as the most unconditionally pro-Canadian figure among prominent Quebec politicians. More so, at least in Couillard’s choice of rhetoric, than Charest. (Charest sometimes soft-pedaled his federalist convictions to avoid being criticized as an outsider who didn’t get Quebec.) In the context of Quebec’s Liberal Party, which was led for four decades by strongly nationalist figures — Jean Lesage, Robert Bourassa and especially Claude Ryan — Couillard’s position is radical, especially for a man who seems likely to win the leadership with little bother and who will surely have been advised against rocking the boat. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, November 24, 2012 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
A few footnotes to the Trudeau imbroglio.
In 2006, the Bloc Quebecois produced a newspaper ad that read “Don’t let Calgary decide for Quebec.” (Note the cowboy hat over the “r” in Calgary.)
Nine years before that, as Kevin Libin notes in that Western Standard blog post, the Reform party produced a television ad that called for a “voice for all Canadians, not just Quebec politicians.” This drew a bit of criticism. Here is how the Canadian Press reported the story at the time. (Note the former Reform MP who was consulted for analysis.) Continue…
By Martin Patriquin - Monday, October 29, 2012 at 10:43 AM - 0 Comments
While the corruption scandal rages on, Liberals can’t seem to get enough of their tainted former leader
Aside from three consecutive winning campaigns, arguably the best gift that Jean Charest gave the Liberal Party of Quebec was losing his seat along with September’s election. It afforded a graceful exit, avoiding the indignity of him having to sit in Opposition after nine unbroken years of power. It has also allowed for the party’s first leadership campaign in nearly three decades—a golden opportunity, some might say, for Liberals to distance themselves from Charest’s scandal-plagued, chronically unpopular last few years in government.
Yet the exact opposite seems to be happening in the run-up to the leadership convention in four months. Neither the party nor the three declared leadership candidates who wish to lead it have attempted in any way to distance themselves from Charest. Far from it. “After having led the Liberal party for more than 14 years and the government since 2003, Jean Charest leaves an economically strong government, having fulfilled many great achievements, and a party in excellent health,” reads a dedication to Charest on the party’s website.
It may seem an odd thing for a party to be so smitten with a former leader who regularly scored near-record dissatisfaction levels throughout his last mandate. It is all the more strange considering that an inquiry into corruption in the province’s construction industry, reluctantly called by Charest himself in 2011, recently heard testimony alleging three of his former senior ministers curried the favour of (and solicited donations from) a Mobbed-up construction magnate. It has only reinforced the general view that under Charest, the Liberals were home to dodgy fundraising practices and populated by a host of less-than-savoury characters.
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 and Martin Patriquin - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 at 12:10 PM - 0 Comments
Paul Wells and Martin Patriquin take us inside a dramatic campaign with a terrifying finish
“Qu’est-ce qui arrive?” Pauline Marois asked. “What’s happening?” It is an eternal question in Quebec politics, but for the next premier of Quebec it had particular urgency because she was putting it to two plainclothes Sûreté du Québec officers who were hustling her offstage as she attempted to deliver her election-night victory speech.
The television images that followed were confused and terrifying: a man on the ground behind Montreal’s Metropolis nightclub, as police examined what looked like a firearm nearby. A fire outside the fire-escape staircase, a frightening sight given that if left untended it would have blocked an escape route in a club with a capacity of over 2,000 people. A hooded man being escorted into a police cruiser, shouting “Les anglais se réveillent! Les anglais se réveillent!” (The English are waking up.)
Montreal police reported later that a man had shot two people inside the club, leaving one dead and the other critically wounded.
This was one of the most emotional and difficult political campaigns Quebec has seen since the 1995 secession referendum, but none of this madness was a direct or logical extension of anything the politicians said. When a jubilant Marois began her speech by telling PQ supporters, “Tonight another chapter in her history begins,” she could not have known it would begin in terror.
By Martin Patriquin - Thursday, September 6, 2012 at 9:00 PM - 0 Comments
Martin Patriquin explains why losing was the best thing to happen to the Liberal Party of Quebec
As a political narrative, you couldn’t ask for a better ending for Jean Charest. Think about it: longtime and long-unloved Premier goes into an election with the world against him, does much, much better than everyone thought, only to lose his own seat. He signs off as unapologetic as ever, though the tears in his eyes remind people why they liked the guy, just not some of the things he did. Cut and roll credits.
By John Geddes - Wednesday, September 5, 2012 at 5:55 PM - 0 Comments
For a guy who has slogged for nearly three decades through some of the nastiest swamps of Canadian politics, Jean Charest didn’t look or sound so bad as he delivered a restrained, reflective resignation speech this afternoon. As he spoke, anybody who has followed his career with even a bit of sympathy would have been thinking about the number of times he was dealt a miserable hand.
In 1990, Brian Mulroney asked Charest to chair the committee charged with salvaging something, anything, from the smashed Meech Lake constitutional deal. (Fat chance.) In 1993, the Tories turned to Charest, having earlier rejected him as leader in favour of Kim Campbell, to somehow prevent the party from disappearing entirely after Campbell’s disastrous election performance that year. (Gee, thanks.) In 1998, when Quebec’s only home for federalists, the provincial Liberal party, looked in awful shape, he was prevailed upon to tackle that fixer-upper. (Fun times.)
He wasn’t asking anybody to feel sorry for him today, though. After all, he had a pretty improbable run—nearly a decade as premier in a province that isn’t known for the stability of its political landscape. And at just 54, he’s got plenty of time for another act.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, September 4, 2012 at 10:42 PM - 0 Comments
A statement from the Prime Minister.
“The people of Quebec have made the decision to elect a minority government led by the Parti québécois.
“On behalf of the Government of Canada, I would like to congratulate Pauline Marois on her election victory, and the other candidates for taking part in this democratic process.
“We do not believe that Quebecers wish to revisit the old constitutional battles of the past.
“Our Government will remain focused on jobs, economic growth and sound management of the economy.
“We believe that economic issues and jobs are also the priorities of the people of Quebec.
“With this in mind, we will continue to work with the Government of Quebec toward our common goals.
“I would also like to thank outgoing premier Jean Charest for his leadership and for his dedication to the people of Quebec.”
By The Canadian Press - Thursday, August 23, 2012 at 12:38 PM - 0 Comments
And NOT about corruption
MONTREAL – Ambiguities on the independence question were seized upon as buoys Thursday by a Charest Liberal campaign that had earlier seemed adrift.
The Liberals latched onto that familiar lifeline as their two main opponents struggled with questions about inconsistencies on the one issue that has defined Quebec politics for decades.
The Parti Quebecois explained that, contrary to what it told members months ago, citizens would not be able to automatically initiate a sovereignty referendum by raising enough signatures on a petition.
Pauline Marois explained that her party would only consider the possibility of a referendum once 850,000 signatures had been gathered.
“It will force a government to reflect deeply,” Marois said of the petitions demanding a plebiscite. “Ultimately, it’s up to the national assembly to decide when there will be a referendum.”
She was forced to clarify that position after coming under fire in her TV debate with her old colleague, and current foe, Coalition party Leader Francois Legault.
By Paul Wells - Monday, August 20, 2012 at 10:59 PM - 0 Comments
If you missed Monday night’s one-on-one debate of Quebec Liberal leader Jean Charest and Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois, here’s a highlight reel:
So yes, elementary decorum was a little lacking. I get called cynical a lot, but I guess sometimes I’m the opposite: I honestly, honestly believe two political leaders who interrupt each other constantly for a solid hour, in a snarling tone and with perfect contempt written on their features, are hurting the case they are trying to make and the public image of public life in general. I was raised to listen in a conversation and wait my turn. I am sure most Quebecers were too. Either of these two would have helped his or her image by leaning back and letting the other bray like a jackass alone. Instead they sang a duet. Continue…
By Paul Wells - Sunday, August 19, 2012 at 11:08 PM - 0 Comments
The interests of journalists and voters are in fundamental conflict after a televised leaders’ debate, such as the one tonight that kicked off an unprecedented four consecutive nights of confrontations among the party leaders in Quebec. (Monday through Wednesday will feature one-on-one confrontations between pairs of party leaders. Tonight it was a more traditional debate among four leaders.) My lot are always looking for a telling moment, a single line or exchange that captures the novelty, if there was any, in the two-hour exchange. Twenty-eight years after Mulroney-Turner ’84, we’ve almostlearned to stop saying “knockout punch,” but the impulse to find such a thing is still strong.
Voters, on the other hand, are more like motorists road-testing a new car. They’re looking for general impressions, and it isn’t novelty that impresses so much as comfort and confidence. Voters chuckle at a clever line. But they’re looking for a long-term commitment.
Jean Charest’s problem is that they’ve already had one with him. Continue…
By Martin Patriquin - Friday, August 17, 2012 at 4:13 PM - 0 Comments
Even the Liberals are pandering to Quebec’s Jesus-lovin’ country mayor
I was tempted to believe, as Antonia Maioni does in this morning’s Globe, that Mayor Jean “Yeah, I said it” Tremblay’s bit about having some Algerian-born foreigner type with a tongue-tying last name daring to dictate “French Canadian culture” as the ravings of an attention-starved, country-bumpkin crank. After all, the man is certainly as crankish as he is quotable. His previous claim to fame was being fined $30,000 by the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal for leading a public prayer before town council meetings. I interviewed him once, many moons ago, for a piece on the Canadian Council on Learning’s learning index. He was shocked—shocked!—to hear how Saguenay has come in dead last three years in a row, and had an interesting way of disproving it. ”We have the best judo facilities in North America,” he said, in all seriousness.
So: he’s quotable, a wee bit loony, and apparently has a thing for very public self-crucifixion. Perfect fodder, as Maioni puts it, “a day of media attention and Twitter hysteria”—as brief as it is sad/entertaining.
But then I got around to reading the reactions of some of his fellow politicians. I saw how, in condemning Tremblay’s remarks, Péquiste candidate Pierre Duchesne made pains to note how Tremblay was a federalist. I saw how Trois-Rivièves Mayor Yves Lévesque said Tremblay’s remarks, while perhaps a tad too harsh, reflected a “silent majority” of Quebecers who don’t want to see their bleeding, prostrate, half-naked religious symbols taken down off any wall, thank you very much.
By Martin Patriquin - Thursday, August 16, 2012 at 4:07 PM - 0 Comments
Charest’s best hope for re-election is more violent student protests
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, arguably the leading figure in Quebec’s student protest movement, is known for his sartorial streak and a pair of ice-blue eyes that have weakened the knees of many of his admirers. Yet it was the 20-year-old’s righteous way with words that was on display as the would-be revolutionary dreamboat stepped back from the protracted (and at times violent) student uprising that has consumed Quebec for much of the year. “I leave with my head high, with the conviction of having fulfilled my duty and having participated in an historic popular movement,” Nadeau-Dubois wrote in his resignation letter in early August. His only regret, he said, was “leaving my functions while Quebec is led by Jean Charest, a premier who is disdainful and violent toward Quebec and its youth.”
Charest, who is seeking a fourth term, is probably just as sad to see Nadeau-Dubois go—if only because it deprives the premier of the perfect villain. Saddled with abysmal approval ratings, stemming largely from allegations of corruption within his government, Charest has tried mightily to make the Sept. 4 election about law and order—one of the few areas where he outflanks rivals Pauline Marois and François Legault. And few people personified the tear-gas-tinged, traffic-snarling displays that were the nightly student protests this spring and early summer than Nadeau-Dubois.
Apparently aware of his value to Charest’s re-election campaign, Nadeau-Dubois told Radio-Canada he resigned in part because “it takes a target away from Jean Charest.” The group he once led isn’t quite so savvy. Through the stubborn militancy of the second-largest association in the province, the student union CLASSE has kept the spectre of further conflict alive, and may well help re-elect the man it has fought against for nine months. Unlike the province’s other main student groups, CLASSE has refused to participate in the election. Indeed, true to its anarchist tendencies, it does not even endorse the electoral system; rather, the group continues to rely on what spokesperson Jeanne Reynolds calls the “show of force and economic disruption” of old-fashioned street protests. “The victories we’ve had have happened because of the protests and the strike, so we think we should continue,” Reynolds says. “We have the momentum.”
As the election campaign enters its middle stages, Charest has made pains to define himself as the only candidate able to confront and suppress what he has called “those who have expressed themselves through intimidation and violence.” It is a soundbite-worthy way of describing the thousands who, over the past several months, marched through Montreal’s streets in a cat-and-mouse game with police. Yet these displays have largely ended as more and more students vote to go back to school, and it is becoming increasingly clear that the premier needs a certain amount of chaos in the streets-—if only to keep the public’s attention away from the raft of corruption allegations swirling around his government.
By Paul Wells - Thursday, August 9, 2012 at 11:20 AM - 0 Comments
Which way will Quebec voters stampede?
At the end of June, Jacques Duchesneau, the former Montreal police chief, sat down with William Marsden, a veteran Montreal Gazette reporter. Duchesneau had just wrapped up his testimony as the star witness at the Charbonneau commission, a public inquiry into political corruption in the province’s construction industry. Earlier the Charest government had appointed him to run his own investigation into corruption, then sat on his report until he decided to leak it to the press.
At the commission he said 70 per cent of Quebec party financing comes from illegal sources, and that he’d warned Montreal’s mayor about people on the mayor’s staff. The mayor, Gérald Tremblay, denied everything and demanded Duchesneau name names. “He can go to hell as far as I’m concerned,” Duchesneau told Marsden. “You call him a mayor?”
Then he said he was going to disappear for safety’s sake. “It’s time for me to vanish for security purposes. The family has been hit kind of hard. They are scared.”
Where was he going?
By Martin Patriquin - Tuesday, August 7, 2012 at 10:35 AM - 0 Comments
The former Montreal police chief is basically immune to criticism — and he’s a federalist
No doubt, Jacques Duchesneau is a huge score for François Legault. In a province that loves its saviors (here, here, here and, yes, even here), the former Montreal police chief has become the face of integrity in the face of rampant corruption, political and otherwise. In doing so he’s become irreproachable and practically immune to criticism. Marois stayed practically silent on Legault’s coup, while Jean Charest made sure to praise Duchesneau even while he was accusing the ex-cop of “pure demagoguery.” For Duchesneau, it’s the stuff of political gold: Taking a shot at him is the equivalent of insulting Eliot Ness. Doing so suggests you have something to hide.
But here’s another reason why getting Duchesneau is a coup for Legault. Apart from his investigative chops and formidable reputation, he’s also federalist to the bone. It marks the first time in Coalition Avenir Québec’s short history that the party has nabbed an honest-to-goodness, high-profile Lover Of Canada™. “He’s a federalist, part of the gang,” Parti Québécois parliamentary leader Stéphane Bédard told me in June.
Before Duchesneau came along, Legault’s party was less a coalition than a refuge for disillusioned sovereignists, Legault very much included. Methinks Charest will have to retire his CAQ-as-a-crpyto-sovereignist-party talking point sometime soon.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, August 2, 2012 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Stephane Dion challenges Stephen Harper.
Dion said Harper should not be afraid to publicly say he prefers a Quebec premier who espouses federalism — just as former prime minister Jean [Chretien] did. “It seems to me that a prime minister should not be shy to say that he wants all the premiers to believe in the country.”
By Paul Wells - Wednesday, August 1, 2012 at 12:56 PM - 0 Comments
“Pour le Québec,” the slogan on the side of Jean Charest’s campaign bus reads. Presumably “Contre le Québec” performed poorly in focus groups.
It is always a good idea to say “Quebec” as much as possible in Quebec elections, and the Quebec Liberals are usually thought to be running at a deficit on this score, so they must always try harder. Charest’s opponents include the Parti Québécois, whose logo is a ‘Q’ for Quebec; Québec Solidaire, whose logo is a ‘Q’ for Quebec; and the upstart Coalition Avenir Québec, whose logo is a ‘Q’ for Quebec. This is more or less how Canada came to have a football league in which most of the teams were named Roughriders. Continue…
By Jaela E. Bernstien - Tuesday, July 24, 2012 at 12:15 PM - 0 Comments
Certain to play a major role in Quebec’s upcoming election, Plan Nord is already being called Jean Charest’s legacy to the province. Only twelve months into its launch, the 25-year plan promises to pump millions of dollars and thousands of jobs into the province’s economy by developing its resource-rich north. The plan also pledges to respect traditional Aboriginal ways of life and environmental sustainability in every phase of its implementation. Critics aren’t persuaded, and some even challenge the very economic viability of the project. Ultimately, voters will decide if Plan Nord is Charest’s legacy or letdown.
For now, we put together these this nifty infographic that sums up much of what you need to know about it:
By Martin Patriquin - Thursday, July 12, 2012 at 3:43 PM - 0 Comments
Jacques Duchesneau was hired to investigate corruption in the construction industry. No one liked what he found.
Montrealers can be forgiven for having been a tad restive during the sweltering first days of summer. There were the nightly student protests against Quebec Premier Jean Charest’s government and clashes with police. About a month ago, a six-metre-deep sinkhole opened up on Sherbrooke Street just hours after tens of thousands of protesters had walked past. In late June, a sewage pipe burst at rue Ste-Catherine and McGill College, revealing that one of the city’s busiest intersections was being largely held up by old tramway rails embedded in the asphalt. More sections of pipe promptly burst under Peel Street.
And then there were the perp walks by public officials. In May, Montreal’s former executive committee chairman, Frank Zampino, was hauled out of bed and arrested for his alleged part in the sale of city land to developer Frank Catania for a fraction of its value. Last week, Luigi Coretti, a close friend of former provincial Liberal cabinet minister Tony Tomassi, who himself faces fraud and breach-of-trust charges, was charged with fraud and fabricating false documents.
Protests. Crumbling infrastructure. Public officials in handcuffs. How much can one city be expected to take?
By Paul Wells - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 at 12:42 AM - 0 Comments
The most extraordinary political ad on a day that saw two released was not, I’m sorry to say, the one that contradicts much of my latest column, although that one’s effect will be worth watching. No, the most remarkable ad I’ve seen in ages is this one, from Jean Charest’s Quebec Liberals:
It’s almost a shame they green-tinted it, because there is no other effect or commentary to the thing. There is only Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois out banging casserole lids together, as tens of thousands of Quebecers did every night for weeks. The “message from the Liberal Party of Quebec” is, very simply, that Pauline Marois banged pot lids together. Indeed, Charest’s party says it got the video from the PQ’s own Facebook page, and tonight a few observers told me on Twitter they assumed, at first, that the ad came from the PQ and sought to rally support for Marois.
But Charest is betting everything that when Marois went all in with the tuition protests, she bet wrong. Continue…
By Paul Wells - Monday, June 18, 2012 at 7:29 AM - 0 Comments
(UPDATED with new pure speculation at the bottom.)
Beleaguered Jean Charest is finally explaining himself to Quebecers — in a one-minute Youtube ad:
(The near-identical French version, which more Quebecers will see, is here.)
It all seemed so familiar. The white background, the opening reference to lousy polls, the take-me-or-leave-me message. I immediately thought of this ad Dalton McGuinty used to soften up the Ontario electorate shortly before last year’s provincial election:
You can see why the McGuinty ads would be a tempting example for Charest. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 12:22 PM - 0 Comments
Postmedia obtains documents that suggest the environmental assessment duplication that the budget bill is supposed to prevent is already being addressed.
“Amendments made in 2010 have made the CEA Agency responsible for most comprehensive studies; this change is yielding positive results as all agency-led comprehensive studies have started in alignment with provincial reviews, preventing process duplication,” said the presentation, dated Sept. 6, 2011 and released by Environment Canada through access to information legislation. “All provinces have EA (environmental assessment) processes; harmonization agreements and project-specific arrangements are intended to prevent duplication.”
Quebec Premier Jean Charest has already questioned the suggestion that the environmental assessment system isn’t working.
In other budget bill news, two former Progressive Conservative ministers have been joined by two former Liberal ministers and the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution in expressing concern about changes to the Fisheries Act.
By Martin Patriquin - Wednesday, May 30, 2012 at 9:16 AM - 0 Comments
An attempt to end demonstrations against tuition hikes has only managed to escalate into a political and social stalemate
For the last month, thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of Montreal in what might be described as a schizophrenic display of righteous, pacifist outrage and opportunistic violence. Beginning at about 8 p.m. every night since late April, they gather at Place Émilie-Gamelin, a squared-off chunk of grass and outsized public chessboards formerly best known as downtown Montreal’s go-to spot for public drunkenness and illicit drugs. From there, the crowd marches off in a direction chosen by whoever happens to be in front. Purposefully, no one knows where the protest march is going.
For the next several hours, the marchers wind through the city streets. They shout slogans—denunciations of Premier Jean Charest and cheeky Nazi salutes are de rigueur—and otherwise fill the street with bodies and noise.
Men dressed as pandas and bananas are staples of this protest, as is “Angel Woman,” a pint-sized Filipino woman in a white gown and angel wings who offers police peace signs and the occasional flower. Police on bicycles track their progress at the front while their colleagues in riot gear waddle like helmeted penguins alongside.
By Paul Wells - Wednesday, May 30, 2012 at 9:11 AM - 0 Comments
Paul Wells: After thinking about it for three months, close to half the population is with the protesters
Three months in, it’s getting harder to dismiss the Montreal tuition protesters as a tiny bunch of malcontents. It’s true that they are calling for the perpetuation of Canada’s best bargain in higher education. It’s true that the active, on-the-street protesters represent a minority of the student population and a smaller minority of the larger student-age population.
But the protesters are not alone against the rest of Quebec. They have had substantial popular support at every stage of this dispute. And as the conflict settles in and becomes more bitter, support for the protesters has grown. A Léger poll for QMI last week showed that 43 per cent of respondents were “more favourable to the student position,” which the poll defined as a continued freeze on tuitions. That’s a nine-point increase in support in 11 days, thanks largely to a tough law the Charest government passed to increase restrictions and penalties for protesting. To sum up, after thinking about it for three months, close to half the population is with the protesters. So are many editorialists and the members of Arcade Fire.
My hunch is that if Charest could back down, he would. He spent most of his career as premier demonstrating that he doesn’t actually care whether Quebec’s universities are underfunded. He maintained a tuition freeze for his first four years in office, then increased tuitions at $50 a semester until this year. During that time, Quebec’s university rectors say, the annual funding shortfall in Quebec’s universities, relative to those in the rest of the country, increased from $375 million to more than $620 million.