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Maurais Live (#49)

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In an earlier post, “Québec Talk Radio – Who’s talking about what?”, we briefly looked at some of the more popular Francophone talk-radio stations & networks (all of which can be listened to through live streaming).   Two of the stations were the private network RNC’s Radio 9 Montréal, and CHOI-Radio X Québec (City).

Maurais Live is a Québec City based talk show which airs on both of the above stations, and is one of the most listened to talk radio shows in Eastern Québec and consequently on of the most listened to radio programs in all of Québec.  The show’s host is Dominic Maurais.

In general, it’s sometimes difficult (and touchy) to try to pin a precise political label on any one program owing to the fact that there are sometimes multiple, complex factors and measurements which can lead to nuanced conclusions.  However, for the purpose of context and understanding, I would say Maurais live, in terms of the broad Canadian political spectrum, can be classified as centre-right, generally not hostile to (yet constructively critical of) Federalism/Ottawa and generally critical of the direction Québec’s sovereignist movement has taken.  The program may find its greatest appeal with both Red-Tories, or Blue Liberals at the federal level, or CAQistes / Adéquistes / and centre-right-of-centre Liberals and Blue-Péquistes at the provincial level (Confused yet?)

Anglophones outside of Québec often tend to view Québec as one monolithic political bloc.  However, the reality is actually quite the contrary.  The Québec City region often votes very differently than Montréal, and rural regions will often vote differently than urban regions (with variances between those rural regions, depending on where they are).  Québec City and regions close to it (including the La Beauce, and Saguenay a little further out) comprise Québec’s “base” for Conservative Party votes & MPs, CAQ (and former ADQ) votes, as well as a good chunk of right-of-centre Liberal supporters (which is in stark contrast to Montreal which votes Liberal-left, Liberal-centre, left-of-centre NDP, far left Québec solidaire, and Parti Québécois in la Couronne [suburbs]).   Québec City is also less union oriented, whereas Montréal is more pro-union (think Windsor vs Toronto), less green/ecolo vs Montréal which is more green/ecolo (think Vancouver proper vs Calgary).

Again, in general terms, the overall political tendencies, opinions and views of Québec City and surrounding regions are very similar to those of BC (outside of the Lower Mainland), Northern Alberta (Red Deer North, including Edmonton), Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Northern Ontario (that’s already a pretty big chunk of Canada).   Québec City’s economy also closely resembles the economies of these same areas (less Northern Alberta’s oil).  It has similar low unemployment rates (they’re hovering around a 4-5% Canadian unemployment rate, which equates to 2.5-3% US unemployment), vibrant agricultural and forestry sectors, high service sector concentrations, with strong employment infrastructure in the government, university, and health service sectors — all with similar demographic drivers.  It’s a very different economic picture than other regions of Québec.

Sovereignty support in the Québec City region (not a simple subject to sum-up in one paragraph, but lets give it a shot … …) is not as overt, nor does it surface here as much as it can periodically in other regions of Québec.   Those sovereignists the region does have are generally considered to be “soft” supporters (des souverainistes mous) .  It’s a region where people will often say they’re not necessarily sovereignists, but they’re not necessarily federalists either (still confused?). It comes down to a lot of factors.  Generally it’s a question of sentiment.  People in this regions often feel the sovereignty movement does not provide a picture-perfect future, but yet Federalist camps haven’t exactly come home with a bag full of the freshest produce either (it’s kind of like hearing so many Anglophones elsewhere in Canada saying they “just don’t know who to vote for”… now is the ambiguity becoming clearer?).

Elsewhere in Québec, the sovereignist vote is driven on strong emotion (especially amongst the legacy Quiet Revolution generation, as well as those supporting left-wing politics), but that emotion is tempered to a large degree in the Québec City Region.  This tempered emotion, combined with more right-of-centre political tendencies make it so sovereignty has become more of an economic issue in the Québec City region than elswhere (and it has remained as such for much of the last 20 years).   With having to court such a diverse province-wide electorate, you can begin to see the headaches the PQ is having with rallying such a sporadic electorate to their cause (which has lead to the current collapse of votes for an organized sovereignist movement).   That’s not to say the movement is permanently dead, but there are a lot of things up in the air.

35 years ago, Yvon Deschamps, one of Québec’s best known figures and living symbols of the Quiet Revolution – and quite possibly the father of Québec comedy and all the spin-offs which have shaped Québec’s pop-culture today – said “Ce que les québécois veulent, c’est un Québec indépendant dans un Canada fort” (“What Québécois desire is an independent Québec in a strong Canada”).   His statement was full of irony – but strikes a chord on so many levels.  Québec’s politics and economics have followed along this trajectory for generations.    Many have decided, for them personally, that it means they can be proud Québécois and proud Canadians.  Others feel proud to be Québecois without the Canadian connection, others struggle with the issues, and yet others are simply apathetic (owing to many different factors).

Wheat this means, is that right now (as in generations past), there remains a large, drifting electorate to be courted by all parties of the political spectrum (federally and provincially), but which all parties are finding difficult to court as one coherent collective block (for politicians, Québec probably would be so much easier to court to if it were divided into two, or even three provinces — reflecting various regional political differences) .  Throw in a deficit that many feel is wildly out of control and in need of rapid remedy (a view that also has opponents who believe the deficit is not so dire, and does not need measures of austerity [or rigeur as some may say]), and you have political dynamics which become extremely complicated.   Then add the Federal Conservative equation to the mix, which has a social side that does not resonate with much of Québec, and politics become a big tangled ball of twine.  (When Québec votes “Blue”, which they do – CAQ, ADQ, right-PQ-elements, right-Liberal-elements, a few conservatives — those same people still place a lot of importance on certain aspects of a “Red” agenda — hence why Québec City and other regions have a “Red” Tory streak, but not so much for the current Conservatives).  After the Liberal collapse of the Chretien/Martin years, the Conservatives seem to have adopted a “don’t bring ‘it’ up” standpoint with anything regarding constitutional discussions, and an “ignore-it-to-death” approach to sovereignty.  Such an approach may have actually had an effect on sovereignty (it eliminated the Federal government as a “meddling” common target for sovereignists, leaving a parceled sovereignist base of competing factions and views which semi-imploded from in-fighting in front of the public – which has left the electorate less-than-impressed with any organized sovereignty movements).  But the “ignore-it-to-death” and “don’t bring ‘it’ up” policy of the Conservatives has also had the negative consequence of leaving many Québécois feeling out of touch with, and semi-abandoned/neglected by Ottawa.  For many Québecois who have little contact with the Rest-of-Canada (and there are many owing to Québec’s media which routinely neglects to afford the ROC comprehensive coverage), Ottawa is the only face they have with which to relate to Canada  – hence a feeling of “detachment” from Canada. But yet these same people also have a “detachment” from sovereignty.   We’re starting to see both the federalists parties and sovereignist parties trying to gain political traction, and trying to capitalize on these feelings of “detachments” with each other’s camps.  Both sides are thus trying to woo these “lost voters” (to fill the vacuum, if you will).  Although there is a stable provincial Liberal majority government in power, certain individuals in Québec politics are already making their counter moves (it will be interesting to see how things play out now that the PQ is planning one of the longest party leadership races in Canadian history, with a new leader to be selected in May 2015).   The economy of course is something everyone wants the government to pay attention to (federally and provincially), but in Québec, as much as the economy is an issue just like anywhere else in Canada, there are always these other issues as well.

As you can see, trying to objectively sum up “current” Québec politics in the most general of terms, all in one paragraph, is not an easy task, with no single correct explanation (don’t shoot me in the comments section).

If you’d like to get a better handle on the nuances of Québec politics and societal views, Maurais Live could be a really good radio program for Anglophone Canadians.  It looks at issues from the same political standpoint to which a large part of Canada adheres (which would provide many Anglophones with common a base reference point when listening to topics being discussed).

The show’s host, Dominic Maurais, is one of the few Francophone talk show celebrities who is also very familiar with Anglophone Canada (he graduated from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, and lived in Toronto for a while).   He therefore can bring a larger perspective to many issues and can play devil’s advocate or give a voice to those without one when necessary.

His show (along with the RCN radio network’s other shows) deals an awful lot with the political and economic direction Québec is taking (as well as Canada’s), and he has a line of regular commentators and guest from all colours of the political and economic spectrum.   Although he himself is based out of RCN’s Québec City studios, the fact that he broadcasts on Montréal’s Radio 9, makes it so topics are of interest to the entire province.   Because of the Montréal / Québec City Left-Right political divide (mentioned above), the show can often be a flash-point of sparks.   It’s really a great way to understand the extremely complex political dynamics being played out in Québec.

Maurais has a regular column in Le Journal de Québec, is a guest columnist in some of the largest Montréal newspapers, and is a regular panelist on political talk-TV (especially the TVA / LCN networks).   Because of his presence, he is one of the best known and respected radio-show hosts in Québec.

If your French is not perfect, well…, it will improve by listening to Maurais live (give it a shot for a month… you only learn by trying).  The regular use of Joual  may throw many beginners, but you’ll have to learn to develop an ear for it anyway if you really want to understand the issues, so this might just be the right show.

Radio X has done an excellent job with their website.  The show is broadcast daily for two hours each day.  Shows are available online for one week (Friday’s show is related to music and light topics, no politics or economics), and each archived show online is divided into topics discussed (you can therefore browse what you wish to listen to).

Their APP is excellent for iPads and iPhones (you can turn the screen off, and it continues to play, saving your battery).

The shows website can be accessed at the link HERE.

Bonne écoute, et bonne chance de vous démêler dans toute cette grande boule de ficelle! (mais en fin de compte, c’est pas si compliqué que ça).

ADDENDUM 2015-01-24

Maurais Live is no longer syndicated on Montreal Radio 9.  However it remains on Radio X, and Maurais remains the most popular and listened to radio host in Québec city and the province’s Eastern half.


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