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PKP’s major Anti-Immigrant, Anti-Immigration Muck-up (#213)

Yesterday, during the Parti Québécois debates, Pierre Karl Péladeau (PKP), the most likely contender to be the next head of the PQ, stated (and I’m quoting as accurately from French as possible, with context being provided in square brackets):

“We will not have [another] 25 years to achieve [Québec independence].  With [Québec’s] demographic [changes], with its immigration [rates], it is a sure thing that we are losing [the support of the equivalent of] one riding every year.   We wish we could better control [this situation], but let us not hold any illusions [about it]”

“Who is in charge of the immigrants who come to settle in Québec?  It is the Federal government.  Of course, there is shared jurisdiction [in immigration between the provincial and federal governments], but [immigrants] still pledge an oath to the Queen [to become citizens, and thus are eligible to vote in any referendum].   Therefore, we don’t have another 25 years ahead of us.  It is now that we must work [on this problem].”

Reactions to PKP’s statement have so far boiled down to two camps:

  • One camp believes immigrants are “not” the problem.  Rather this camp believes the issue is with either sovereignist ideology (which is what federalists argue), or the successful communication of this ideology to all sectors of Québec’s society (both federalists and sovereignist can share point of view, as did Alexandre Cloutier, another contender for the leadership of the PQ). What they mean by this is that rather than (a) turning off the immigration tap, or (b) choosing only immigrants who would be demographically “more apt to support sovereignty”, the PQ should instead concentrate more on getting their argument to resonate with all immigrants.  Federalists will argue that in the end, if immigrants will not support their proposal, then the PQ should question the validity of their own proposal rather than the intelligence of immigrants.  To do otherwise creates a “them-and-us” society (A similar analogy would almost be as if the Federal government were to restrict immigration numbers so as to garner enough votes in the off-ball chance they were running on a platform that was about… I don’t know… ceasing subsidization of education [I just chose this completely at random]).  This means Québec has to determine if it wants a globalized, cosmopolitan (ie: all inclusive, multi-ethnic/racial, we’re-all-in-this-together) society, or if we want a “them-and-us” society, with a sovereignty debate axed on ethnic nationalism.  This camp believes that you can’t just turn immigration on and off depending on how you think this segment of the population will vote (otherwise it becomes a question of ethnically rigging our entire system and population — very dangerous!).
  • Another camp believes that immigrants are the roadblock to sovereignty because they are statistically less apt to vote for sovereignty in any referendum. This camp argues that a referendum should be held as quickly as possible to beat a demographic time bomb against sovereignty as Québec continues down the road to becoming more cosmopolitan (some veteran, high-profile sovereignists, such as Denise Bombardier, argue Québec is already past this point and will never achieve sovereignty).  This camp believes part of “beating the demographic time-bomb would involve controlling immigration levels so that, in the eyes of supporters of this camp, no more “damage” could be done.   This argument can be summed up in the following statement: Québec sovereignty should be decided by those of New France origins, and also by those who are allied with citizens of New France origins and culture, and to hell with the rest. (harsh, but that’s kind of where this camp stands).  This argument advocates that, if at all possible, “the rest” should be prevented from coming to Québec, for fear that they may influence any referendum’s outcome.  It also insinuates that those of Non-New France origins would never support sovereignty (yet, interestingly, 20% of visible minorities did support the “yes” side in 1995).  It is interesting to see that there are are people who advocate this view — and based on what was said at a number of pro-Charte des valeurs rallies in 2012, perhaps there are more people who support these views than what one may think (it is a view which very much echoes the 1995 Parizeau statement).

One little factoid I wish to explain, one which is not very well understood in Québec or elsewhere in English Canada:   Under the constitution, Québec and all provinces have sole jurisdiction to decide which immigrants can settle in their respective provinces.  However, Québec is the only province which has opted to exercise this jurisdiction (all other provinces, with the exception of some limited immigration categories, have “voluntarily decided” to let the Federal government handle selecting their immigrants for them).  What this means is that in Québec’s case, Québec has provincial immigration officers, posted abroad in Québec immigration bureaus, who receive applications from foreigners to “immigrate to Québec”.  These provincial immigration officers then decide which immigration applications will be approved (it is not Ottawa who chooses the immigrants to Québec, unless they fall under certain categories of refugees.  However Ottawa conducts the police and health checks on all immigrants before the permanent resident card is granted — but this has nothing to do with choosing the “person” who is about to immigrate).  In this sense, all immigrants in Québec have been chosen by Québec, for Québec (including by the Parti Québécois when they were in power).   That’s why I find PKP’s statement quite curious – (in many, many respects) – as well as misleading, ill-informed, and frankly ignorant.

The intention of this post is not to report the news.   Believe me when I say this story has already become one of the most reported individual stories of 2015 (and it has only been news for 24 hours).   We have not seen this sort of political statement since Parizeau cried foul of the “ethnic vote” on referendum night in 1995.

Nor is the intention of this post to analyze the validity or invalidity of PKP’s statement (the above is more of a backgrounder, than anything else).  Again, reporters, columnists, other bloggers, and political circles are covering this topic like oil takes to the sands in Fort McMurray.

The intention of this post is to question why PKP made such a statement now – at this point of time.   This is a question I have heard absolutely nobody talk about.  I have some initial thoughts, and it’s worth pondering aloud.

In English Canada, the whole debate of reasonable accommodations (mostly orbiting around headscarf & facial-veil issues), and the political capitalization of religious tolerance issues (in light of recent jihadist-related events) has only become acute in the last few weeks (with the introduction of Bill C-51, recent court decisions, questions of extensions of military action in the Middle-East, homegrown terrorism issues, etc.).

Whereas this debate is relatively new news in English Canada, in Québec this debate has already been going on for the better part of three years — starting with the PQ’s initial proposal of the Charter of Values, and subsequent arguments for codifications and limitations of reasonable accommodations (within the framework of a debate surrounding multiculturalism and interculturalism).

This has allowed more than enough time for segments of Québec’s population to become quite galvanized along certain views in this debate – much more galvanized that in English Canada, which is still doing a lot of soul-searching.   In many respects, such soul-searching is already “finished” in Québec, and we see clear lines of public opinion already being drawn in the sand;  “for” and “against” various degrees of accommodation, “for” and “against” measures such as bill C-51, “for” and “against” increased or decreased levels of immigration, etc, etc.

Over the past year, many in our media in Québec have been stating that PKP’s manner of frank speech and political naïveté are a mix which makes him prone to severe verbal gaffs.  More than a handful of veteran reporters have been predicting for months that it would only be a matter of time before PKP says something which would land him in very hot water – to the point that it could jeopardize any public support he has garnered (be it for his run at the PQ leadership, or his status as the leader of the PQ after the leadership race).  Today, the vast majority of the media establishment have been citing yesterday’s statement as one such gaff.

However, I’m not so sure they are right.  PKP is an extremely intelligent individual, surrounded and counseled by skilled, veteran political warriors.  I actually have the funny feeling PKP knew exactly what he was saying when he made the above statements.   I would venture to bet that he was fully aware of the type of public attention such statements would garner.  It could very well have been part of his strategy.

Over the past months, even over the past couple of years, we’ve seen a stark galvanization of Québec’s population around issues of immigration, and how immigration touches upon matters involving integration and accommodation.   In part, this galvanization has garnered unprecedented, historic support for “post-Alliance party” Conservatives in Québec — to the extent that they are for the first time leading in some polls of some regions in Québec, such as in Québec City.

The PQ has had a very difficult time attracting support over the past three years.  I have a hunch that PKP saw how the Conservatives were able to capitalize on immigration & integration issues (as well as related security issues) to gain support in Québec – and I’m almost lead to believe that PKP is trying his hand at the same antics.

If this truly is part of his strategy, of course it is not without risk to PKP (and I’m sure he would be aware of that).  Having one’s remarks labelled in the same breath as those of Parizeau’s 1995 remarks comes with the risk of a heavy political price.  But unlike Parizeau’s remarks which we pronounced on a stage at the “end” of a highly emotional political process, PKP’s remarks came during a time when “other coincidental public debate” on related issues could provide him with a wider, more receptive audience towards yesterday’s remarks.  In addition, unlike Parizeau’s remarks which went down in the history books as “closing” remarks at the “end” of the referendum process, PKP’s remarks yesterday are coming at the “beginning” of several political processes which will be debated for quite some time (such as the PQ’s leadership race, the 2015 Federal election, the 2018 provincial election, and a possible future referendum).

For a couple of reasons, it is important to be cognizant of the fact that his remarks are coming at the “beginning” of a whole set of political events (rather than at the end).  In Canadian & Québec politics, the longer the time-frame that issues are debated, and the more certain issues are debated, the more our population has a tendency to become “numb” towards what is being debated.  Parizeau’s remarks did not come at a time when sovereignty was still being debated (the debate was finished) — and thus the population did not have the opportunity to become “numb” towards them, or to “rally” around them as part of a campaign.   Perhaps PKP is hoping the population, over time, will become “numb” towards the controversial aspects of his words, and that he may eventually succeed in rallying a segment of the population which perhaps would have otherwise lent its support to other parties (or did in fact lend its support to other parties in the last provincial election).

Perhaps PKP is willing to risk a few weeks of “uproar”, believing that criticism of his statements may eventually die down at some point — and in the meantime he may be hoping to pick up some of the same support that the Conservatives have managed to garner.

I’m sure there are people who agree with PKP, but to what extent they may be close to (or far from) a majority (even within the Parti Québécois) is a whole other question.

I suppose only time will tell.


Update 2015-03-20, 18:00pm:  This is quickly becoming a very fluid topic.  As of this evening (26 hours after first making his statements), it is being reported that PKP has apologized.   I’m going to try to catch 24/60 in a few minutes to find out what is happening.

Public condemnation of PKP has been swift, hard, and virulent from the full range of the political spectrum, from friend and foe alike (even from some of his closest allies).   It is rare to see such across-the-board condemnation of a Canadian political figure (at least without them resigning – which he likely will not).    If you wish to read the full-range of condemnations he has attracted, you can view them here in the Radio-Canada article, PKP présente ses excuses. (sorry, no time to translate the article — but “google translate” works great!).

Regardless, I’m not sure what is going to hurt him more; having made the above statements in the first place, or having retracted them and now coming across as completely incoherent and incompetent, especially as the aspiring head of a major political party.

———————

Update 20:00pm:  Evening news & talk shows, their guests (from all political streams) and the windows they’re giving into the public’s perception is unanimous condemnation of PKP’s statements.  People are still questioning whether his apology is sincere or not, or if it is a mere reflex after he realized it did not have the desired effect (he was sure sticking by his remarks earlier in the day).   But frankly, at this point, I don’t care.   What matters the most is that Québec, as one society, has dropped all political labels to says with one voice that this is not acceptable.  That’s worth more than anything else – and really sums up what we’re all about as a society, in Québec and coast-to-coast across Canada!

———————

Update 20:30pm:  Oh, and in case anyone is wondering how PKP’s own television network, TVA, covered this story today (considering it was the top news event on every other network, on the radio, and in the newspapers), well, TVA’s main evening newscast in Québec City, the capital city of Québec (Le TVA Nouvelles 18h de Québec) buried it behind 7 other stories in their major evening news broadcast, behind

  1. A funding story about a skating rink in Québec City,
  2. A union dispute at Olymel,
  3. A loud city counsel session in a small city near Québec City,
  4. A court case regarding students who want to attend university when other students are striking,
  5. A story about an ex-juge convicted of murder three years ago and who is now appealing,
  6. A story about Québec City’s airport terminal expansion

And PKP and the PQ want to have us believe there is no conflict of interest between his position as a politician and that of a media mogul.  I just shake my head.   As we say… “mon oeil!”

And on top of it, TVA was the only network which did NOT broadcast video of his apology.  They only broadcast a short, face-paced clip of him saying “It was only my intention to say that we need to act faster than taking 25 years”.   I can tell you one thing, if this is the tone they’re setting for themselves in front of the public, things ain’t gonna go very far for ’em.   Unbelievable… absolutely unreal.

———————

ADDENDUM 2014-03-15:  Radio-Canada knocks down PKP’s argument (bluntly saying PKP was wrong) that the Federal government is responsible for what PKP perceives to be Québec’s immigration woes (I’m still shaking my head with it buried in my hands after what he said yesterday).

Here’s Radio-Canada’s article:  http://ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelles/politique/2015/03/19/005-parti-quebecois-pkp-peladeau-immigrants-vote.shtml

It basically says the same thing that I said above with respect to how immigrants are chosen (by Québec, for Québec).   They go a bit further by stating that

  • Ottawa takes Québec’s advice into consideration when deciding immigration numbers
  • Québec looks after integrating and allowing immigrants to learn French
  • That Ottawa gives Québec $320 million annual for the above integration and “Frenchisization” process.

ADDENDUM 2015-05-19

It has been over two months since PKP has made the above statements.   Four days ago he became the head of the PQ.  There has been no more talk of the subject since the statements were made last March.

I’m left wondering:

  1. if this means the PQ believed the initial virulent reaction to the statements were so strong that it remains too dangerous to evoke the immigration card any further?
  2. if this means that the PQ continues to let Québec’s population quietly ponder the who question of immigration? (after all, the seed was planted, but will it sprout into something in favour of PKP’s initial arguments at a later time?).  Like I said earlier, Canada’s and Québec’s population often changes their minds on issues of a social and societal nature if slowly eased into the idea (we’ve seen this many times over the past 50 years… think of how many subjects used to be taboo in the past, but are no longer taboo now).   Far-right wing parties in Europe have played their immigration cards in this way.
  3. if PKP may try to reinvoke this same argument in the run-up to the 2018 election, but in a re-packaged format – perhaps in a different format?   He perhaps may try to invoke an “immigration crisis” on another issue.   Perhaps he will try to make an argument that temporary foreign workers are taking jobs (the Couillard government has been bucking Ottawa’s bid to quell temporary foreign worker numbers).  Perhaps he will try to invoke an argument that massive immigrant investment in the real-estate sector is driving up prices.  Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…  Regardless, such arguments (even if incorrect) have the potential to diminish public appetite towards immigration.  I would hedge my bets that we’ll see something of the making of this 3rd point in the run-up to the 2018 election.   But as always, who knows.  Only time will tell.

Patrick Huard (#212)

Two nights ago, Xavier Dolan’s film Mommy cleaned house, yet again.  This time it was an arm-full of trophes at Montréwood’s Jutra awards.

The 2nd most important back-up actor in the film was Patrick Huard.

Regarding Montréwood cinéma, we often say if you want to know what film is worth watching (ie: what constitutes a “good” film), then follow the “director”.  Conversely, in Hollywood, more often than not it tends to be the reverse; people in Hollywood say you should follow the “actor” to find the “good” movies.

One major exception to the Québéc/Montréwood rule of following the “director” is in the case of the superstar actor, Patrick Huard.   In Huard’s case, if you follow the actor (just as you would in Hollywood), you are bound to find the best films.

With a few exceptions, if you look at the biggest of the big Montréwood films from the mid 1990s to present, Patrick Huard has held either a leading acting role, or a major back-up role.

I’ve never personally seen Huard walk down the streets in Québec, but I can only imagine he would be pounced upon from all directions by adoring fans looking for autographs.

Some of the more notable, very successful Montréwood films he has appeared in were:

  • Les Boys (1, 2 & 3) – all of which were among the highest grossing, and most viewed films in Canadian history
  • Bon Cop, Bad Cop – (Patrick Huard was the main actor)… the highest or second highest grossing film in Canadian history when it came out in 2006
  • Starbuck
  • Mommy
  • Omerta

The above films have gone down in the Montréwood, Québec and Canadian history books.  I think it’s fair to say that so has Patrick Huard.

If you want to hear a half-hour conversation between Patrick Huard and his co-star in Mommy, Anne Dorval, you can hear it on Radio-Canada’s radio program, L’autre jour à la table d’à côté” (“The Other Day at the Table Beside Us…”).  Click HERE for the program on Radio-Canada’s official website.

Check out some of his work… I think you’ll be impressed.

Bon Cop, Bad Cop – ENGLISH TRAILER (the film was 50/50 French-English)

Starbuck – SUBTITLED English Trailer

Omertà – (Also starring Céline Dion’s husband, René Angélil)

Mommy Trailer:

Even the media can have a bad day, week… or year (#211)

A little bit of warning:  If you have wine, beer, or something stiffer in your cupboards, you may want to grab a glass of it now… because you’re going to need a drink after reading this.

If you are already well-versed in Canada’s & Québec’s political spectrum, you can skip much of this post and go straight down to the section entitledHow the media’s elastic band became stretched (below).

The first half of this post is going to give you some general information so that the second half makes sense.  This unfortunately is not the type of post that I can break up into smaller chunks, so bear with me.

This is a post about how political tension has been building in Québec’s media for years (particularly since the 2012 student protests – which you can read about by clicking here regarding an earlier post about Gabriel Nadeau Dubois), and how it appears that the elastic band just “broke”.   It will be interesting to see if someone pulls out a “new” elastic band in the coming weeks.

Backgrounder

I have always listened to a LOT of talk radio (both from English stations across Canada, and in French from both Québec & other provinces).  The French-language talk radio I tend to listen to the most are Radio Canada’s “Radio-Première”, primarily from Montréal and Toronto, as well as RCI’s Radio-X in Québec City.

As far as where these two radio stations sit on the socio-economic and political scale in Québec, you couldn’t get two radio stations further apart.

pty.stns

I find that in Québec, radio & TV media can be labelled on a wide-ranging scale in terms of “political ideologies” much more than in English Canada (people often talk about their choice of media in the same breath as their political allegiances).  It is quite interesting in this respect.  In English Canada, with the odd exception (such as the now-defunct Sun News, or certain talk radio stations / shows), people tend to think of English-language radio & TV media as fairly middle-of-the-road, with aspects which can appeal to people on all ends of the spectrum.

With this said, despite Radio-Canada often being grouped into a range which often appeals to certain personalities on the left, I do not believe the “bulk” of its programming venture too far beyond a “mid-range left”.  Of course, there are exceptions to this, and we can’t paint all programming or all hosts with the same brush.

In the same vein, Radio-X often is often labelled as a station which would appeal to those on “far” right.  However, although their programs have a good-deal of overlap with the Conservative party, I do not believe the “bulk” of their programming ventures much further to the right than perhaps what former Federal Progressive Conservative party occupied, or what the formal ADQ party in Québec occupied (however, they are not as “eco” as what the former federal PCs were, and their “eco” stance is one area where they very much overlap with the current Conservatives).  Despite being on the right-end of the Canadian spectrum, Radio-X does not have any religious element to it (Canada generally does not have any Federal parties which venture, on the whole, into religion politics — and where there is a religious element, it is often isolated to a small handful of “independently-minded” MPs or MLAs).

If we to compare where Québec’s TV & radio falls on a comparison with Canadian political partisan scale, the following chart can be quite telling.

pty.pstns

Here is what the chart looks like if we take out other Canadian parties, and just concentrate on those which are players in Québec (federal or provincial).pty.pstns.qc

Generally speaking, adherents who find their political voice reflected on the political chart will also find their voice reflected in the same corresponding range on the media chart.   Take a look at both of the media & political charts, and see if you can line up which media best fits the physical locations of various political parties on the same scale.   This is important, because it plays into the rest of this blog post.

Some side-remarks regarding the political chart:

Because so many parties are so close on the political spectrum (even if their platforms are different), it’s all in the nuances.

In the above chart, although I didn’t mention it, the various NDP & Liberal provincial parties would be roughly positioned in the same place as the Federal NDP & Liberals.  For the sake of reference, I threw in some provincial parties outside of Québec (since there is a variance between the provincial PC parties… Alberta’s is a prime example of one of the PC parties which has made a slight shift to the left over the past 3 to 4 years).

Also, you will note that there is a great deal of overlap between all parties in Canada (mostly concentrated within a couple notches of what would be considered Canada’s “centre”).   Because of this overlap, much of our Canadian politics come down to:

  • (1)  Personality politics of the leader (or of the individual MP, MLA, MPP, or MNA at a local level)
  • (2)  Individual platform issues, rather than an overriding vote for a party as a whole (It is for this reason why we see elections boil down to 3 or 4 major issue demarcations, even if those 3 or 4 issue only constitute 10 or 20% of a party’s overall platform).
  • (3) Voters, like myself, carry a very mixed bag of viewpoints.  What that means is that many voters see constructive views from all ends of the spectrum.  Take me for example:  I know where I stand on many individual issues, but my views are not “partisan” or particular to any one party.  Rather, I have issue-by-issue views which are liable to shift with time, as I become better informed, or with circumstances.   Come election time, I, like many (or most) Canadians try to find the party which best matches perhaps 65-70% of my own issue-by-issue views.  No party will every match all of an individual’s views 100%.  But if I find a party at election time which matches 65-70% of my views, then I’m comfortable when I cast my vote.  But if there is a party which matches every one of your views, you should be a lottery ticket!   In fact, considering our parliamentary style of democracy and how many choices we have out there, this approach is very “Canadian”.  It’s an approach which is generally quite practical, efficient and effective, not to mention very reflective of how a good portion of Canada’s population votes.   And more importantly, it seems to work (after all, we don’t have deadlock for a lack of political options or platforms out there)

These three elements are also the primary reasons why the average Canadian voter is more apt to change their vote from one election to another.   There tends to be much less “party loyalty” or “lifelong loyalty” in Canada than exists in other countries – likely because there is so much overlap.  It just takes one or two major platform issues, or the right (or wrong) personality to come along, and the average person will be more apt to change their vote in a heartbeat (otherwise we would never see polls in Canada shift to the extent that they do, sometimes right up to election day).

Considering that I regularly listen to both Radio-Canada and Radio-X (which are supposedly at “opposite ends of the scale”) I find it fascinating that elements of all these media, as well as the written press (which I didn’t place on this chart) are so often at each other’s throats!   They sometimes hurl accusations at each other even louder and more spiteful than any ruckus in the House of Commons, as if they’re yelling at their worst enemies.

As I continue to write this post, I want to emphasize that,

  1. I’m not a member of any political party, and
  2. I’m not taking a partisan stance as I write the rest of this post (Politically speaking, I’m going to approach the rest of this post as objectively as I can).

How the media’s elastic band became stretched

For about the last three to four years, private talk radio station hosts, newspaper columnists, members of the artistic community (some of whom happen to be hosts at Radio-Canada, Télé-Québec and TVA), and certain television program hosts on all TV networks have been engaged in a verbal tug-of-war – Mostly between the Left and the Right.   Because Québec City’s media is more to the “right”, whereas Montréal’s media is more to the “Left”, this verbal war has also taken on a somewhat “geographic” form (Québec against Montréal, and vice-versa).

The geographic aspect to this verbal media war is much more talked about in Québec City than it is in Montréal.  People in Québec City are much more “aware” of this geographic war of ideologies, perhaps owing to the fact that Montréal doesn’t pay much attention to Québec City’s media, whereas people in Québec City are accustomed to seeing Montréal’s media.  People in Québec City are also much more aware that Québec generally votes to the “right” of the centre line, whereas Montréal generally votes to the “left” of the centre line.

When Montréal’s media takes aim at anything right of centre, I get the impression that Montréal’s Left believes its Left-leaning media is scoring unhindered, unchallenged political points … whereas nothing could be further from the truth.   The moment Montréal’s “Left-leaning” media takes a shot at the “Right” (usually the Conservatives, but also the CAQ, anyone who takes a union to task, budgetary restraint issues, certain industries associated with a rightist perception such as oil, etc.), Québec City’s “Right-leaning” media, within hours, goes bazerk!   The phone lines of Québec City’s talk show programs light up, Québec city twitter accounts smoke from being overworked, and Québec City newspaper columnists put pen to paper for the next day’s editions – all to counter the shots fired from Montréal’s Left-leaning columnists and media programs.   But what I find extremely interesting is that when Québec City’s media also goes on the offensive, most of the time Montréal just yawns, or doesn’t even notice.

How the elastic band finally broke

Since 2011/2012, I’ve been hearing Québec City’s “Right-leaning” media cry foul.   For lack of a better word, they feel that Montréal’s “Left-leaning” media has high-jacked the province’s political scene.  Whether that’s accurate or not, I’m not too sure (everyone is able to vote, after-all, and certain regions and the province as a whole has taken a few sharp turns towards both the right and the left over the last couple of decades).

But needless to say, since the 2012 student protests, the elastic band of this Left-Right war of words has been getting

tighter…

… and tighter

… and tighter

And the elastic band broke!

Something huge happened about a month ago.   It was so big in fact, that I have been holding my breath for the last four weeks, patiently waiting for follow-up reactions in the media…

Here is what happened:

First I will say that I believe Radio-Canada, for the most part, does a very good job of remaining neutral (most of the time).  They are a big organization, with many different personalities – sometimes very strong personalities.   However, I believe that the majority of their on-air (and off-air) personalities do a commendable job of keeping any political affinities hidden from the public (as they should).  The fact that I have difficulty guessing the political inclinations of most on-air Radio-Canada personalities speaks volumes (in a good sense).

But something went “astray” at Radio-Canada last month which I think is representative of numerous media outlets in Montréal – and they found themselves in the centre of this verbal media war of ideologies.  I’m guessing this incident only involved a few strong-headed, opinionated individuals.  But those individuals were aparently able to get their fingers on the “broadcast” button — which broke the elastic band.

A little bit of background:  The Conservatives cut almost $200 million from Radio-Canada/CBC’s budget last year, which resulted in 800+ people being layed off.  Radio-Canada employees held protest rallies and even a massive on-air protest concert.  You can see people at Rad-Can are not happy. (As an aside, the federal Liberals cut $400 million from Radio-Canada/CBC in the 1990s, but I don’t think we ever saw the same extent of displeasure towards the Liberals, at least not on the air).

With this backgrounder in mind, here are the events which lead to the elastic breaking:

In August 2014, Radio-Canada aired the anti-Harper documentary, “La droite religieuse au Canada”.  This is possibly the most politically controversial Canadian documentary of the past 30 years (or at least since Denys Arcand’s “On est au coton”).   After it aired in August, the Prime Minister’s head of communications publicly condemned Radio-Canada, stating that he “feared his worse suspicions about Radio-Canada were true”.  The Radio-Canada/CBC Ombudsman became involved.  The Ombudsman stated that the documentary’s airing did not meet the corporation’s standards requiring the organization to remain politically neutral.

The documentary purports that Steven Harper’s entire basis for being in politics is to align himself, and Canada’s governance, with Israel — so as to prepare himself and the world for the second coming of Christ, thus allowing him, his followers, and Alberta to go to Heaven.   I’m not BS’ing you here! (I couldn’t make this kind of stuff up, even if I tried).  If you don’t believe me, then click on the above link to watch the documentary yourself.  The link will take you to Radio-Canada’s own online re-broadcast site.  The documentary is an hour-long.

For a very long time (years), Québec City’s Right-leaning media had been going nuts over this type of bias, and have consistently cried foul over these types of things.  For months they beefed up their condemnations of Radio-Canada, of Montréal’s Left-leaning media (be it Télé-Québec, Rad-Can, newspaper columnists) and of the province’s very politically-vocal union movements.  In the meantime, Montréal’s media (both television and written press, as well as Montréal’s based union federations) stepped up their attacks of anything right-of-centre.

The elastic band got tighter…

… and tighter…

… and tighter.

Everything came to a head the last half of February 2015.  Get ready for this (grab that drink if you haven’t already… because you’re not going to believe this…):

  • On February 9, 2015, the host of a gourmet-cooking television show on Radio-CanadaChristian Bégin, took take part in anti-Québec-Liberal demonstration in a distant region of Québec.  He joined the unions to very publicly protest provincial Liberal budget cutbacks.  He appeared on television shouting and screaming in the name of anti-Liberal protestors.   This caught the ire of Québec City’s right-leaning media.   Québec City’s media tore into him, as did the very few elements of the Right-leaning written press in Québec.
  • On Feb 11, 2015, Lise Ravary, one of the few Federalist and Right-of-Centre columnists at the Journal de Montréal, wrote a column condemning Bégin’s actions.  In her newspaper column, she took personal shots at him for living the high-life, with a high salary paid by taxpayers (at Radio-Canada), and labelled him as a hypocritical, wine-sipping, gourmet loving bourgeois who is all talk, but doesn’t care about the little guy for whom he was protesting (Ouch!  Harsh! — now you can see they type of verbal war that has been going on since the 2012 student protest, between both sides!).  Rather, she charged that his protest was motivated by political reasons (against the Liberals, versus truly caring about the little guy).   She called him and those like him “La gauche champagne” (which means the “Champagne Left”).   [Don’t quote me on this, but I believe the expression in Europe would be “La Gauche caviar“, which is slightly different from our expression in Canada].  This garnered a lot of attention in the media (both Left and Right), and all media circles (the Right, the Left, sovereignists who traditionally lean Left, federalists who are traditionally lean Centre or Right-of-Centre, artists, columnist, etc)…  basically, everyone went to town over this one.   It was a verbal brawl like I haven’t seen for a very long time – and once again, it happened over the airwaves.
  • Around Feb 12, a host of Radio-Canada’s radio show “La soirée est encore jeune” sought revenge and took direct aim at the columnist Lise Ravary, calling her an “idot” (une dinde) on air, as well as taking aim at Québec city radio stations Radio-X and FM93, calling them “garbage”, and going so far as to lump anyone who is right-of-centre in the same category (again… this is what has been happening for 3 to 4 years, and it has been getting more and more out intense).
  • On February 13th, Québec City’s 93FM and Radio-X “let into” Radio-Canada and its program “La soirée est encore jeune”.  Radio-X’s host, Dominic Maurais, said he heard Rad-Can was going to move “La soirée est encore jeune” from the radio to television in order to give it more “visibility”. Maurais basically gave Radio-Canada a direct on-air warning, stating (actually, yelling, on air) that if Radio-Canada dares to make such a move by moving this program from the radio to television, considering that this program regularly blasts anything right of centre, that it will wake the dragon and will spell the end of Radio-Canada.   Radio-X basically stated that the cuts Radio-Canada was subjected to from the Federal government will be nothing compared to what they will suffer should “La soirée est encore jeune” be moved from radio to television.   Maurais basically told Radio-Canada to get ready to be privatized if things continue as they are.
  • I believe it was around Feb 14th, right after the above, when Radio-Canada aired a very peculiar episode of its popular prime-time family sitcom “Les Parents” (kind of like a Radio-Canada produced version of “Different Strokes”).  In this episode, the Radio-Canada scriptors took direct aim at the Right leaning Conservative Party by having the actors say that it is an embarrassment if a family has children who support the Conservatives.  In this prime-time episode, one of the children of the fictional sitcom family said that he wanted to grow up to be a Conservative so he could “change everything in the world”.  (Again, I’m not kidding you!).  His parents (in the show) told him he wasn’t raised like that, and to not tell anyone that he wants to be a Conservative.  Whoa!!  Holy Crap!    The next day, independent media again went nuts with this one.   Radio-Canada was blasted.
  • On February 15th, Harper made the unprecedented decision to wade into this very public spat himself (I was completely shocked it got to this point! — I’m not saying he was wrong, but holy smokes… I couldn’t believe it actually got to this point)  Harper granted an interview to Right-wing journalist Éric Duhaime of Québec City’s right-of-centre FM93 (the second most popular talk-radio station in Québec City).  Harper stated he (quote) “believed there are anti-Conservative elements inside Radio-Canada with an agenda against him”.
  • I believe it was the same day as Harper’s FM93 interview that Radio-Canada aired, unbelievably, for a second time, “La droite religieuse au Canada”— the documentary which alleges Prime Minister Harper’s entire agenda is to religiously rule and align Canada with Isreal so as to await the second coming of Christ so he can go to Heaven (without giving a “rat’s behind” about Québec, might I add — at least that’s the gist of the “documentary”).
  • Usually when I wake up in the morning, I grab my iPad and quickly skim the headlines before crawling out of bed.  The next morning, I just about fell out of bed when I read the the #1 headline on Radio-Canada’s website at 7:00am – the morning of February 16th.  Quote: “Steven Harper believes many Radio-Canada employees “Hate” Conservative Values” (the link for the article is here: “Beaucoup d’employés de Radio-Canada « détestent » les valeurs conservatrices, croit Stephen Harper”).   

So how did this very public p@##ing contest… er … media catastrophe from hell… er…  spat all end?   Well it looks like Radio-Canada’s senior management must have become involved.  By 10:00 or 11:00am, the above article was no longer anywhere to be found on Radio-Canada’s main webpage.  I’m guessing it must have been ordered taken down by someone higher up in management who wanted put an immediate end to this drama of epic tempertantrum proportions “innocent misunderstanding”.   The above article was taken down, moved and buried where nobody could find it… at the very bottom of an off-shoot page in the political section of Radio-Canada’s website.   This was the first time I had ever seen Radio-Canada take down a headline article within 3 or 4 hours of posting it.  I can just picture the emergency meetings senior management must have held on the top floors of the Radio-Canada tower that morning.  What I would not have given to have been a fly on their wall that morning!

I suppose this sort of thing is bound to happen from time to time in every media organization.   But considering the background of this last incident, I was surprised more self-restraint was not exercised much much earlier.

Regardless, it appears that everyone is now finally exercising a great deal of “lip-biting” self-restraint.   I have been waiting, watching and listening since the end of February – but for the first time since the 2012 student protests, everything seems to gone silent in this vicious Montréal-Québec, Left-Right tussle — on all sides.  I guess the elastic band did finally break.

But guess what’s right around the corner… Union backed student & street protests against Liberal government cutbacks.  I have a funny feeling it may soon be a case of “here we go all over again”.

As an aside, just so you know that these sorts of episodes of crazy manipulative mania can happen in English Canada too… I can give you a similar recent example of where a few over-zealous employees at the CBC pulled a similar stunt.  It happened when CBC decided to air the hour-long documentary “The Psychopath Next Door” (a documentary on what clinically defines a psychopath).  CBC aired this documentary in the time slot just before it aired the Fifth Estate’s hour-long episode “The Unmaking of Jian Ghomeshi”, (a investigative reporting program which investigated Jian Ghomeshi).  “Coincidentally” the Unmaking of Jian Ghomeshi gave all the same psychopathic signs mentioned in the earlier clinical documentary.  Don’t even try to tell me CBC’s back-to-back airing for two straight hours was not a coincidence;  it sure looked like an effort on the part of CBC to seal-the-fate of Ghomeshi in the minds of the public, but more significantly, to deflect public criticism away from how the CBC handled the whole Ghomeshi affair, and shift more anger towards Ghomeshi (sneaky!).   Frankly, it was morally and ethically wrong on the part of the CBC to air the clinical documentary right before they aired their investigative report on Jian Ghomeshi, regardless of the allegations against Ghomeshi.

But with all this said and done… fortunately I still believe that the vast majority of Rad-Can’s  & CBC’s employees and management do their best to remain (and succeed in being) neutral, and do not, nor would not act on any sort of hidden agenda.  Most people who work at Rad-Can are just normal people, raising normal families, and trying to make both ends meet.  Personally, I have met a good number of people over the years within the organization, and have followed the organization for long enough to allow me to believe otherwise (the vast majority are normal people like you or me who would never pull these kinds of stunts).

I think the issue simply came down to a question of the sheer size of Radio-Canada, with hundreds and hundreds of employees.  In an organization of this size, you’re bound to get a few very opinionated individuals (even if they are not the majority) who will make the odd poor decision and who will goof up.

As with anything in life, it’s always the most vocal ones, or the most opinionated ones whose opinions tend to come across the strongest (or push the broadcast button the quickest).  Thus these few high-profile people sometimes tend to give rise to our media outlets acquiring an undeserved bad rap (on the radio, on TV, and in the written press).

I’m not going to give a shortlist of who I think these individuals are, but as you acquaint yourself with various media, you’ll soon find out who I’m talking about – on the Left, in the Centre, and on the Right.

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Addendum:  

27 March, 2015 — things still seem “quiet” on the Radio-Canada front.  Additional Rad-Can job cuts were announced yesterday, but people did not make a spectacle or flip-out over it over the public airwaves (which is something which occurred in the past).  Curiously, Marie-France Bazzo announced her departure today from Radio-Canada as of April 2015.  She very much was one of the on-air personalities who embodied a very public anti-right-of-centre standpoint.  The reasons invoked for her departure from Radio-Canada were “divergent viewpoints” between her and Radio-Canada management as to which direction her popular morning talk-show “C’est pas trop tôt!” should take (the flagship morning show of Radio-Canada).  I wonder how this little event fit into all of the above.  Again, what I would have given to have been a fly on the wall in Radio-Canada’s executive offices when these “divergent viewpoints” were being discussed.  😉 .  (Radio-Canada’s Bazzo’s announcement of her departure, with audio clip (curt, short, and very low-key… makes you wonder what happened):  http://ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelles/arts_et_spectacles/2015/03/27/001-bazzo-emission-radio-canada.shtml

ADDENDUM:  2015-07-10

I’m still watching, and listening – across all media platforms, to try to figure out what the next chapter in all of this will be.

Quite interestingly, PKP has become the head of the Parti Québécois since the above spats.  It has become more than obvious that a good number of reporters, radio hosts, and television hosts on the left, centre and right so not like PKP and the PQ’s choice in having him as the head of their party.   This “less-than-kind” temperment for PKP (and coincidentally his wife, Julie Snyder) seems to have “united” the media across Québec, regardless if the media personalities are Federalist or Sovereignist, or left, right or centre.

Media elements which usually compete (and take shots at each other) on an ideological basis seem to have lost interest in each other for the first time in years.  Rather, they’re all focusing on what is happening within in the PQ (giving the PQ largely disproportionate news coverage — and often not good new coverage).   This in itself is quite interesting.

This is not to say that competing media elements have ceased taking shots at other media elements with opposing ideological standpoints (I still am hearing cheap-shots being taken on a range of issues), but PKP and his wife’s (Julie Snyder’s) political activism has certainly monopolized much of Québec’s media’s overall energies.

The winner in all of this?  The Provincial Liberal Couillard government (who is not being severely criticized, even from those who are usually most critical of the provincial Liberal camp – namely left-wing sovereignists).  Also, the Federal left-wing NDP party… and now even the Federal Right-wing Conservative party seem to be getting a free ride owing to a lack of airtime stemming to PKP having sucked all the oxygen from the room.

Intriguing stuff.  I can’t wait for the post-summer election season drama to resume in a few weeks to see where this all goes.  With the media squarely focused on PKP (namely against PKP), such a fragmentation of media attention could have an unintended impact on Federal election results.

ADDENDUM:  2015-07-28

It’s the middle of summer and good grief!  It seems to be starting again.

A show on Montréal based Radio-Canada lit into a show on Québec City based Radio X (you can listen to it here:  (Radio-Canada entretient sa guerre contre CHOI)

And Radio X let into Radio-Canada.  You can listen to it here:  Les Salaires à Radio-Canada.

Well, at least it makes for great entertainment.

ADDENDUM:  2015-09-12

Yup, we’re seeing the two “factions” back at each other’s throats again (Sigh x 10!).

Radio-X is all over Rad-Can for what they see as leftist and political bias from 24/60 and a hate-on coming from La Soirée est encore jeune.   They’re also lambasting Montréal’s media (and particularly Radio-Canada) for what they perceive as a continued news bias against anything right of centre.

As for Rad-Canada, Le Devoir, and other Montréal media plaftorms, we’re seeing the same mud being slung towards Québec City and the people of Québec for their overall right-of-centre standpoints.  One Radio-Canada program when so far as to call people from Québec City “des Mongols” – “Mongolians” in English – which is an extremely derogatory term for people with down-syndrome… making fun of their eyes, facial features and intelligence.  http://www.lapresse.ca/arts/medias/201506/17/01-4878745-la-soiree-est-encore-jeune-plongee-dans-une-crise-mediatique.php  

Wow… really really wow!  Unbelievable.  Here we go again!

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Post related to all of the above:  Le Plateau (#72)

Separate blog which regularly writes on the above topics:  http://www.cliqueduplateau.com/

A very funny, well made movie: “Henri Henri” (#210)

Flights are amazing for getting things done – be it work, reading, or movies.  Unfortunately I haven’t had the time I need to see many of our movies in French here in Toronto.  But I’ve been fortunate in the sense that I could rely on numerous flights the last couple of years to catch up on movies.  Air Canada usually has a very good selection of the top box-office Montréwood movies.

On a flight a few days ago I watched ‘’Henri Henri”.   It was the first time I had seen a Montréwood film like this.  The entire movie had the feel of “Forest Gump” meets “Amélie” meets the quirkier, innocent feel of the small town setting in “Edward Scissor Hands”.   It was quite different for a Montréwood film to have this sort of atmosphere.

henri-henri

Best yet, it was funny – in an adult / mature kind of way (I don’t think kids would find it funny – so that should say it’s perfectly suited to adults).   I had my big earphones on, so I couldn’t really hear myself laugh, but I must have laughed loud enough a few times because people across the aisle looked at me more than a couple of times (but they just smiled, so all is good!).

Here is the trailer:

Montréwood can pull things off amazingly well… and here is yet another prime example.

I’m not going to spoil the plot for you, but I’d don’t mind leaking a little bit of the storyline.  Henri was an orphan, who took a job as the convent’s “lightbulb screwer” (he screwed in burned out lightbulbs… let’s be clear about that).  Once he grew up and had to leave the orphanage, he kept his pleasant nativity from an isolated childhood, and subsequently took a job doing the only thing he knew, screwing in light bulbs.  With the encouragement of his older co-worker and a customer who he befriended (who both doubled new friends and & life coaches), he met a girl.  What happened after came with a twist (both due to his background and hers).   The rest I’ll leave for you to find out when you watch the film.

If you’re learning French, this movie contain NO Joual (which is great for learners whose  French is closer to entry level).  Everything is in international French, and the Québecois accent is toned down to a minimum (it could not be toned down any futher).  Thus this would be a perfect film for anyone learning French, even at an elementary level.   Much of the movie is carried by the actors’ actions anyway.

Hats off to the writer/director Martin Talbot, and the producers Christian Larouche and Caroline Héroux for a job well done.  And the acting by Victor Trelles Turgeon, Sophie Desmarais, Michel Perron and Marcel Sabourin was excellent.  It had the feel of a big-budget movie, right from the beginning.  Great job!!

Almost a weekly institution: La Semaine Verte (#209)

If you have gone through the Links page, you’ll notice that I’ve been fiddling with it, adding things, and re-wording things (even right up until a few minutes ago).

One of the links I added was for a TV program called “La Semaine Verte” (The Green Week), which is broadcast every week on Radio-Canada.  This is an intriguing television show on Radio-Canada.  You can watch the episodes online.

As the climate changes and the world’s population increases, the need for sustainable, higher-yielding & more productive agricultural practices will increase.   To achieve this increase in agricultural output, farmers and the livestock / aquaculture industry are always on the look-out for new technologies, better practices, new ideas, or sometimes ways to simply go back to nature.

This show is precisely about these practices.  It’s sort of like a “Popular Mechanics” magazine program for agriculture and the livestock / aquaculture industries.  It’s delivered in short, documentary-style segments.   (For those of you in Western Canada, it’s almost as if The Prairie Farm Report meets The Nature of Things).   Fascinating stuff… It’s really too bad there’s nothing else quite like it in English Canada (and I’m not sure there’s anything else like it in North America).

The show has been on the air for more than 35 years!!  In that sense, it could be considered an “Institution of Québec Culture” in and of itself.

Perhaps its popularity, even with urbanites, comes from the fact that Québec has always been conscious of the management and eco-practices associated with its natural resources and environment.   With the exception of the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region (a 10 hour drive North of Montréal), there is only a thin band of highly productive agricultural land on either side of the St. Lawrence River.   It’s a place where agricultural land is in intense competition with towns and cities (this is where 85% of Québec’s population also resides).

In the early 1980s, the René-Levesque government famously passed “ground-breaking” legislation (no pun intended) to protect remaining agricultural land from the encroachment of cities (something all people in Québec have to learn about in school).   That’s likely one of the reasons why “La Semaine Verte” remains such a popular show (if there is only so much land to go around, and if it is not an infinite resource, then it’s in everyone’s interest to make sure it is managed as best as possible using the latest technology, sometimes even bordering on “Star-Wars” technology).

Check out some of its episodes.  You can stream them on the show’s official website here:  http://ici.radio-canada.ca/tele/La-semaine-verte/2014-2015/episodes

If you’re learning French, this would be a good show to help you develop an earn and increase your vocabulary.  It is narrated in an average (not too fast) pace, in International French, and it can offer you a host of new vocabulary about farming, industry and environmental matters.

It’s broadcast on Radio-Canada every Saturday at 5:20pm, rebroadcast every Sunday at 12:30pm, and again on RDI every Saturday at 6pm.   It’s broadcast coast-to-coast to all residents across Canada.