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Québec’s 20 most trusted individuals: 4th and 5th positions [post 3 of 11] (#258)

Let’s continue our look at the top 20 of the most trusted people in Québec (ranked by Québécois themselves).

Like anyone who is popular with the people (especially those with high “trust” factors), these are people to watch.

The usual formula is Trust” + media appeal = “soft power”.  Often, people like this can morph into something different with time — with more social, societal or political clout.

#4  Sophie Thibeault

Sophie Thibeault’s ranking in the top 10 (and especially in the top 5) is one of the rankings which surprised me the most.

I would have thought she would have placed lower in the rankings, considering that she is a late-night anchor of a TVA news program which has quite a local focus (which is how I feel about a good deal of TVA’s main channel’s news programming).

I will say upfront that I think Thibeault does an excellent job of reporting on local news — and she has more than 10 years of experience to prove that she is the one who deserves the job.

Her news program, TVA 22h, is broadcast Québec-wide, and caters only to a Québec market (Québec news, for Québec people).  You don’t get the feel it reaches much further than that.  There is very little comprehensive news coverage beyond a 100km radius of Montréal.  And when there is news about matters outside Québec (or even in other regions of Québec), the approach is generally only from the angle of someone living within 100kms of the TVA studies.

Personally, I would have left the top 5 rankings (and even the top 10 rankings) for other people who report on matters which have a broader, worldlier aspect.    But, obviously large swaths of the population disagree with me.  I suppose this goes to show :

  1. The extent to which people care most about what is happening in their immediate backyard (versus events in other jurisdictions), and how much weight they accord to those who cover such issues,
  2. Just how much more attention people will accord to events within a few kilometres of where they live, rather than events a little further down the road.

Caring about your immediate neighbours and their issues of course is a good thing.  It probably is human nature to pay more attention to matters happening immediately around oneself, and yes, people should care about what is happening locally (that is precisely why local news exists).

Following local news is not a bad thing.  But it can be damaging if people do not balance their local news and perspectives with events occurring a little further afield (not caring about others who are a little further away is a bad thing).

I personally have felt that news programs, such as TVA 22h, are part of the reasons why portions of Québec’s population have very little knowledge about what is happening elsewhere in Canada.  It is an interesting topic for conversation.

Likewise, English Canada also has equivalents; those Anglophone “national” news programs which rarely report what Québécois (and even Francophones elsewhere in Canada) are experiencing and living, and which almost completely ignores their points of views.  Thus it’s a door which swings both ways (I find that Global News is a good example of this, and CTV also has a habit of falling into this trap.  Nor is CBC totally immune from it either).

Kind of sad, isn’t it?

That’s why I would not have ranked “overly local” newscasters such as Sophie Thibeault (those whose news programs actually propagate and accentuate the notion of the Two Solitudes), as people who I would “trust” the most.  Would you trust a newscaster who reports that a pot hole in Montréal is more important “national” news than a school bus of children which went over a cliff in British Columbia, or how a new technology has been developed which reduces oil-sand emissions by 20%? (this is a bit of a hyperbole, but I have seen very similar reporting styles on TVA 22h).   I have always had the feeling that such newscasts are only telling “half the story”, or “half-truths”, if you will.  But that’s just my take on things.

Regardless, I can still understand why most people list Sophie Thibeault as one of their most trusted individuals.  She’s the likeable next door neighbour who will tell you, over the fence, what is happening with all the other neighbours in the immediate vicinity (but not necessarily what is happening in the next neighbourhood).

#5 Denis Coderre

I am not at all surprised that the mayor of Montréal, Denis Coderre, has ranked in the top five.   I previously wrote a post on the dynamics of the Denis Coderre / Régis Lebaume duo (the mayors of Montréal & Québec City).

Prior to Denis Coderre arriving on the scene as mayor, Montréal went through two mayoralships which were both marked by corruption (with the first being marked by a water-metre and construction company contract-granting scandal, and the second mayor being outright arrested for corruption in front of television cameras).

Coderre was well known to the public as a 30 year veteran federal politician (Liberal) who had proven his ability to stand apart and to avoid scandal.  He also had a frank “man-of-the-people” style of talking – the type of person you’d want to have a beer with in a bar as you talk about hockey and tell a few jokes.

In light of Montréal’s corruption scandals during the several years prior to Coderre’s arrival, his new style appealed to many people – a breath of fresh air.   Since becoming mayor, Denis Coderre has also become a media celebrity, and is treated as a star as he makes the media rounds from talk show to talk show, and all the events in between.

Since becoming Montréal’s mayor, in November 2013, his honeymoon with the people has never ended … something rare in Québec and Canadian politics.

We’ll continue to look at more of the top 20 in upcoming posts.

The Duo “Coderre – Lebeaume” (#175)

A new travelling road-show has taken to the stage over the past couple of months, and the fans are loving it.  However, they have not yet hired a band or back-up singers.

During the winter, we have been witness to the rise of a different type of media sensation in Québec, quite different from anything we’ve seen in Québec or Canada – at least during my time.   The mayors of two major cities, Montréal and Québec City have entered into what can only be described as a political marriage (for lack of a better term) – and they’ve taken it on the road.  But what is more significant, this hand-in-hand “best friend” relationship has turned them into celebrities of a completely different type; almost with rock-star status.

Denis Coderre (Montréal’s mayor) and Régis Lebeaume are together so often in the news, at events, and as a part of each other’s city’s respective initiatives that I’m left wondering if they’re spending more time travelling between each other’s cities than they are in their own cities (Québec City and Montréal are a three hour drive apart, after all).

We have three levels of government (Federal, Provincial and Municipal), but in Québec, this duo has seemingly forged a relationship which appears to be operating as a fourth level or province unto itself (take your pick), that of the “Montréal-Québec City” government (singular).   The two mayors are speaking as one voice, even on issues that don’t concern each other’s cities, to maximize attention to issues and to get what they want from the federal and the provincial governments.   As a duo, they have become a sort of “Captain Municipality”, standing up for issues important to smaller communities which do not necessarily have the populations behind them to bring their issues to the forefront.

It’s almost as if Coderre and Lebaume are now operating as their own city council, giving each other the nod before either embarks on any individual project, and this new approach to municipal politics is making waves.  The public cannot get enough of it and both Coderre and Lebeaume have been appearing on television and radio talk shows together, non-stop, for weeks on end.

Any time politicians gang up together to get what they want from another level of government, you would expect there to be verbal clashes and fighting.   But what I find fascinating is that they’re not confrontational towards either the Federal government (Ottawa) nor towards the provincial government (Québec), and the higher level of governments are not being confrontational towards this duo neither.  Instead, all levels are meeting together, almost as chummy friends, to talk about issues.  What’s more, they’re all meeting as if they were “equal-level” partners – and we’re not hearing many of the condescending tones towards the city level which we often hear from the provincial governments (or federal government).

There are probably a few reasons why this Coderre-Lebeaume approach has not degenerated into conflict.

  • One is that the mayors bring “population numbers” with them to the tables. It is in the interest of higher level governments to meet on friendly ground with the mayors (it would be political suicide, especially in a federal election year, to peeve off such large base populations).
  • The second reason likely stems from both Coderre’s and Lebeaume’s personal backgrounds. Coderre is a career politician (30+ years in the Federal government), and Lebeaume was a successful businessman.  Both have the experience and knowledge to know that things do not change overnight.  In this sense, they are patient and seemingly quite understanding of financial constraints and political nuances when talking to their provincial and federal counterparts.  They’re making demands, but they’re also giving higher levels of government a lot of slack in light of current economics.  Likewise, their federal and provincial counterparts are affording this mayoral duo due respect and consideration in return (these “new” dynamics are truly fascinating to watch – and not just from my point of view, but from that of Québec at large – the media coverage of it speaks for itself).
  • Another reason likely has something to do with this duo’s personalities. I get the impression both mayors want to approach matters with a win-win approach (regardless if you agree or not with their stances on issues).  Both are very personable people, with populist personalities, and they are very media savvy.  They love to laugh and make jokes on camera, and common people can’t get enough of them.
  • Perhaps the feature of this duo which the public finds the most attractive is that they seem to be above petty ideological politics – something which the public in Québec is not used to seeing in many other politicians. In the case of the Coderre-Lebeaume couple, it’s almost a case of “opposites attract”.  Denis Coderre is very federalist (as I stated above, he was a federal Liberal MP and minister in Ottawa for decades, fighting hard for Canada, including during the 1995 referendum).   Régis Lebeaume has traditionally supported sovereignty.  But in their roles as mayors, they’ve been able to do something very few other politicians in Québec have ever been able to do… they put these ideological differences behind them, rolling up their sleeves, calling others players to the tables, working with them, and addressing matters head-on.
  • Montréal went through a rough patch of mayoral scandals and controversies the past few years (a water-metre scandal, one mayor resigned because of corruption in city bureaucracy, and another mayor was arrested for corruption).  Québec City’s population was also polarized by a prior divisive mayor.   The rise of Denis Coderre and Régis Lebeaume came as a breath of fresh air to many – even for those who may not agree with their policies.

This duo’s ratings continue to be sky-high.  Even those who perhaps are not so hot on their individual policies find this duo has a certain star appeal.

If I can draw a parallel, Calgary’s mayor, Naheed Nenshi, recently won the “world’s best mayor” award.  Upon receiving the award, he was asked if it posed problems that he is a progressive mayor in a conservative city (Nenshi could very easily be a Liberal, and perhaps even NDP whereas his city’s electorate is quite conservative.  Yet Calgary loves him).  Nenshi responded I reject these terms – ‘progressive’ and ‘conservative’. I think they are meaningless to the vast majority of people, who just want good government at a decent price.  As the former Governor of Washington and Senator, Dan Evans, wrote in 2002, “There are no Republican schools or Democrat highways, no liberal salmon or conservative parks.” I really believe that this kind of categorization alienates people and keeps them from participating in the political process.” 

In the case of the Coderre-Lebeaume duo, their relationship seems to be based on the same principles.  In their roles as Québec politicians, this duo is a rare breed which seems to have rejected the terms ‘federalist’ and ‘sovereignist’.  Rather, they are taking on the issues, one-by-one, with the attitude that city issues are neither federalist, nor sovereignist, neither Liberal, Conservative, nor Péquiste.  In return, higher governments have repaid them in kind for their “depolitization” of municipal politics (which works well for both the provincial Liberals, and federal Conservatives).  Higher levels of governments have repaid by not “playing politics” with city governments.

One could ask themselves how much of the media hype around this duo is owing to their electric and populist personalities.   It is obvious that they are a good match on that front (these two probably wouldn’t be dancing if their personalities didn’t matcH).  I get the impression the public can’t get enough of this duo owing to the fact that it is simply rare to see politicians working so well together on so many levels, and even more rare to see politicians laughing and joking as a duo as they go about their jobs (hand-in-hand).

Something unexpected just happened in the last couple of days… the Coderre-Lebeaume duo may be opening up their relationship.  When they were in Toronto for the annual Canadian mayor’s conference this last week, Coderre had one-on-one indepth discussions with Toronto’s mayor, John Tory (one of their meetings lasted two hours).  Tory’s personality is not far off from either Coderre’s or Lebeaume’s and Toronto and Montréal pledged they are going to start to work together.  Is the Québec duo positioning itself for a menage-à-trois?.

A few days ago, Calgary’s mayor, Naheed Nenshi, travelled to Québec City and had meetings with Régis Lebeaume. Perhaps the relationship has the potential to become even kinkier than a ménage-à-trois (politically speaking, of course).  After all, Toronto’s John Tory, and Calgary’s Naheed Nenshi also both speak French (and French is the language of love, n’est ce pas?  Oh la la!).  Regardless, this kinkier political twist and turn is just pure speculation on my part (only a political infidelity divorce filing or love child time will tell)… But in the meantime, we’re going to see more and more of this political couple – and it is rapidly changing the face of Québec politics.

Perhaps they’ll soon hire that band I mentioned, along with back-up singers for their travelling road show to go with all the rest 😉 .