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This post continues our little journey of looking at Québec’s 20 most trusted individuals.
What’s interesting about the two people in this post is that one is a very famous elected official, and the other is very famous, but is not elected — although she acts as if she is. This may be the most “controversial” post out of all the posts in the little series on the most trusted individuals in Québec.
#14 Régis Lebaume –
I previously wrote a post about Québec’s two best known mayors; Denis Coderre (Montréal), and Régis Lebaume (Québec City). You can read the post by clicking here: The Duo “Coderre – Lebeaume” (#175)
The post on the famous “duo” sums up why the mayor of Québec City, Régis Lebaume, is so well liked, both as an individual and as a mayor. But as with anything, there are many nuances (lately he has come under fire for his support of certain private sector initiatives… and some are wondering if we are beginning to see the end of his honeymoon). But I’m not going to go into the nitty-gritty of all the little nuances. I’ll simply try to concentrate on why I believe he was named one of Québec’s most trusted individuals.
To understand things in context, Québec City has gone through more than 25 years of very interesting politics. For 16 years of the past 26 years, the mayoral seat was held by the former mayor Jean-Paul L’Allier. Of course, there are real reasons why he was re-elected numerous times. But as with anyone who is in politics for a long time, L’Allier was fast approaching his “expiration date” in the mind of voters. He had the political prowess to know how to read the tea-leaves, and he decided to not seek re-election. His successor was extremely popular as a “regional” mayor in Ste-Foy: Andrée P. Boucher. But unfortunately she passed away only two years into her mandate in 2007. It left a huge hole in Québec City politics.
That hole was soon filled by Régis Lebaume. He came with a background and personality that many big cities could only dream of having in their mayor:
- He was a successful businessman
- He talked like the average person in the street, and not like a politician (he didn’t have la langue de bois, as we say in French)
- He didn’t talk “down” to people
- He sought consensus (well… at least more than we see with other mayors),
- He was more than willing to work with anyone who was also willing to work with him (regardless of their political stripes),
- He has “star-power”… in the sense that the talk shows and tabloids can’t get enough of him (you would think he’s a pop-culture star as much as a popular politician),
- He has not made many “bad” decisions (perhaps he’s being “tried” as of late, and he’s being qustioned on certain decisions more now than in the past – but up until quite recently, he has done quite well)
- He has usually conveyed a message which makes many believe he truly cares about the welfare of his electorate.
I believe it’s a combination of all of the above which gives him a ranking in this year’s list of the most trusted people in Québec. What will be interesting will be to see where (or if ) he places in next year’s poll of the Québec’s most trusted personalities.
#15 Julie Snyder –
Oh boy, Julie Snyder…
If I were writing this post only two years ago, it would be completely different. Julie Snyder has undergone a dramatic public transformation, all within less than two years.
I previously wrote a post on her, which you can read by clicking here: Julie Snyder (#9)
A little preamble (before I get into what is going on with Ms. Snyder)
She went from becoming one of the most popular, well-known, pop-culture icons in Québec (perhaps on par with what Angelina Jolie would be to Americans), to being one of the most politically divisive individuals – not only in Québec, but in all of Canada… period.
Whenever someone is labelled as being “divisive” , that means they “divide” the population. There are those who “like” her, and there are those who probably can’t stand the smell of her. At this point in time, I truly do not known what the proportions would be: 40/60%? 60/40%? 30/70%? 70/30%? 50/50%? Truly, I have no idea. But if I were pushed to hazard a guess, I would guess that somewhere around 40% of the population either truly likes her or dislikes her – simply based on the actions of her recent “political activism”. But I truly wouldn’t know on which side of the fence that 40% would fall (I don’t know that anybody would — and I have yet to see any official polls in this regard).
With that being said, there is obviously a large enough percentage of the population who likes her — enough that she places #15 on the list of the most trusted people in Québec.
But… (and there is always a “but”), you will note that Julie Snyder ranks 5 full positions lower than her sworn enemy, Philippe Couillard. I believe that says a lot – to the point that public opinion may be turning against her.
So what’s the beef?
Julie Snyder has been a TV star from the 1990s, until the present (I, like millions of others, sort of grew up, or spent a big chunk of my life watching her on numerous television shows). A good number of years ago, she started her own production company, and she became the romantic partner of Québec’s media mogul Pierre Karl Péladeau, AKA “PKP” (who owns 40% of Québec’s television and radio press). When Snyder became romantically involved with PKP, it was a natural thing that her entertainment production company’s near-exclusive client was PKP’s Québecor owned TVA television network.
So far, so good…
Snyder did a marvelous job of creating top hit television programs for TVA. Some of the biggest viewership numbers in Montréwood and Canadian history followed (her shows regularly draw in millions of viewers per episode). Star Académie, La Voix, and Le Banquier were instant hits. She also embarked on other projects, including promotional works with her « best friend », Céline Dion.
All of this propelled Snyder from being a “regular” celebrity household name to being Québec’s “superstar” – with perhaps only Céline Dion who could eclipse her stardom.
And then came the politics…
Julie Snyder began to engage in political activism a few years ago. However she did not put a partisan label on her activism at that point. The following is a good example. She appeared as a witness before a provincial parliamentary commission, in which she attempted to put the “then” health minister, Philippe Couillard, in his place for not providing better access to invetro fertilization.
But then came the party politics… and in no small way, either.
To the surprise of many (and to absolute elation of others), Julie Snyder appeared on stage at a Parti Québécois election rally in August 2012, in support of the PQ and of Québec independence.
In the eyes of many in the public, everyone’s favorite celebrity lost her aura of innocence and jumped off the pedestal so many had placed her on in their minds. It was a huge kick to the gut for a good chunk of people. But on the flip side, others rejoiced.
Twas the birth of a brand new, yet extremely “divisive” Julie Snyder; born and rebapatised before everyone’s eyes. And boy, was it the start of a saga!
That same year, Snyder became heavily involved in street-level protests against the Liberal government. She advocated for the Parti Québécois’ extremely controversial and divisive Charte des valeurs (proposed legislation telling immigrants how to behave and how not to practice their religion in certain public environments). Snyder not only divided the public’s opinion about her as a person, but she also helped to divide Québec’s population on issues of fundamental importance to Québec’s overall society. This was no laughing matter which we simply see in a television entertainment program. This was now real life.
And if you think it couldn’t get any more controversial…
Fast forward to January, 2014. Julie Snyder and PKP announced their breakup. The mystique of the fairy-tale life seemed to be in the balance. But lo and behold, soon after their break-up, in March 2014, the presumably newly single PKP appeared in front of a microphone with the then PQ leader, Pauline Marois. With his fist in the air, PKP proclaimed he was running for office to “make Québec a country!”.
But wait a second… what about Julie? Was this not “her” dream?
Well, then came be bombshell. Let me say upfront that celebrity stardome and politics do not necessarily make the best mix. But, regardless, soon after PKP announced his plan to free Québec from the “tyranny” of Canada (which I say sarcastically), Snyder and PKP quickly reconciled and announced their engagement — Boy that didn’t take long!.
(And back to that little quip about “tyranny”… I figure I’m just as much the face of Canada and the average Canadian as the rest of them… so if I’m considered to be the typical representation of the Dark Lord of Tyranny… then God help us all!! The world might as well end now.)
It left people asking one of two questions: (1) Did Snyder & PKP reconcile as a result of PKP pursuing their mutual dream of independence? or (2) did they reconcile because PKP was pursuing “Julie’s dream” so as to convince her to reconcile? We may never know.
“Officially”, they both stated that they knew they realized they were meant to reconcile when they both flew off to Scotland to be first-hand witnesses to Scotland’s birth as a nation on referendum night (that little bit didn’t go so well for them).
But what struck me when the media (and PKP) reported this as their “official” reason for reconciliation was that fact there was no mention of their children (seriously… you would think that “children” would be the publicly stated reason for reconcilation… not a new-found ultra-nationalist kinship with Scotland!! wouldn’t you?). I guess it brings me back to my two previous questions… Did they only get back together to achieve Québec independence or for PKP to woo Julie by persuing “her” dream? Boy, what I wouldn’t have given to have been a fly on the wall during their reconciliation pillow talk (with my eyes closed, of course).
So how’s that working out for Julie?
Let’s just say it has been quite an interesting year for Julie Snyder, for her relationship with the public, and for the Parti Québécois’ overall relationship with Québec and even its own members.
In the one year since Snyder and PKP reconciled in May 2014, PKP entered the PQ leadership race (which he will win in a few days — Today is May 11th, 2015).
A number of political commentators and columnists allege that it is Julie Snyder who is truly calling the shots behind the scene. They allege that Snyder is metaphorically ever present, just behind the stage curtain, always pushing PKP out onto stage and into the spotlight.
We may never know if this is true or not, but it has not stopped the speculation – which seems to only be increasing with time.
But much of the increasing speculation stems from Snyder’s increased vocal, and very public activism against anyone or anything who is not “nice” to her husband, and his political aspirations. For example, she has come out and publicly attacked the leader of the third party in the National assembly (François Legault), the Liberal minister of health (Gaetan Barette), and political columnists (Joanne Marcotte).
Her perceived media “soft-power” has caught the ire of a good chunk of Québec’s political circles who are facing off with the PQ. The reason: Snyder’s entertainment productions come into more contact with more of Québec’s people than any other mass media channels. She has the ability to form a message, chose the delivery method of the message, and then execute that message so that more people in Québec hear her message than anyone else’s. Her opponents are crying foul.
Seriously, it is not just anybody who would be allowed to randomly jump on stage during the concert of one of the largest pop-music icons (the Franco-Ontarienne singer, Marie-Mai – who was discovered by Snyder). Snyder’s sway and reach in the pop-culture world is unlike anything we have ever, ever seen before.
To add to the soft evidence of Snyder’s “media power interference”, just before the PQ’s vote to crown PKP as their new leader, Snyder went and collected 101 signatures from some of the best known names in the artistic and entertainment industry. The signatures were to “acknowledge”, in writing for the world to see, PKP’s contributions to Québec’s culture (and presumably to be used to boost PKP‘s chances of securing the PQ leadership, and shoring up his votes).
What was very “interesting” about this list was that some of the names (actually, more than just a few) are known federalists. Yet, these same people may depend on the PKP owned TVA television network, and perhaps Snyder’s own production company for some of their bread and butter. It left many wondering if there was a dose of unethical backroom arm-twisting to acquire the signatures. (A number of people have pointed out that what is even more intriguing is that some of Julie’s closest friend’s names do not appear on this list – such as Céline Dion. These are not people dependent upon TVA. And if they’re not willing to support their best friend Julie Snyder, then are we starting to see the very first signs of chinks in Snyder’s armour??)
As an aside, I want to give you an example of how much this can all get out of hand — and especially just how wide of a net this situation can inadvertently cast. When I started this blog, I swore I would never do a post on Celine Dion. I wasn’t going to touch her (there was just no need – everyone knows all about her). But we’re possibly starting to see the sort of damage which Snyder’s political aspirations can have for others around her. I’ll explain…
Québec’s Montréwood artistic, entertainment and celebrity industry leans heavily towards an ultra-progressive version of sovereignty. If I had to hazard a guess (and I have no numbers to back this up), I would guess it is an industry which is perhaps is 75% – 80% sovereignist (there are exceptions of course, such as Gilbert Rozon, the owner of Juste pour rire, but there are not all that many like him… and most keep quiet to keep the peace with their sovereignist peers). I understand it. Picture it… imagine you’re a celebrity in Québec, and people fall all over you for autographs, photos and just to be in your “aura” the moment you step out your door. Then picture that you drive 45 minutes from downtown Montréal to the Ontario border, you stop in the first town in Ontario (Cornwall), and nobody (who is anglophone at any rate) – has any idea who you are. You fly on Air Canada across the country, and the flight attendants, passengers, and public have absolutely no idea there’s anything special about you or your achievements. Heck… many can’t even speak to you in your language. Would you feel you’re still in your “country”? Welcome once again to the world of the Two Solitudes.
Celine Dion is a huge superstar and is best friends with Julie Snyder’s. She has never talked publicly about her political affirmations. I’ve heard high-profile celebrities say she is federalist, but I have no idea… and I’ve heard some high profile people say René Angélil is federalist, whereas others say he’s sovereignist. Regardless, Céline and René never ever talk about it publicly, and they have avoided politicizing themselves at all costs (they would alienate a huge portion of their fan-base and peers, one way or the other). This is an extremely difficult act to pull off considering the entertainment milieu in which they find themselves on a day-to-day basis.
The only time in my entire life I have ever seen Céline Dion be politicized was waaaaay back in 1990. At that time, she was making the transition to singing more and more songs in English. Québec’s “sovereignist” music industry did not like this one bit. The ADISQ awards (the Montréwood version of the Grammy’s and Juno’s) created a “separate” category just for Céline, and awarded her the best “Anglophone” singer award. Céline was less than impressed. Actually, she was pissed! When her name was called out during the awards ceremony, the look she gave René Anglil said it all. She marched up to the stage. Live, in front of hundreds of thousands of people (perhaps millions of people), she gave the ADISQ organizers a tongue lashing, she sternly affirmed she is not Anglophone, she refused the prize, and she marched off the stage. NOBODY has EVER tried to politicize Céline again. Below is the video. They all “got taught” — until now.
BUT, for the very first time since 1990, people are now dragging Céline Dion into this whole Julie Snyder rigmarole. Columnists are openly pointing out that Céline’s name does not appear anywhere on Julie’s list of 101 people artists who support PKP. They are pointing out that Céline is not getting involved in Julie’s initiatives, and that Céline is not publicly standing beside her best friend. I’m am sure this is not the sort of coverage Céline wants. She has worked her entire life to avoid getting caught up in divisive politics… as have 90% of Québec’s arts and entertainment scene (regardless of their political affirmations).
This whole Julie Snyder affair seems to be “forcing” politics down the throat of Montréwood. I can’t help but wonder (1) if this will some day backfire in the most grandiose way against Snyder, and by extention, against PKP? or (2) if this will somehow play right into the hands and the ultimate goal of the Snyder-PKP duo? This is uncharted territory, we have NEVER ever seen anything like this before in Québec or Canada. The stakes are large (the stakes of an entire country).
The Liberal government in Québec City appears to want to formulate legislation to force PKP and Snyder to divest themselves of their media empire (to forbid party leaders and their “immediate” family members from owning shares in media companies). The also are talking about revoking tax credits for production companies (ie: Julie Snyder’s company) if they provide services only to one main client, rather than to a diversity of companies. The PKP-Snyder duo are fighting back – and the PQ is taking up their cause.
The Liberal government (and the CAQ opposition party) argument is that when the PQ was in power several years ago, the PQ forced David Whissell, a liberal member of the National Assembly, to resign because of shares he owned in a company which gave the appearance of a conflict of interest. Thus, the Liberals and CAQ are arguing “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander”.
You can imagine how well this is going over with Julie Snyder. She came out in the media (“her & hubby’s” media, of course) alleging there is a witch hunt with her name on the “most wanted” poster.
So with all of this going on, why then is Julie Snyder ranked the #15 most trusted person in Québec?
Gee, I’m glad you asked. Like I said earlier, there is a portion of Québec’s population who agrees with Snyder’s politics and her end goals. There is a portion of Québec who has grown up watching her on television – and who, after all these years, likely feels they know her as a person. Media stars become “stars” because they forge a special bond in the hearts and minds of their fans. These people (both political supporters and die-hard fans alike) probably would list Julie Snyder as one of the people they trust the most. Hence, we see her on this list.
But as I also mentioned earlier, her main political foe, the (very) Federalist Premier of Québec, Philippe Couillard, ranked five places higher than Julie Snyder in the same poll. I believe that in itself speaks volumes. Are we witnessing the fading of Snyder’s star?
This coming year will be quite interesting. There are many things up in the air – and I would not even hazard to guess where she will be on the next years’ list (Higher? Lower? Even on the list?). Stay tuned on this one, and keep watching.
After all, everyone else in Québec is following this one too.
The next post will look at the “husband of the the other” (I’ll explain the expression in the next post), and someone who makes fun of them all.
Note: All videos are streamed from YouTube channels
Québec’s 20 most trusted individuals: 12th and 13th positions [post 7 of 11] (#262)
These next two figures in the list of the “20 most trusted people” have forever shaped Québec’s cultural landscape and collective psyche. As a reminder, this list comes from a recent poll of Québec’s public.
#12 Alain Gravel –
Montréwood and Québec’s #1 rated investigative journalism TV show is named Enquête. It is a Radio-Canada production.
Since 1997, Alain Gravel has been the main host of Enquête (which means “Inquiry” in English).
However, in September 2015, he will be giving up his position has the host of Enquête to take the role of Radio-Canada’s main morning radio host in September 2015 (replacing Marie-France Bazzo, who left Radio-Canada in April 2015, owing to a mysterious “divergence of opinions with management”; her words, not mine).
When Gravel does assume his new role as Radio-Canada’s main morning radio host, he will be directly competing with Paul Arcand (in the #3 position on the 20 most trusted individuals) for the top spot as the most listened to radio-host in Montréal (and the entire province).
Getting back to why Alan Gravel is the 12th most trusted individual in Québec…
In Québec the investigative journalism program, Enquête, is perhaps more influential, with higher “proportional” viewership numbers, than “The Fifth Estate” & “W5” in English Canada, or “60 Minutes” in the United States.
Enquête has become so powerful, that it recently lead to one of the largest political and collusion-related shakedowns in Canadian history.
If you refer back a couple posts to France Charbonneau (the #7 position on this list), the Charbonneau Commission may have never taken place had it not been for Enquête. Enquête tirelessly investigated and broke the story about illegal collusion between construction companies, unions and provincial government procurement bidding. The investigation came with a risk to the personal safety of the program’s reporters, and one of the alleged participants involved in the collusion scandal even sued Gravel for $2.5 million – which many assume was to try to stop the program’s investigation.
Nonetheless, the program continued its investigations and blew the lid off the whole story. A number of the program’s episodes aired the results of the investigation in 2009. The public’s faith in the Premier Charest’s Liberal government plummeted when Charest refused to launch an inquiry. This was one of the reasons why Jean Charest lost the 2012 election, after which the Charbonneau Commission started.
The public’s trust in Alain Gravel’s and his team’s work shot through the roof – to the point that he is now one of the most well-known, trusted public figures in Québec.
#13 Guy A. Lepage –
Guy A. Lepage was the topic of one of the very first posts of this blog. His talk show, Tout le monde en parle, was the topic of the very first blog post I wrote (the translation for Tout le monde en parle is “Everyone is talking about it”). You can read both of those blog posts by clicking the blue links. It is the second highest rated television program in Québec and Canada (after TVA’s La Voix).
Tout le monde en parle airs every Sunday night, across Canada on Radio-Canada television. It sometimes draws in over 2 million viewers per episode.
The fact that I chose to write about him and his show when I first launched this blog should already be an indication that there is something very unique about him.
Most people refer to Lepage as simply as “Guy A.”
I am going to say right up front that there is a major ideological difference between Guy A. and myself. Publicly, Guy A. can be “quite” political. He is sovereignist, he has strong nationalist sentiments for Québec, and he’s an advocate for a very strong, rather heavy welfare state. Deficits and high taxes (especially for corporations, but society in general) do not seem to be an issue for Guy A. He is quite far left (sometimes I’m not sure if the NDP would be far enough left for him). He used to vote for the Bloc Québécois (he lives in Gilles Duceppe’s former riding), but I suspect that he voted NDP the last go around (he won’t confirm that though). But with that said, Thomas Mulcair seems to be a favorite guest of his show (Guy A.’s riding is now NDP, by the way — the riding in the Le Plateau district of Montréal — Canada’s strongest Left-leaning riding).
Contrast that with me… I too can sometimes be “quite” political (if you haven’t noticed from time to time). But I am federalist, and my nationalistic sentiments are a bit wider – for both Québec and the rest of Canada. I too take an interest in both Québec’s and Canada’s progressive future… but I have a notable streak of financial and business (small “c”) conservatism in me (a range of politics which Lepage generally has not looked favorable upon). I would say that economically, I certainly am further to the right of Guy A. Fiscally, I am right of centre (Lepage is to the left). But on social issues I’m more centred and left of centre (if I feel we can find a way to pay for the programs with a balanced budget). Thus politically speaking, I’m kind of all over the map – which makes me a political orphan. And my vote has a tendency to be more fluid.
That’s all to say that Guy A. Lepage’s politics and my politics are not the same.
Yet, I have a good deal of respect for Guy A., and my respect for him has only grown with time. I believe I have seen him change as a public figure over the past two to three years – from someone who tries to “push” a political agenda through his television program, to being someone who tries to “round out” everyone’s views through his television program. He doesn’t shy aware from where he stands politically, but he seems to be making more and more of an effort to include “alternate” and “competing voices” in public debate.
Québec’s “public political debate” forum has always been in its legislature. But there seems to have been a metaphorical shift the last decade. It seems to have shifted, in large part, from the National Assembly (the Québec legislature) to Guy A.’s interview program, Tout le monde en parle.
Metaphorically, he is both the interviewer and the “Speaker of the House”. Every Sunday night, a huge portion of Québec’s public rushes home to make sure they catch the latest show (which runs for 2 hours and 30 minutes !!). It is also simultaneously broadcast live on the radio across Canada. It is the #1 rated program for Radio-Canada.
The issues of the week are discussed openly on the show, and players on all sides are invited. Invitees can be as varied as politicians, celebrities, pop-culture icons, professionals, sports stars, and ordinary people. The who’s who of Québec society regularly appears on the program, as do all major news-makers. Guy A. makes an effort to invite panels of opposing views, which can sometimes make for interesting sparks.
Careers have been made as a result of appearing on Tout le monde en parle, and other careers have been broken following appearances. Regardless, it would be political or career suicide to not turn down an invitation to appear on the program (if you are not there to defend yourself when you are going to be the topic of conversation, you might as well hang up your hat on the spot).
An example: Jack Layton probably would have not taken all of Québec, when the NDP won the province in 2012, had he not accepted Guy A.’s invitation to appear on Tout le monde en parle. He performed brilliantly on the program, and the next day his popularity in Québec went through the roof. In many ways, it won him the province. Likewise, Justin Trudeau appeared a couple of times on the program, and (hmmm… how should I put it…) his performance was “less than stellar”. The Federal Liberal’s ratings in Québec went down after his appearance, and it has never really fully recovered (he appeared during the winter of 2015, and it is now May 2015).
Guy A. is a strong supporter of the Arts and Entertainment industry. Little-known signers have been invitees on the program. But after their appearance, they became instant household names and saw amazing record sales (New Brunswick’s Lisa Leblanc is a prime example… she became a huge French-language music star after appearing on Tout le monde en parle).
On the opposite end of the scale, there was another celebrity, a comedian (who will go unnamed) who made mesogenous remarks about another celebrity on his blog. He took a lot of heat for that move, and was sued. Appearing on Tout le monde parle perhaps was his last chance to publicly redeem himself. He appeared on the program, but came across miserably. The public seemed to lose all confidence in him, and days later he permanently retired from show-business.
Guy A. is not only one of the most well-known people in Québec, but his program’s “soft-power” makes him one of the most powerful people in Québec (this is truly not an understatement).
I admit that I used to be more than a little concerned that he was wielding his own political views a bit too much on the program, in support of his own political agenda. The controversial nature of the program shot the ratings through the roof! It was a windfall for Radio-Canada (the advertising dollars were spectacular!!). But at the same time, it must have also been a huge ethical and moral dilemma for Radio-Canada; in the sense that the #1 program for Canada’s “national” public broadcaster had a pro-sovereignty, and very far-left political bias to it (I cannot imagine being the head of CBC / Radio-Canada and having to deal with such a scenario).
But as I said, Guy A. has tamed down remarkably (Of his own free will? Perhaps, but I don’t know). I and everyone else knows where he personally stands on many issues. But I think we all recognize that his tone has changed. He now seems to give more space (actually a good portion of the show’s overall airtime) for opposing views. He does so in a very respectful manner (much more respectful than in the past, without much of the past “cynicism” we used to expect from him or 3/4 of his panel).
That’s why he has earned my respect. It is an extremely difficult thing to try to remain politically neutral, or to give political breathing space to opposing politics. For such a political-oriented personality as Guy A. Lepage, the challenge must be even greater than for most people.
But the results of his efforts are visible, and commendable.
As a side note: I have met a few people who “personally” know Guy A. Lepage. Although I have never met Lepage him myself (perhaps I will some day), people who know him tell me he is one of the most personable, most “humble” people you could meet… without any sign of having an off-screen “confrontational” character, or of having an ego. I suppose that says a lot too.
When you take all of this into consideration, that is why he is one of Québec’s most trusted individuals.
The next post will look at two very interesting characters.