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Québec’s 20 most trusted individuals: 12th and 13th positions [post 7 of 11] (#262)

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.

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Guy A. Lepage (#4)

Guy A. Lepage was mentioned in this blog’s first post as being the host of Tout le monde en parle.

Where does one begin (or end) when talking about Guy A. Lepage?  From a pop-culture point-of-view, he has a long list of accomplishments – a force unto himself over a period of 30 years, with wide reaching appeal in Quebec culture (but from his youthful looks and energy levels, you’d never guess he was born in 1960!).

It would take a book to write about the number of cultural and popular awards he has won, or just how well-known he is with Francophones.

In pop-culture, there are past references we can all recall from when we were younger;  references you can joke about any time, and have them instantly understood by your peers.  These shared experiences create a feeling of belonging, commonality, and sense of “yah, I remember that — yes, we are cut from the same mould – , and yes, we get each other in a way nobody from another culture could”.

That’s why pop-culture is an important building block to nationhood in the social sense.  In an English-Canadian context, an example of might be the “Chicken Lady” from Kids in the Hall.  Despite how long the show has been off air, many Anglophone Canadians in their 30’s or 40’s (maybe even 50’s) would instantly understand the context if you mimicked the Chicken Lady.   Even regurgitating that the “Polkaroo” call from Polkadot Door makes for instant recognition — a bonding feeling of “Yah, I get you… we’re definately hatched from the same nest!” (mention Polkaroo to someone in Prince George, Moose Jaw, Windsor, or St. John and you’ll get the same nod and smile).

Guy Lepage has appeared in so many popular programmes, on so many different media platforms, that it could be said he has been a source of many Québec pop-culture references over the past 30 years.   He has become a bonding figure for Québec pop-culture and society in general through the major events in Québec during that period.   That’s a powerful force in all senses of the word.  Whether it’s on purpose of inadvertent, pop-culture holds sway and influence over public opinion on a range of issues.  Being at the helm of numerous programmes also means one has a degree of control over the business and economic end of what the public will see when they turn on their television or radio in the evening.

He rose to stardom as one of the main actors in the regularly aired comedy group Rock et belles oreilles (simply known as RBO).  It ran for nearly 15 years on TV.  For comparison sake, its presentation style was similar to that of Kids in the HallKids in the Hall could be considered risqué for its time, often making fun of issues like sex and homosexuality, at a time when it was daring to touch upon those subjects on TV — let alone make fun of the issues (remember the “anal probes”?).  In a national sense, the programme probably played some role in pushing the envelope of public awareness and acceptability.

With that reference in mind, RBO also used humour during the same era, but to a broader and deeper degree (sexual inuendo,  homosexuality, politics, sovereignty issues, Anglophones, Francophones, public figures of all streams and colours, and various ethical issues).   The majority of the sketches may not have been overly controversial, but by integrating humour into sensitive topics, RBO captivated the province and drew in the masses.

Since the programme disbanded, the actors went their separate ways and continued on various paths of stardom.  But none of them achieved the status of Guy Lepage today.

In the early 2000s, he became more focused on the actual production of TV programmes.   He created the Québec version of the France TV programme Un gars une fille, which ran weekly on Radio-Canada from 1997 to 2003.   Apart from being the producer, Guy was also the main co-actor.   The show became supremely popular, centered on the funny and quirky dynamics between a husband (played by Lepage) and his wife.  The success of the series cannot be underestimated. It’s one of the most internationally prize-winning TV series in Canadian history, and has been adapted and copied in 26 other countries, more so than most any other TV programme in the history of television — full stop.   With that, Lepage has a larger-than-life status in Québec and francophone pop-culture (it may now be more apparent why I mentioned two posts earlier that there were Francophones seemingly “shocked and horrified” when Le Journal de Montréal poll revealed the vast majority of Anglophone Canadians had absolutely no idea who Lepage was – despite the international accolades he has attracted towards both Québec, and Canada as a whole).

Since Un gars une fille went off the air in 2003, Lepage was further propelled into the sky when he adapted the France TV interview show Tout le monde en parle to create the still-running Québec version, starting in 2004 (the topic of this blog’s first post).

Apart from these achievements, Lepage has been an actor in several movies, he’s been the host of several major TV events (Québec national award ceremonies, annual galas, live televised celebrations, etc.), a stage-actor, an actor in commercials, and the producer of other artistic endeavours (with the TV comedy Les Chick’n Swell also having been galvanized in Québécois collective memory).

One of the most surprising aspects of his career is his brilliance as in interviewer.  Perhaps it is owing to his boldness stemming from his RBO days of pushing the envelope into uncharted territory, or perhaps it is his overall confidence stemming from his contact with all aspects of society – but it’s undeniable that his talents as a provocative, probing, and quick-witted interviewer are quite unique.   There are elements of Québec society who may not agree with the direction he takes his interviews, which battles he picks and choses – or who he choses to single out in interviews (he does have political and social opinions), but few would deny his talent.  He nonetheless deserves much respect and accolade.

With all of this behind him, it’s a wonder Guy A. Lepage has time to sleep.  And with his energy levels and determination, it will be interesting to see what comes next, what it will lead to, and how it will shape Québec society’s collective views.

References to search online to view or read:

  • Tout le monde en parle (TLMEP)
  • Un gars une fille
  • Rock et belles oreilles (RBO)

Radio-Canada sells past programmes in various formats.  Please do not pirate.

Tout le monde en parle (#1)

“Tout le monde en parle” (Everyone is talking about it) is Québec’s most watched weekly television program (with millions of viewers per episode).  The viewer numbers are so large, that it actually is not an exaggeration to say the streets of Québec and Francophone Canada are quiet on Sunday evenings because everyone is inside watching the program.

The show regularly interviews headline news makers, and often in a controversial manner.   The irony is because the interviews are so audacious, Tout le monde en parle itself regularly becomes Québec’s headline news story the day after it airs.  There has been nothing quite like it in Canadian or Québec history (and possibly nothing like it in the history of North American television).

It is a long-running TV interview show (since 2004), filmed in front of a live-audience, broadcast once a week (two hours every Sunday evening, from 8pm to 10pm) on Radio-Canada.  It is broadcast across Canada – thus regardless where you are in the country, you will be able to watch it.  It is not broadcast during the summer.   It was created by household-name Guy A. Lepage (one of Quebec’s best known actors, comedians, and interviewers).

It takes the format of Guy, and his sidekick Danny Turcot, interviewing well-known personalities from cultural, media, news, or political spheres — sitting at a table opposite to the hosts.  Topics are most always on current events related to those being invited.  Several invitees will often appear in one show, sitting side-by-side.  Often the invitees will have opposing points of views.  Because of this configuration, sparks can sometimes fly, and unexpected debates can ensue, especially if the opposing views of the invitees are of an emotional nature (think politics, or ethical issues).

The program often has heavy societal, social, and political overtones — often shrouding subjects in a serious overtone.   The host has entrenched political views, and his questions can become very pointed, critical and less-than-subtle (aimed at both friends and foes alike).   However, regardless of the host’s own political or social views (which do come through on the show – there is no doubt about it) Guy A. Lepage plays it cool, adds a lot of humour, and it makes for a great entertainment factor.

The program also provides the audience with a rare chance to see celebrities, politicians and other newsmakers in either a relaxed setting, or under the heat (questions and criticism of the invitees can become very unbalancing — which is precisely one of the reasons the show is so popular).   For this reason, it’s one of the highest rated, and best known television shows in Quebec — hence “Everyone is talking about it”.

The most famous names in society appear on the program, but even if someone is not so well known, they will be a household name after appearing on the show (in the hours running up to the show’s airing, Lepage has even been known to tell lesser known guests to get ready to become a household name and recognized everywhere as soon as the show goes to air).

Because of popularity of the interviewees, this is one of those shows which is a sure-fire fast-track to familiarize oneself with popular topics and people being currently discussed in Quebec society during at the office water-cooler, among friends, or in the news.

For Anglophone Canadians, it is also a great way to improve your level of French (you’ll find guests speak with a mix of styles of French, be it standard québécois, local accents, and sometimes joual).

– The show’s official website is http://ici.radio-canada.ca/tele/tout-le-monde-en-parle/2014-2015/

– The show’s wikipedia article has highlights of some of the better known moments: