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Paul Arcand (#176)

Paul  Arcand is one of Québec’s best known opinion-maker talk-show radio hosts, and is best known in the Montréal area (where his daily radio show is broadcast).  However, unlike many other Québec opinion makers, he rarely aligns himself with controversial subjects, and he keeps his show relevant to what the vast majority of people can relate to.  It is one of the reasons why he is so popular, and in this sense, he is associated with being a man of the common people.

He has been on the radio for 35 years.  Paul Arcand would be the first person many people in Québec would think of when their thoughts turn to Québec talk radio (simply by virtue that the region in which he is broadcast contains over half of Québec’s population).

To give you an idea of his popularity, this past week, the internet in Québec was abuzz regarding Paul Arcand “losing it” on the radio when he heard his name being used (not very flatteringly) in a radio advertisement for a product. (If you’re learning French, “losing it” or “freaking out” can be referred to as “péter une coche”).  In short, Arcand did not give his consent for his name to be used in the advertisement.  Needless to say, he did not take too kindly to the idea of his own station played such an advertisement, and he let his station have it on air.

It became one of the most viewed news stories of the week in Québec, which attests to his popularity with the public (this would not have been a story had someone less popular made a deal of a similar issue).  Like I mentioned earlier, probably the reason why he is so popular is because his approach to topics, and the way he presents them resonates so well with the public (as does any popular radio host).

He hosts the morning show, “Puisqu’il faut se lever” (Since you have to get up) on 98,5 FM Montréal.   It should therefore come as no surprise that he is the voice who many people in Montréal listen to while getting ready for work or during their morning commute.

98,5 FM’s official website is:  http://www.985fm.ca/

You can listen to 98,5 FM at the above link.

Paul Arcand’s morning radio show can be listed to as an online re-broadcast at http://www.985fm.ca/em/puisqu-il-faut-se-lever-391.html

If you’re learning French, perhaps try listening to Arcand’s shows online for a week or two.  See if it helps with your comprehension skills.   The language he uses is at an average speed, but it not overly filled with Joual or slang.   This might be a good way to ease yourself from “news reporter” French, towards more “street informal” French.  In addition, the topics he discusses and how he discusses them are relevant and should also be of interest to the average Anglophone Canadian.

If you find you listen to 98,5 FM on a regular basis, they have a downloadable app which works quite as well (it covers all the Cogeco FM network radio stations – a grouping of various talk show radio stations in different cities of Québec).

Enjoy the programs!

2015-02-08

 

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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 😉 .

No way, le Figaro (#76)

A word of caution:  Subjects discussed here are rapidly evolving, and certain matters quickly become outdated.  Refer to the addendums at the bottom for the most updated information.

French President, François Hollande, is on a state visit to Canada.  Because of the strong business relations being forged between Alberta and France, he chose to visit Alberta as his first stop to Canada, Ottawa as his second stop, and Québec as his third.   This was a break from tradition which sees French Presidents or Prime Ministers generally visit Ottawa first and Québec second (or sometimes the other way around if the trip to Québec is viewed as a private visit).  This trip to Alberta was not to be considered a snub to Québec.   There are simply important business matters developing between various provinces and France, and President Hollande made note during his trip that he viewed the economic activities of Alberta as being vital to France and Québec alike.

Hollande decided to give Alberta a nod of confidence, and Canada a nod of confidence, including Québec.   For Albertans, it was a humbling gesture — the people of Alberta were very honoured and grateful (media coverage within Alberta was extensive — I’m not sure I’ve ever seen so much local coverage granted to any other visited head of state to Alberta, including those of US Presidents… that in itself should speak volumes).  This gesture will go a long way to building Alberta’s feelings of interest and affection towards France, and towards all of our cousins in La Francophonie in general.

Then Le Figaro, a major national newspaper in France, in one fell swoop, came out with a thunder stealing article, and gave Alberta a few hard kicks to the gut. Quote:

Le camouflet de Stephen Harper à François Hollande:  À la veille de la venue du président de la République français au Canada, le gouvernement dirigé par Stephen Harper a décidé de rebaptiser le pont Champlain, à Montréal, en pont Maurice-Richard, du nom d’un joueur de hockey populaire. Le Français Samuel de Champlain, fondateur de Québec en 1608, passe à la trappe, alors même que François Hollande a choisi de se rendre dans la très francophobe Alberta. Un symbole fort.

Ok, Le Figaro… you had your word.  I’ll now have mine...

Quand vous nous appelez “la très francophobe Alberta”, précisément de qui et de quoi parlez-vous ?

Si vous parlez d’un peuple ou d’un gouvernement dans son ensemble (ce que vous me laissiez croire), en êtes-vous au courant que le gouvernement de l’Alberta investit, chaque année, de plus en plus d’argent dans l’édification de nouvelles écoles francophones et d’immersion, y compris leur soutien croissant dans l’éducation du français en général?   Il le fait non seulement de nécessité pour les francophones de la province, mais également comme démarche afin de rendre les anglophones plus bilingues – qui d’ailleurs, a pour effet de faire en sorte que l’Alberta puisse s’intégrer davantage dans la francophonie à la fois pancanadienne, à la fois globale.  Et ce, sans toutefois parler de son investissement dans le rendement des services en français

Au niveau individuel, en êtes-vous au courant qu’en ce moment, le nombre d’élèves en Alberta qui suivent des cours de français est l’équivalent de la population totale de toute la ville de Montpellier en France?  Saviez-vous que la demande des parents d’inscrire leurs enfants dans les cours d’immersion est si accrue qu’il existe maintenant des listes d’attente en raison d’une manque de professeurs?  (Note aux lecteurs et lectrices de France: si vous êtes professeur et vous êtes à la recherche d’emploi, Alberta en a besoin de vous.  Salaire de première année 40,000 € (55,000$CAD), salaire de cinquième année 55,000 € (75,000$CAD), avec prestations pour professeurs aussi bonnes en Alberta qu’en France – et ils/elles seront aceuilli(e)s à bras ouverts).

J’imagine, à moins que j’ai tort, que vous ne parliez pas de moi, ni de ma famille, ni de mes voisins, ni de ma ville, ni de mes amis – qui, pour la plupart, résident dans les régions rurales de l’Alberta.   De plus, je n’ai jamais vu de la francophobie ni à Edmonton, ni à Calgary (nos deux villes les plus grandes).  C’est d’ailleurs étrange, n’est-ce pas, que mes amis francophones qui habitent un peu partout en Alberta ne m’en ont jamais parlé d’avoir été victimes de la francophobie.

Alors, compte tenu de ce que je viens de décrire, je présume que vous ne parliez ni des deux grandes villes de l’Alberta, ni des régions rurales de l’Alberta, ni du gouvernement de l’Alberta.  Alors, veillez m’excuser si je demeure un peu bafoué.

Je continue me casser la tête… Il doit y avoir de la logique quelque part dans votre article.   Peut-être devrais-je me diriger un peu vers le sud de la province pour trouver la réponse?    Malgré tout, c’est le sud de l’Alberta qui est “censé” être la région la plus conservatrice   Mais à ma grande surprise, c’est en effet cette région-là qui reçoit le plus haut niveau d’immigration en Alberta… y compris des français de France!   La ville de Calgary (toujours dans le sud, et dont le maire est musulman pratiquant), a un taux de minorités visibles de 30% à 35%, un chiffre qui ne cesse d’accroître en raison de l’immigration internationale (encore, veuillez me corrigez si j’ai tort, mais je croyais qui les immigrants ont tendance d’aller où ils croient que la discrimination n’existe pas et où ils peuvent trouver l’esprit le plus ouvert).

Et bien, je pense peut-être enfin savoir de quoi vous en parlez… Je ne peux croire que j’aie raté le coche à ce point.  Vous devez sans doute être en train de parler de Sun News TV, basé à Calgary… Ce poste de télévision qui sert d’exemple d’une idéologie qui cherche, avec difficulté, à trouver des fidèles — et qui est tant considéré par les médias au Québec comme l’incarnation du Québec-Bashing.  Ce poste, oui, on le connaît tous.  Mais avec mois de 1% des cotes de téléspectateurs (oui, moins de 1%… c’est ça ce qu’on dit, le chiffre cité dans les médias)… je ne vois guère comment ce poste pourrait représenter l’Alberta en quelque forme que ce soit.  Peut-être est-il dû au fait qu’il n’est qu’un poste de chroniqueurs à l’extrème bout d’une échelle, plutôt qu’un poste de vraies informations et d’actualités (même la CRTC en a dit autant, refusant de l’accorder une désignation catégorie “A”).   Apparemment, ce poste a subi des pertes annuelles de l’ordre de 10 à 20 $ millions.  Alors, tout le monde — même en Alberta — reste perplexe face au fait qu’il puisse demeurer toujours en ondes.  Les chiffres exactes restent à vérifier (si vous avez les chiffres exactes, genez-vous pas de me les faire parvenir — car j’ai même lu quelque part que leur cotes pourraient être aussi bas que 0,2%).  Moi, je ne trouve rien d’étonnant dans ces chiffres car je rencontre très très peu de gens, soit en Alberta, soit en C-B, soit en Saskatchewan, qui sont des fidèles de Sun News TV.

Alors, on se demande quel genre de propriétaire de chaîne de télévision pourrait tolérer une telle perte sur son bilan.  N’est-ce sans doute une personne qui aurait perdu toute vue de la réalité?  Autrement quel genre de personne serait incliné vider ses poches, année après année, pour garder un tel poste en vie ?  Avec des pertes annuelles de 20$ millions par an, des cotes d’écoute de moins de 1%, et sur la surface du moins, un poste qui ne sert que de semer, par exprès, le désaccord entre le Québec et la Canada anglais, quel genre de personne ayant du bons sens pourrait vouloir garder un tel poste en vie?   (N’oubliez jamais que ce sont les reporteurs de Sun News TV qui se font pointer du doigt le plus souvent lorsque les médias au Québec cherchent des exemples du Québec-Bashing de la part du reste du Canada — souvent par les chaînes Québecor de TVA et LCN, mais également par certaines émissions-débat / d’interview télévisées très populaires de Télé-Québec, Radio-Canada et certains chroniquers de journeaux)Sous n’importe quelle autre prétexte, un poste de télévision comme Sun News TV aurait déjà fait faillite il y a très longtemps.

Mais un instant!  Le propriétaire de Sun News TV, n’est-il pas Pierre Karl Péladeau?  (Le propriétaire de Québecor lui-même).  C’est bizarre, car je croyais qu’il avait déjà vendu ses actions de Sun News Media.  Mais non… au deuxième coup d’œil, il a seulement vendu ses actions dans la presse écrite de Sun News hors Québec…  Et depuis qu’il est devenu député à la scène du Parti Québécois, il semble avoir décidé, mettant à disposition une bonté innée, garder Sun News TV en vie… et il faut se poser la question, pourquoi?    Il va sans dire que ce mélange du monde des politiques, des ambitions personnelles pour la souveraineté, et des affaires dans l’industrie des médias est très dangereux, très très dangereux — et un conflit d’intérêt obscène.  Cette fois, non seulement les Québécois sont bernés par ces tactiques, mais les Albertains se voient utilisés dans ce jeu dangereux, et presque personne au Québec ne leur donne la voix juste pour contrer ce stratgème – un stratagème pour faire que les Québécois nous haïssent.

M. Péladeau est un homme très intelligent, un homme d’affaires très astucieux qui sait comment utiliser son empire médiatique et ses investissements pour atteindre ses buts ultimes.   Mème si ses stratagèmes qui ne sont pas annoncés prima-facie, et même si ses actions de Québecor sont mises en fiducie sans droit de regard, le fait qu’il y a une compagnie médiatique associée à son nom avec des investissement qui s’en écoulent toujours (dont il doit surement avoir un droit de décision, tout comme il l’aurait eu dans la décision de garder Sun News TV en vie) aurait toujours de répercussions politiques.   C’est souvent le “pouvoir discret” (“soft power” comme on dit en anglais) qui compte plus que le “hard power”.

Alors, quelle serait la prochaine étape?  L’Achat des Ramparts de Québec comme étape additionnelle envers le repatriement d’une équipe LNH?  C’est sur que ça va arriver car les affaires de la planification de l’amphitéatre de Québec, du gouvernement Marois, de Québecor et des contrats qui l’entourent était trops entremêlées pour en croire autrement.  Mais comment reconcilier l’apparence (et la forte probabilité) que le tout aurait pu être planifié pour servir comme outil pour gagner les coeurs et âmes dans une région où il en a besoin de gagner le plus de votes possibles?

Je n’ai rien contre le fait que M. Péladeau s’engage dans la politique, à titre d’individuel et même à titre d’homme d’affaires.  Le débat publique des idéologies devrait faire son chemin, et tout le monde y a droit.  Mais il y a un problème lorsqu’on est homme d’affaire et ses placements puissent influencer les “sentiments” des gens.  Ce sont les sentiments qui mènent aux votes — et à ce niveau les règles du jeu ne sont plus équitables (face à une telle situation, quel autre politicien, peu importe leur affiliation politique, pourrait vraiement livrer concurrence?).

Le “pouvoir discret”, ça parle fort.

Peut-être c’est dans ces histoires où vous trouverez votre vrai scoop.

Monsieur ou madame l’éditeur ou l’éditrice au Figaro, on ne vit plus dans l’époque de la visite du Général de Gaulle.  On est en 2014.   Peut-être c’est le temps de revisiter ce que vous en savez de la situation actuelle en Alberta.   Peut-être c’est le temps de différencier l’époque de la visite de M. Hollande de celle du Général de Gaulle.

M. Hollande semble en avoir pris conscience.   Peut-être c’est également à votre tour.

Sorry folks, but Alberta bashing is so not cool!


2014-12-14, ADDENDUM:

There are new developments in this saga (see below), and so I think it’s appropriate to translate the above so add coherency.   The translation is as follows…

Summarized paragraph of Le Figaro’s article:

On the eve of the visit of the President of the French Republic to Canada, the government of Steven Harper has decided to rename the Champlain Bridge, in Montréal, the Maurice-Richard Bridge, after a popular hockey player.  The French explorer, Samuel de Champlain, founder of Québec in 1608, was tossed aside, just at the same time that François Hollande decided to visit the very francophobic Alberta; quite a message that sends.

My response to that:

When you call us the “very francophobic Alberta”, exactly who and what are you talking about?

If you’re talking about a people or a government in its entirety (which you’re leading me to believe), are you aware that the government of Alberta is investing, year-after-year, more and more money in the building of new Francophone and French immersion schools, as well as an overall support for French education in general?  It is doing this not only out of necessity for the province’s Francophones, but also to help Anglophones become more bilingual – which has the effect of also allowing Alberta to integrate further into Canada’s and the world’s French fabric.  And this is not to mention the additional services in French that the Alberta government now provides.

On an individual level, are you aware that at this very moment there are more students in Alberta who are studying French than the number of individuals who make up the entire population of the city of Montpellier in France?  Are you aware that the parental demand for French immersion placement outnumbers the number of places available, resulting in waiting lists due to a lack of a teacher shortage?  (Note to readers in France:  If you are a teacher and you’re looking for a job, Alberta needs you.   First year salary, $55,000, fifth year salary $75,000, with a benefits package just as good in Alberta as it is in France – and you can expect to be welcomed with open arms!).

Unless I’m wrong, I can only guess that you’re not talking about me, nor my family, nor my neighbours, town, or friends – who, for the most part, reside in rural regions of Alberta.  Whats more, I have never witnessed Francophobia or Francophobic Acts in Edmonton or Calgary, our two largest cities.   So isn’t it strange that my Francophone friends in Alberta, who live a little bit of everywhere in the province, have never ever mentioned being the victims of Francophobia?

In light of what I’ve just described, I can only assume you were not referring to our largest cities, nor our rural regions, nor the government of Alberta.   So excuse me if I’m left a little perplexed.

I’m still racking my brains over this one… I mean, I’m sure there has to be some logic somewhere in your argument.  Maybe I should look to regions a little further South in Alberta to find the answer.  After all, it’s the South which is “supposed to be” the most conservative.   But… to my huge surprise, it’s actually the Southern parts of Alberta which have the highest rates of immigration in Alberta… including French immigrants from France!  The city of Calgary, in the South (and which has a practicing Muslim mayor) has a visible minority rate of 30% to 35%, a number which continues to climb.  So excuse me again if I’m wrong, but don’t immigrants tend to go where they believe discrimination does not exist, or at least where they feel people have the most open minds?

Oh, but wait a second… I think I finally might know what you’re talking about… I can’t believe this one went past me.   You most certainly must be talking about Sun News TV, based in Calgary.  Yes, this is the television station which upholds an ideology which is still looking for people to hook on to – but which is having such a difficult time finding those people.  It’s also the television station which is considered by Québec’s media to be the incarnation of Québec bashing itself.  This station, yes, we all know it.  But with no better success than attracting less than 1% of television viewership (yes, less than 1% … that’s what they say, it’s the number cited in the media)… I can’t possibly see how this station is representative of Alberta in any form of substance.  Perhaps all of this is due to it being nothing more than a station of columnist opinion-makers at the extreme end of a scale, rather than a true news station (even the CRTC said as much when they refused to grant it category “A” status).  Apparently this station has been suffering annual losses of around $20 million.  Thus, everyone — even in Alberta — remains a bit baffled that it can manage to stay on air.  The exact numbers need to be verified (if you have them, please don’t be shy and let me know — because I’ve even read that their share of market viewership may even be as low as 0.2%).  Personally, I don’t find anything shocking in such numbers because I know of very very few people in Alberta, BC, or Saskatchewan who actually watch Sun News TV.  I watch it from time to time, but only to find out what absurdities they’re talking about, not because I agree with them — and I think that’s the case for the other few who also might tune into it once or twice a month.

So… It begs the question:  What kind of an TV station owner could ever tolerate such a loss on their balance sheet?  It could only be someone who has lost touch of all sense of reality.  Otherwise, what person would be inclined to empty their pockets, year after year, to keep such a station alive?  With annual losses approaching $20 million, viewership numbers of less than 1%, and on the surface at least, a station which appears to have a main goal of causing division between Québec and English Canada, what type of person in their right sense would ever want to keep such a station alive?  (Never forget that its the reporters of Sun News TV who are on the receiving end of fingers pointing at them when Québec media looks for examples of Québec Bashing on the part of the rest of Canada… and it’s often Québecor’s TVA, LCN and debating / opinion-maker interview programs on Télé-Québec, Radio-Canada, and certain newspaper columnists who do the finger pointing).

In any other context, a station like Sun News TV would have gone bankrupt a long time ago.

But wait a second!  The owner of Sun News TV, isn’t he Pierre Karl Péladeau?  (The owner of Québecor himself).  That’s strange – I thought he already sold his shares in Sun News Media.   But no!  On second glance, he only sold his shares in the written press outside Québec.   Since he became a Member of the National Assembly within the Parti Québécois, he seems to have decided, in all his goodness, to keep Sun News TV alive and well…. And now the question begs to be answered:  WHY?

It goes without saying that this mix of politics, personal ambitions for sovereignty, and media business is very dangerous — and an obscene conflict of interest.   This time, not only have Québécois had the wool pulled over their eyes, but now even Albertans are being used as pons in this dangerous game — and almost nobody in Québec is giving them a fair voice to counter this strategy — one which is to make Québec hate us.

Mr. Péladeau is a very intelligent man, a very acute business man who knows how to use his media empire and investments to attain his ultimate goals.  Even if his strategies are not announced prima facie, and even if his shares are placed in a blind trust, the fact that there continues to be a company associated with his name – with all the repercussions which stem from such a company’s investments (for which he surely has a right of decision, such as keeping Sun News TV alive) — makes it so that there will always be political repercussions.   It’s often soft power which counts more than hard power.

So, what will be the next step?  The purchase of the Québec Ramparts hockey team?  After all, this would go a long way to promote ticket sales with which to attract an NHL hockey franchise back to Québec City.  I can’t see how such a purchase will not go through.  After all, look at what has happened with the contracts and laws surrounding the construction of the new Québec coliseum, the Marois-lead PQ, Québecor’s involvement, and how it has all been interconnected.  In such a scenario, it’s difficult to reconcile the appearance (and strong possibility) of a conflict of interest, in the sense that it was all pre-planned as a tool with which to win hearts and minds (and thus votes) in a region where PKP and the PQ needs to win them the most (that being Québec City).

I have nothing against Mr. Péladeau becoming a politician, as an individual or as a businessman.  The public debate of ideologies and the future of Québec needs to run its course – and everyone has a right to their ideologies.  But the problem arises when a businessman’s ownership in massive conglomerates can influence the “emotions” of people.  It’s always emotions which lead to votes – and in this sense the game is no longer equal (in the face of such a situation, what other politician, regardless of their political adherance, even those in the PQ, can actually compete against this?).

“Soft power” speaks loud.

Perhaps it’s in this story that you’ll find your real scoop.

Mr. or Mrs. Editor at Le Figaro, we no longer live in the period of Général de Gaulle.  We live in 2014.  Perhaps it’s time to revisit what you know about Alberta.  Perhaps it’s time to differentiate between the eras of Mr. Hollande’s visit, and that of Général de Gaulle.

President Hollande seems to have realized it.  Pehaps it’s now your turn.


2014-12-03, ADDENDUM:

Guess who I just found out bought Les Ramparts de Québec a couple of days ago!  Tonight’s hometown first match under new ownership:   PKP/Québecor vs. Les Olympiques de Gatineau.  

And to Louise Beaudoin, Pierre Curzi and Lisette Lapointe… things seem a lot clearer now, and you three must have seen this coming.  Now I can understand how difficult your decision must have been in 2011 to leave the PQ.  It appears now that you three acted with extreme integrity when confronted with la loi 204 — My level of respect for all three of you just went up 100 points.

The next few months are going to be interesting.

Write about that, Le Figaro.


ADDENDUM 2014-12-14:

A couple of days ago, Patrick Bellerose (a published commentator) wrote an article in the Québec (French) addition of The Huffington Post.

In his article, he draws many of the same inferences I am with respect to the appearance of PKP making strategic business investments attain votes and his political goals – leading to the eventual independence of Québec through the winning over a population which is currently not hot on the idea.

However, what I find extremely interesting about Bellerose’s article is that he found a completely different business deal, but with the same kind of end-goal as those I mentioned. Combine Bellerose’s inferences with those of mine, and it seems we’re seeing a very dangerous pattern beginning to develop.

We’re now way beyond the realm of soft-power vote-buying for something like the re-paving of a highway or the location of a government office in a riding.   Rather – we’re now entering the realm of the future of a Canada, and its 35 million+ inhabitants. The stakes are high, and the game being played on PKP’s end has the appearance of being a dirty strategy. This is worrisome because there are no other politicians who can compete against PKP’s personal money being used in this way to secure votes, hearts & minds.

Here is the link to Bellerose’s article: http://quebec.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/12/11/vision-globale-achetee-pour-aider-la-campagne-de-pkp-_n_6310470.html

In a nutshell, what he is saying is the following…

PKP is a member of the National Assembly (MNA) representing the relatively rural provincial riding of St-Jérôme. Mirabel International Airport (Montréal’s former main international airport), which has been closed for years to commercial passenger traffic, is physically situated close to where the majority of the St-Jérôme riding’s population lives.  Following the closure of passenger traffic, Mirabel’s passenger terminal has been in a state of limbo, but has found new life as a backdrop for movies (if you watch Hollywood movies which contain airport scenes, you may sometimes notice that they’re filmed in Mirabel terminal — it’s the only major large-scale terminal of its type which is not being used in North America, making it perfect for movie sets).

The Québec film company, Vision Globale, is responsible for filming movies around Mirabel (it includes Mel’s studios). In June, after PKP became an MNA, he proposed to purchase Vision Globale.  TVA Group (owned by Québecor, which is owned by PKP) recently just concluded the purchase, for $118 million. Prior to the purchase, PKP, in his capacity of a sitting MNA, attended a government committee meeting in which he urged government support for the purchase because it would keep Mel’s Studio ownership within Québec (PKP’s company was the only Québec bidder – so by default, it would see PKP become the owner of it). Making this proposition in committee was a blatant conflict of interest.  The government’s ethic’s commissioner investigated it and agreed as such – but concluded it was an unintentional error on the part of PKP.   Fine, ok, no problem. That’s conflict of interest #1 in this affair, but I can let it slide.

But there’s now another conflict of interest (conflict of interest #2), which is more serious, and this one shouldn’t be allowed to slide…

The purchase of Vision Globale (& Mel’s Studios) for sure will secure jobs for PKP’s riding, and will help to ensure his popular support in his riding. That’s the real conflict of interest (not the fact that he brought it up in government committee). But what’s worse is that it Bellerose alleges PKP made the purchase at a significant financial loss (Vision Globale is losing money, and minority shareholders in TVA Group say Vision Globale should not have been worth $118 million).  Allegedly, this has greatly upset minority shareholders in TVA Group, because they never would have approved the deal.  However, because they were only minority shareholders (PKP has the majority of shares), they had no say. Adding insult to injury, Bellerose presents evidentiary statements which claim that, as part of the deal, PKP’s company issued a slew of additional shares as part of the deal, which further diluted any say existing TVA Group minority shareholders would have had.

Bellerose states that minority shareholders are now proposing that any further moves in this affair be put to a shareholder’s vote, presumably so that true shareholder sentiment and views can be made public. Bellerose says that TVA Group says these accusations or inferences are groundless.

My thoughts now?… The Radio-Canada investigative reporting program “Enquête” (similar to W5 or The Fifth Estate) did an amazing job of piecing together small indicators and chunks of apparent wrong-doings in a former scandal (unrelated to PKP), and using them to uncover one giant corruption scandal involving municipal governments and the construction industry (road resurfacing, bridge construction, etc.). It was the biggest government scandal in Québec’s history.

There seems to be the makings of a pattern in this new story too, which piece-by-piece are leading to a bigger picture. It’s perhaps time that something like Enquête takes this one on too. If there’s nothing there, fine. But if there is… we need to know. Too much is at stake (the future of a country is bigger than the future of the resurfacing of a road).


FURTHER ADDENDUMS, END 2014:

  • PKP, in his role as a “politician”, speaks out in the National Assembly to limit Netflick’s potential harm to Québec culture, and seeks restrictions on Netflick… and who will that directly help?  PKP’s own company, Québecor and TVA.  Hmmm… conflict of interest?
  • The CEM (a department of Université Laval) was requested by Premier Couillard to investigate PKP’s conflict of interest allegations.  The CEM refuses to investigate, citing the situation is too politically sensitive and charged for them to become involved: http://quebec.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/12/18/le-cem-refuse-detudier-le-cas-de-pkp_n_6348758.html
  • PKP gives less-that-stellar performance when faced with hard economic Questions by Gérard Fillion.  Normally this would be big news (PKP is Mr. Québec Business Tycoon) but Argent doesn’t mention even two words about his economic viewpoints or performance in economic interviews … it appears PKP is still their boss and will return one day.   Info regarding the interview can be viewed HERE.

ADDENDUM 2015-02-09

  • Another clear example of the influence of PKP’s media empire and its conflict of interest with PKP’s political life.  A few days ago PKP was at a major music festival (attended by another PQ candidate, Alexandre Cloutier, mayors, other officials, and large crowds of fans).  During the concert, an Anglophone band was playing a song and PKP shouted out “En français!” as they were singing in English – enough to throw the band off, not knowing how to react.  Seriously?!?  What kind of place with Québec be should he come to power.  Neither Pauline Marois, nor Bernard Landry would have done this.  Quite possibly, even Mario Beaulieu (known as the most nationalist of all sovereignty leaders) likely would not have done this either.   This was covered and carried by all the media, in detail, over a few days, including all the television stations, except (drum roll)… TVA.   Yup… I’ve been waiting for a week, watching everyone else talk about it over and over… but am still waiting for TVA to say something.  I guess they “never heard of it”.

ADDENDUM 2015-02-13

  • Sun News TV is closing tomorrow morning… the reason:   nobody is watching it (only 8000 people at any one time), and annual costs of $16 – $18 million per year.   The other reason:  It looks like PKP really really wants to avoid being forced to sell his company Québecor for conflict of interest.   It remains to be seen what happens next.   Nonetheless, if you read the above, you will notice that sometimes the crystal ball is right (another article for you, Le Figaro).
  • I will say this — and I’m very categorical in this statement — :  I did NOT want SunNews to shut down with the aim of stifling their manner of disseminating information, or the dissemination of their ideologies.   What I AM happy about is that many of their ideologies did not resonate with Anglophone Canadians – to the extent that they were not financially viable.  I am a full supporter of free speech — loud and clear speech of all ideologies, from all directions.   It just happened that Anglophone Canada did not like what they were saying.  That, my friends, is the crux of what I am happy about (not the fact that they were shut down for the sake of being shut down).   And like I said earlier in this post… Write about that, Le Figaro! (and while you’re at it, send a copy of your article by express mail to PKP’s constituency office, you know, for good measure, “en français SPV”!).

ADDENDUM 2015-02-22

  • Billet au Huff-Post Québec: Le jeu de la loyauté http://quebec.huffingtonpost.ca/louis-michel-gratton/le-jeu-de-la-loyaute_b_6707782.html – Ça va de soi.   L’Entête:  Depuis que PKP s’est lancé en politique, il m’est impossible d’écouter les nouvelles de LCN ou encore de lire un article du Journal de Montréal, sans me demander si les journalistes sont en mesure de faire abstraction de l’idée que leur « ancien patron » reviendra un jour en affaires.  Louis Michel Gratton)

ADDENDUM 2015-03-15

  • Here’s yet another one with a familiar ring to it.  Last week PKP was taking questions at a press conference.  National assembly rules do not state that reporters are only allowed one question each.  Other politicans do, and always have, taken follow-up questions from the same reporter.  But PKP changed the rules at his press conferences;  one reporter, one question.  Even if others have a problem with that (and many do) I have absolutely no problem with that.   He can run his show any way he wants.  After all, at election time voters will ultimately decide if they do or do not like how he runs the show.
  • But here’s the beef… Québec’s non Québecor carried this news like a wildfire takes to a mountainside.  It was one of the top headlines and most trending new stories in Québec last week.   But funny how TVA didn’t seem to know about it.  Not a peep.   There’s another one for you to write about, Le Figaro.

ADDENDUM 2015-04-22

Is official without being official… Drainville withdrew from the leadership course and endorsed PKP.  He’s now the defacto head of the PQ.  He now has three years to realign the PQ to try to convince voters to endorse sovereignty.  To do so he will likely re-centre the party.  This will isolate and turn off the more left-wing elements in the party, but he will do so in the hope that he will pick up new centre and right-of-centre supporters to off-set the losses from the left.

The question now will be if he will consider the next provincial election a “referendum election” (ie: to hell with a referendum, and just go straight to sovereignty if the electors elect him after being forewarned).

Let the games begin!

ADDENDUM 2015-04-24:

Round 1:

  • Yesterday Dominic Maurais of Radio-X interviewed Vincent Marissal, a well-known newspaper columnist.  Marissal wrote a column in which he touched upon a massive star-studded rally Snyder is trying to put together for the crowining of PKP as head of the PQ.
  • Marissal states that he has inside info that Snyder is wielding her influence as one of Québec’s best connected media and cultural personalities to call in favours from many in the artistic world her owe her one (singers, artists, TV personalities, etc.).   She is trying to get 101 personalities to appear in a massive show to support PKP on May 8th.
  • Marissal asserts that this has left many artists uncomfortable, but many owe her for past favours.   It is a conundrum for many artists.   In addition, many fear being damage to their careers if they refuse to Snyder’s call, and subsequently find themselves locked out of Québecor’s (TVA, and by extension Productions J) media sphere (which controls 40% of Québec’s media).
  • Later on the same interview show, Pierre Céré, one of those running for the head of the PQ, insinuated that Vincent Marissal’s assessment is not necessarily wrote.  He stated that it worries him,  That is big news – and it is going over the head of most people.
  • To add to all of this, the purported rally is to take place in Québec City’s new Ampithéatre ($90 million hockey & multi-purpose stadium) owned by Vidéotron, which is owned by Québecor, and thus owned by PKP.   It may take the defacto form of a giant “Thank-you PKP” festival (after all, Québec City die-hard hockey fan residents have been desperate for the construction of a new stadium with which to try to attract the Nordiques back to the city).  The rally’s goals would thus be to win the hearts and minds in the Québec City region, and turn them to PKP, AKA Jesus — all in a region where PKP and the PQ desperately need votes.
  • If people were only aware…
  • My thoughts:  An extremely dangerous situation, if it’s true.  What single other politician (provincial or federal) can compete with such Snyder-PKP tactics.   Whether it works or not will be whether people manage to see through it.

(there y’are, Le Figaro!, have at ‘er!!)

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: