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Conditioning: A few words regarding the death of Jacques Parizeau (#285)

A short word on today’s passing of Jacques Parizeau.

This will be quite an unexpected lesson in conditioning (the subject of the current series of several posts) – one which was not planned and is completely by chance owing to today’s sudden announcement of Mr. Parizeau’s passing.

Although controversial, Jacques Parizeau was a man of incredible vision and one of the most influential people in not only Québec’s modern history, but also Canada’s modern history.

The book “Jacques Parizeau, un bâtisseur”, by Laurence Richard, was the first biography I ever read (in the early 1990s, strangely enough when I was in was about 14 or 15 years old).

During his time as Premier, it was quite apparent to most people that he had one goal. He had the integrity to head straight for that goal as fast as possible — No detours, no hesitation. It was understood that the any pieces and “collateral damage” resulting from that goal could be dealt with after. Regardless if people agreed or not with his approach or end goal, people knew where he stood, and were invited to take it or leave it. In 1995, people left it.

Mr. Parizeau was generally upfront in this sense (as upfront as he could be considering he had to form and maintain coalitions with others who were more hesitant), and he deserves everyone’s respect for having the integrity to let it be known where he stood on issues under such circumstances.

It is a lesson all politicians from all political stripes can learn from.

How this fits into conditioning:

As a builder of government institutions during Quebec’s Quiet Revolution, he achieved more in his time as a cabinet minister during René Levesque’s government than what several ministers achieve in the course of a few governments.   He embarked on a wide range of industry nationalizations, the setting up of sovereign investment and pension funds, and other government institutions – many of which have since been copied across Canada – provincially coast to coast, or federally.

I always thought that had Mr. Parizeau been federalist, and had he sought to change the federation, the country in its entirety would have achieved heights never before conceived of.  However, history made it so he assumed a different role.

Yet his role as a builder of Québec’s fundamental institutions, and the values which have ensued from those institutions have undoubtedly had a spill over imbued effect into Canada’s overall collective psyche (one region of the country invariably and eventually affects other parts of the country).

In a strange twist of fate, Parizeau’s role as a “builder of modern Québec” has made him a builder of Québec’s modern psyche and society — and through the spill-over affect, of Canada’s modern psyche and society also (which heavily revolves around our highly province-to-province integrated collective welfare & social systems, economic and political systems, and societal expectations).  Thus, Mr. Parizeau has indirectly (and probably quite unknowingly) played a role in bringing Québec’s and English Canada’s collective psyches and societies closer in line than any time before.

He likely thought that Québec would have achieved independence decades ago before such a phenomenon could have ever occurred.

In this sense, a little bit of Jacques Parizeau will always be with all of us, regardless if you are Anglophone, Francophone, or regardless if you are from Vancouver, Saskatoon, Yarmouth or Hamilton.  We have all be impacted in some way by Parizeau’s society-building efforts.

Yet neither Anglophone patriotic conditioning, nor Francophone nationalist conditioning has him seen in this also equally valid light.


SERIES:  HOW THE PRESENTATION OF EVENTS IN MODERN HISTORY WHICH HAVE CONDITIONED US ALL REGARDING HOW WE VIEW OUR PLACE IN CANADA (13 POSTS)

Québec’s 20 most trusted individuals: 16th, 17th & 18th positions [post 9 of 11] (#264)

I ended the last post by stating that this post would report on the “husband of the other”, and someone who makes fun of them all.   So what the heck does that mean?  Read-on…

#16  Pierre Karl Péladeau (PKP) –

Pierre Karl Péladeau (PKP) is now publicly known for three things in life:

  1. He is to be crowned the head of the Parti Québécois on May 15, 2015
  2. He is Québec’s largest media mogul, owning 40% of Québec’s media empire (Québecor, the television network TVA, the Journal de Montréal, the Journal de Québec, Metro, a plethora of magazines, production companies, and others).
  3. He is the “husband of the other”. This is a play on words of a now-popular expression which denotes that he and Julie Snyder are a power-couple in their quest for Québec independence (Snyder was the subject of the previous post).   The original expression was “the spouse of the other”, which was coined by the political party CAQ leader to describe Julie Snyder – and which started a very public spat between the CAQ leader and Snyder.

I have already written quite a bit about PKP in this blog, and there is already enough info out there in internet land about him.   Thus, there is not much reason for me to go much further into the topic.  If you’d like to read some of my own thoughts about PKP and his actions, by all means, feel free to read the post No way, le Figaro (#76).

Wikipedia can also offer you some info: Click HERE for the Wikipedia article.

But I will briefly mention why I believe he ranked #16 in the list of the most trusted people in Québec.

  • First, I find it quite interesting that he is considered less trusted than his wife (in the #15 position).
  • Second, I find it even more interesting that he ranks 6 full places behind his political enemy, Philippe Couillard (he has a lot of work cut out for him if he wishes to lead Québec to independence… but he has a full three years to try to pull of an increase in popularity to the extent that he can win the next election.  Never forget that a year in politics is a lifetime – so anything can happen).
  • Third, I find it remarkable that PKP and Julie Snyder rank back-to-back in trust level.   I believe that it shows they come as an inseperable political couple — our own political Ding & Dong of the world of politics (remember that post?).
  • Fourth, I’m not surprised he ranks on the list (after all that’s a feat in and of itself considering that Justin Trudeau does not appear on the list, and neither does the CAQ leader).  PKP is a politician who is followed very carefully by both friend and foe.  And when you have friends (and everyone has friends to some extent), you’re going to have support.  PKP’s has enough support to rank #16, but not enough to rank #1, 2, 3 (or 9 & 10 – the ranks of his greatest political foes).

I’ll just leave it at that… for now.

#17  Jean-René Dufort –

Again, I had previously written a post of Jean-René Dufort, which you can read by clicking his name in blue.

Briefly speaking, he is “sort of” like the Montréwood version of CBC’s Rick Mercer (or a field-reporter version of John Stewart in the USA).   However Jean-René Dufort’s program seems to be a bit more improvised, and a little more… intrusive.

He takes everyone to task, and delves into the crux of issues through quip, one-liners stuffed full of rhetorical irony.

I’m really not sure there is much more which I can say.   Because he takes everyone to task in his regularly aired Radio-Canada comedy program, people likely “trust” him to get to the bottom of things.

I’ll offer you one of my own little quip one-liners, stuffed full of irony: Isn’t it interesting that the Snyder-PKP duo pretty much fall in the same trust zone as a comedian?   Like I keep saying, this year will continue to be interesting… with more than a few laughs (But perhaps with a few surprises too.  It goes without saying that after seeing last week’s Alberta election – nothing is impossible anymore).

#18   Stephen Harper –

This guy needs no introduction (so at least it makes for less typing on my part).

One thing I can tell you, is that one year ago, and certainly two years ago, I don’t think we would have seen Stephen Harper on this list (like I said earlier, Justin Trudeau has not found his way on the list of Québec’s most trusted).   The fact that he ranks in the same band as Julie Snyder and PKP shows that the Conservatives have been gaining in popularity in Québec.

I find Harper’s ranking even more astounding considering that he can hardly speak French (it’s the most awkward, impersonal, and disconnect French of all the politicians who make the effort).  I mean, do you think that Ontarians, Albertans, or most other parts of the country would vote for a politician they couldn’t understand?

I’ll give a perfect example (and don’t laugh too loud!!) — Stephen Harper cannot say “election” in French.  Every time he tries, he ends up saying “Erection” !!   Yes… he comes out with sentences like “With this erection, I’m going to get right in there!”  (I’m not “stiffing” you folks!).   This is but one of the many “language issues” he has which has made him the laughing stock of Québec’s electorate.

I personally have never voted for the Federal Conservatives (although I saw much merit in the former federal “Progressive” Conservatives of Joe Clark — Joe Clark was my Calgary man of the hour.  But, in the absence of the old PCs, I truly have no idea which of the three main parties I would vote for if an election were held tomorrow — I truly see merit in all of our parties… and I’m waiting for that right combination to of policies to come forth).  Yet, I don’t have it out for Harper.  I may not agree with a chunk of his policies, but I don’t think he is a “bad guy” or ill intentioned (I believe his heart is in the right place with how he tries to make what he sees as the best decisions for the country).   And, as in any democracy, the rest of us are simply free to decide if we agree with that path or not — pretty simple stuff.  No need to demonize him (or any other politician or party for that matter — we’re all on the same side, after all).  Some countries have had it a lot worse (ever hear of Jean Marie Le Pen? or George W. Bush?).

But I wholeheartedly admit that it is extremely distracting and difficult to take your political class seriously if they can only say “erection” instead of “election”.   Here is a short montage to show you “exactly” what I mean:

Here’s the transcript:

  • – The 4th erection in 7 years.  Question:  Do you want erections?
  • – A 5th erection before the 4th one is even finished.  Are you sick and tired of having repetitive erections?
  • – Do we really need this erection?
  • – Liberals, NDP and the Bloc have forced this erection at the worst time.
  • – To initiate erections.
  • – Repetitive erections.
  • – Dear friends, we the Conservatives, we do not want these erections!  But we will nontheless conquer this erection!
  • – Canada cannot ruin the start of this growth by way of a useless erection.
  • – During the partial erection, during the partial erection… to start a useless erection… an erection which will cost you hundreds of millions…
  • – Repetitive erections…
  • – How much does an erection cost??
  • – Are you tired of repetitive erections?? (YEEESSSS!!!! Cheers!)
  • – They decided to initiate a useless and opportunistic erection!
  • – People ask me why we have erections.
  • – People ask me why we have our fourth forced erection in seven years!

I should mention, teasing aside, that Stephen Harper has made an effort to start every single one of his official speeches in French, rather than English (even in very Anglophone places such as Medicine Hat or Sydney).  I’ll give credit where credit is due (neither Trudeau, Mulcair, nor May goes to the trouble of making such as gest… Harper is the only one).

Despite his difficulties in French, the Conservatives are especially popular in Québec City, and they have relatively higher support in a few other ridings in Québec.  I think that says something.

I’m not sure how the Conservatives will perform in Québec in the upcoming election.  After Alberta’s election, I have a funny feeling more and more people will be looking towards the NDP as a viable alternative worth considering.  And if Justin Trudeau can shore up his economic platform (and if he can come across as being someone who “understands” the numbers he’s preaching), then the Liberals may also be able to ride on the NDP’s new found momentum.  Thus nothing is certain for the Conservatives in Québec.  But then again, I could be completely off in left field.

Regardless, objectively speaking, the Conservative’s upswing in trust in Québec is impressive – considering they really were not on the political map in Québec even a couple of years ago.

The next post will be the last one in the top 20 countdown of the most trusted people in Québec.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I suppose only time will tell.


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

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

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

———————

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

———————

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

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

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

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

———————

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

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

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

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

ADDENDUM 2015-05-19

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

I’m left wondering:

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

Lise Payette – An “eavesdropping” short series: Nadeau-Dubois / Payette – Post 2 of 3 (#154)

I’m actually writing this post during the middle of the night from about 40,000 feet, flying somewhere over the state of Wisconsin, I think.  I have to make a quick trip to Nevada for work, and will meet up with some friends flying in from overseas, but I’ll try to find time to keep up with the daily posts.

p.flt1

Although this is the second post in the three-part mini blog series featuring Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois and Lise Payette, this post is a must-read for context, in order for the next post to make sense (the next post will be the summary of the actual audio recording of the coversation between Nadeau-Dubois and Payette).

Lise Payette (born in 1931) is a still-respected former, well-known politician (learning about her has even been incorporated into Québec’s school curriculum).  She used to be a government minister within René Levesque’s Parti Québécois government.   She has not been a politician since the early 1980s, but she certainly made her mark on the party, and on Québec.  In more recent times (including today), she is a listed, and widely-read newspaper columnist (thus, her opinions still hold weight in certain circles).

Despite only being in government from 1976 to 1981, it’s notable just how well known she is – although younger generations (under 40’s – which I’m still part of) may not necessarily know her as well as those over 40. We under 40’s (especially Francophones, or those who have lived large parts of their lives between the French-English lines) have undoubtedly seen her in old film footage or documentaries, dozens and dozens of time.  Probably most Anglophones in Canada have also seen her in Canadian history documentaries, very often standing beside René Levesque, but perhaps were not aware of who she was.  However, for Anglophone Canadians, she likely is simply “that lady” they see standing on stage, beside René-Levesque, when seeing old footage of his speech upon losing the 1980 referendum, or of old footage of his other speeches.   But now when you see documentaries or old footage on the History channel or other major networks, at least you’ll now know who she is.

lv,py 80

If you’re over 40 and Francophone (or well acquainted with Francophone culture), you perhaps already know quite a bit about her. Likely two things would stand out in your mind :

  1. She was one of the first women in Canada to be a career cabinet minister. She held numerous cabinet positions in her short five years in politics – charting the way for other female politicians to hold senior government positions.
  2. She is forever associated with « L’affaire des Yvettes » (The “Yvettes Affair”).

So what is this « Affaire des Yvettes » (The “Yvettes Affair”)??

We all know about the infamous 1995 remarks Jacques Parizeau made when, upon losing the 1995 referendum, he declared it was lost because of “money and the ethinc vote”.  But you may be surprised to learn that a similar referendum “oral gaff” scandal took place during the first 1980 referendum, caused by remarks made by Lise Payette.

You’ll need to understand a little bit of the background first.  Not only was Lise Payette a successful and pioneering politician, but prior to her time in government she was also was a successful media personality.  With several high-profile exceptions (such as Jeannette Bertrand), a woman of media prominence in Québec during the 1960s and 1970s was still relatively uncommon (and a multi-portfolio female cabinet minister was even less common).  After having attained media prominence, and after being a government cabinet member for a few years, she was sensing that the 1980 referendum may be lost.  But more importantly, she feared women may be the “loosing factor”, meaning she feared they would not vote for sovereignty.  Payette therefore launched a controversial plea to women across Québec; to stop being “Yvettes”, and to take a chance and vote for sovereignty.   By accusing women of Québec of being “Yvettes”, the “Yvette” she was referring to was a character from Québec textbooks who was a subservient, traditional and passive girl.  Yvette, the character, fit the traditional role of what females had filled for hundreds of years.  Basically, translated into a reference Anglophones can identify with, Lise Payette was calling Québec women “timid little June Cleavers” (for lack of a better way of putting it).

Payette’s exact words were (translation from French):

« Guy practices sports : swimming, tennis, boxing, and diving. He plans to be a
champion with many trophies. Yvette, his little sister, is happy and docile. She always finds a way to please her parents. Yesterday at supper, she sliced the bread, filled the tea pot with hot water… And after lunch, she’s more than happy to wash the dishes and sweep the floor. Yvette is quite a dainty girl, eager to please ».

This comment inflamed women across Québec. To add further insult to injury, Lise Payette took a cheap shot at the expense of the wife of Claude Ryan, the then head of the Liberal Party and leader of the federalist “No” campaign of the 1980 referendum. Of Claude Ryan’s wife, Payette she proclaimed (in French):

“He (Claude Ryan) is just the type of man who I hate… I’m sure that Québec is full of “Yvette’s”… after all, he (Claude Ryan) is married to one.”

Just as Jacques Parizeau’s 1995 post-referendum “money and ethnic vote” comment infuriated huge swaths of Québec society, and perhaps turned off segments of society from ever voting for sovereignty in any future hypothetical referendums, so too did Lise Payette’s remarks infuriate significant segments of women in Québec. The difference, however, was that Payette made her Yvette comments “before” the 1980 referendum (whereas Parizeau made his comment “after” the 1995 referendum was already lost).

Following Payette’s remarks, but prior to the 1980 referendum, women across Québec founded a grass roots movement called « Les Yvettes » (“The Yvettes”). They organized conventions and rallies to denounce Lise Payette, the Parti Québécois, and to thus vote against sovereignty. The first rally, organized by Claude Ryans’s wife herself, attracted 1700 women. Subsequent rallies took place, with the largest attracting 14,000 women. It’s estimated that over 40,000 participated in several rallies in just a few short weeks.

Did this female backlash influence the result of the referendum?  Perhaps it did somewhat.  But did it result in the referendum being lost by a 20 point spread? Despite some people claiming it did, we will never truly know for sure what the effect was on the results, or by how much it influenced the result (opinion-polling was not a major part of the process in 1980, but I cannot see how it could have influenced the vote by a full 20 point spread – but that’s just my own guess).

What’s interesting is that both the 1980 and 1995 referendums came with major verbal gaffs from the highest ranks of the PQ leadership (I suppose whenever people are involved in something so critical and so emotional, human error will always have the potential to become an unpredictable wild-card).

Verbal gaffs are as old as the hill, and regrettable human gaffs will likely always be a part of politics.

Speaking of verbal gaffs, as a somewhat related aside (and something we may see escalate further in the next few weeks), the following recent account of verbal gaffs gives a good idea about how quickly they can snow-ball in Québec politics:

We recently saw a similar episode of a few verbal faux-pas in Québec politics. The first week of November, 2014, François Legault, the party leader of the (recently rebranded “federalist”) provincial party “Coalition Avenir Québec -CAQ” (Québec’s 3rd place party out of the four parties with seats in the National Assembly), took a verbal jab at both Pierre Karl Péladeau, PKP, (the aspiring leader-to-be of the Parti Québécois), and his politically engaged “media super-star”and activist wife, Julie Snyder.  In French, Legault made off-the-cuff remarks which he likely thought would highlight that Snyder and PKP come as an activist pair, but that he felt the two as a pair shouldn’t be given disproportionate attention.  Instead of referring to either of them by name, he referred to them as (translation):  “that guy and the wife of that other”.  

In response, Julie Snyder publicly proclaimed that Legault’s remarks should be interpreted as him having “no respect for the public, and no respect for women in general”.  Her husband, Pierre Karl Péladeau said that Legault should have more respect for his wife, considering “she is the creator of the most successful television and entertainment programs in the history of Québec”.  (their words, not mine).

Aspects of the media in Montréal, many of which have professional ties with, and are historically friendly to Julie Snyder, launched a barrage of accusations against Legault, with some accusing him of being a “misogynist” (dictionary definition of a “misogynist”: someone who hates or dislikes women or girls, and which can include sexual discrimination, denigration of women, violence against women, and the sexual objectification of women).

Legault apologized, saying it was just an off-the-cuff comment meant to be humourous, and that his remarks had no association with a stance regarding women.   But Legault obviously was quite bitter about the way Snyder drew massive public media attention to his remarks, owing to her celebrity status, and the way that this can create a sour mix when media-meets-politics.

A few weeks later, on December 18, Legault upped the ante and bore out his frustrations live on the “Show du matin” (The Morning Show) of one of Québec’s most listened to radio stations, Radio X (which is the most popular radio program in Québec City and Eastern Québec).  I was actually listening to the program live, as I was getting ready for work, when François Legault sought to even the score with Julie Snyder.

Legault ranted that Julie Snyder is (quote – his words, not mine) “more dangerous than her husband” and “(she is) dangerous in the sense that she allowed inferences to go on that I am a misogynist, she allowed inferences to go on that my wife doesn’t have the right to speak… Do you know anyone who is able to, in one fell swoop, appear on (Québec’s most popular morning TV show) ‘Salut Bonjour’ (on TVA), who can appear in every show on TVA, and can appear on all radio stations?  Do you know anyone else like that?  She is dangerous in the sense that she can have an impact on public opinion, which has nothing at all to do with reality.”

This latter statement garnered attention in the Québec City / Eastern Québec regions (the web lit up – check it out), but strangely enough, did not receive much coverage in Montréal, where Québecor/TVA/Newspapers (owned by Pierre Karl Péladeau), Productions J (owned by Julie Snyder) and their media “acquaintances”  are physically based.

I’m still waiting to hear what response Péladeau or Snyder will give.  They have not yet responded, but my guess is there will be some pointed comment launched at Legault sometime in the coming weeks, bringing all this squarely back into the public arena.  After all, it appears the duo is now are trying out a new tool in their war-chest… That of trying to find ways to make labels stick to their opponents the way people managed to brand Lise Payette in 1980 on gender-based issues.  But apart from a ranting few and some TVA personalities (all in Snyder’s court by default), the public didn’t bite.  The question is, will they try this stunt again?  And who will be their next target?  Stay tuned…

My advice?  Now, now, Children, Kings, Queens!! Grown ups!!  Settle down a bit and behave!  (Aren’t politics so much fun?!?!).

But enough about the Snyder/PKP-Legault gong show (regardless of how entertaining it has become), and lets get back to Lise Payette.

The next post will wrap up this 3-part mini blog series which brings Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois (part 1) and Lise Payette (part 2) together. The next post will give you a summary of their first meeting together over which they share a meal and conversation. I find it quite interesting.  You will have the controversial 24 year old, aspiring-world-changer activist share a meal with the 84 year old formerly controversial aspiring-world-changer activist of yesteryear. What will they talk about? What advice with Payette give to Nadeau-Dubois? Will he agree with her? Will either of them make controversial statements? Will they be two peas in a pod, or will they disagree like oil and vinegar?  In anticipation of the next post, I will say this upfront; they won’t be throwing their food at each other.

But stay tuned – and we’ll find out tomorrow.

P.S.  Gee, I wonder if I too will be given any labels by Julie for referring to Lise Payette in one of the sentences above as that lady” standing beside René Levesque!  (Score!   Ooops!, my bad)

p.flt

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MINI “EAVESDROPPING” SERIES

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!!)