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Simon Durivage (#129)

Simon Durivage just received the Order of Canada.

He’s a very famous, longtime anchor — with a television anchoring career dating back to 1968.  Actually, he’s one of Canada’s and Québec’s most respected Editor-in-Chiefs and Chief Station Anchors.  He continues to be a television host, and in this respect, he is among a very small group of Québécois anchors who could be considered the Québec version of a living/ongoing Nolton Nash & Lloyd Robertson (in English Canada) or a Dan Rather, Mike Wallace, or Barbara Walters (in the US).

Durivage started his career with Radio-Canada, and for many many years, he hosted several of R-C’s pillar programs including:

  • Enjeux (a W5 / 5th Estate / 60 minutes type program)
  • Le Point (the 30 minute analysis / special reporting section which used to follow the 30 minute news segment of the daily evening news on R-C)
  • Montréal ce soir (the Montréal evening news).

He had also anchored programs on Radio-Québec (today’s Télé-Québec) at the tail end of the 1970s, and he also hosted a show on TV5 (“the” international French television station) for a short period.

Durivage then moved to Québecor’s TVA network in 1997 in prominent Chief Anchor roles, hosting his own programs.

He moved back to Radio-Canada in 2003 as a Chief input anchor on R-C’s 24-hour network RDI.  Today, we see him on air everyday as the host of his own opinion-maker / commentary show, Le Club des ex.

Le Club des Ex is daily a program which sees Durivage as the moderator and interviewer of a 3-personal panelist of “ex”-politicians (hence the title of the show, “The Club of Ex’s”).  The three panelists are paid by Radio-Canada on a year-to-year contract, and are given full-salary by R-C (the salaries have been the topic of media attention over the last few months, and Gilles Duceppe even declined a panelist position because he would lose his former MP Federal pension if he were to derive a salary from a Federal agency, including Radio-Canada).  Each of the current panelists were former Members of Québec’s National Assembly, and they provide commentaries based on their personal experience, views, and political opinions.

Actually, it’s quite fitting I mentioned Simon Durivage’s current role on Le Club des ex, as it ties into some political commentary posts I’ve written in the past.  You may have read my previous post “Québec’s Network of Opinion Makers”.   In that post, I listed some of Québec’s most high profile and well-known opinion makers and opinion maker programs. Among that list, I mentioned Le Club des ex.  I mentioned in that post that some of Québec’s opinion-makers and opinion-marker programs often slant and lean their media-expressed commentaries and views towards sovereignty (although I do not believe “Le Club des Ex” has any political agenda).  In the past post entitled Le Plateau I gave some of the main reasons why this may be, despite a strong majority of Québec’s population not being in favour of sovereignty (although I discussed in the post Maurais Live that, although a majority of people do not support sovereignty outright, there is still an important segment of the population who could be considered “soft sovereignists”).  If you read these few posts together and take them as one continuous series, you’ll get a fairly good insight into how the ideology of sovereignty and the media-world meet (and for a further dose of insight of this sovereignty-meets-media phenomena, you might want to read the continuously running post No way, Le Figaro).

But unlike some other opinion-makers, Simon Durivage, as the host of Le Club des ex, does an  commendable job of maintaining political neutrality – with a sincere attempt to objectively get to the bottom of matters, regardless of the political topic being discussed.  I have absolutely no idea what Durivage’s personal political views are, and I frankly don’t care because he can be trusted to deliver a non-partisan point of view and to take everyone to task equally… always seeking to see and report the bigger picture. As such, Simon Durivage is one of the Canadian journalists who I trust the most (be they Anglophone or Francophone). Add to that a career dating from 1968 (46 years), and all the experience that entails, there truly is almost nobody in Canada’s media who can deliver topics quite like Simon Durivage.

He truly is the one of best that Canada’s media has to offer – and he deserves all the accolades he receives.

ADDENDUM: 2015-06-19

Today is Simon Durivage’s last day as host of Le Club des ex.   He is retiring, but he says the public will continue to see him in media projects dear to his heart.

I sent him a note earlier today, and I wish him the best.

Bonne semi-retraite Simon!  Profitez-en du temps libre avec vos proches.  Vous le méritez.   B.


Oil Pipelines in Québec – A Hot-Button issue (#123)

This post will be on the very hot-button issue of oil pipelines in Québec.  The pipeline company, TransCanada, is planning to upgrade existing cross-Canada pipelines, and build extensions.  It will pipe Canadian domestic “oil-sands” oil to Eastern Canadian refineries for the very first time in history (currently, Eastern Canadian refineries refine imported foreign oil or oil brought in from Western Canada by train).

Here’s a map I made which gives a general overview of the plans (click to enlarge)


Unless you watch or listen to the media in French, people in predominantly Anglophone provinces seldom hear the actual conversations going on between Québécois themselves (it’s kind of an unfortunate reality, but then again, provincially-specific topics in Canada are rarely discussed anywhere but in their own respective provinces, regardless if they are in English or French).

I was driving from Québec City to Montréal earlier this week and listening to a Québec City radio station when I overheard an interesting discussion between two rather influential public figures.  It was a discussion of opposing views on the whole issue of oil pipelines being laid across Québec.  I thought I’d translate a portion of the conversation and share it with you to give a little bit of insight of how people in Québec are viewing the issues.    The next Federal election is slated for end October 2015 (unless for some reason it’s called soon after the March budget – which looks less and less likely), and this conversation embodies how the issue is being discussed in the run-up to the election.

Carl Monette is a radio program host on Radio-X, Québec City – Eastern Québec’s most listened to radio station.

Bernard Drainville is a contender for the leadership of the Parti Québécois.  He is a former PQ cabinet minister, and used to be a well-known reporter for Radio-Canada.

The following is a translation (from French) of a small part of their much larger conversation on Radio-X.  This particular segment relates directly to oil piplelines.

—————————- ————————–

DRAINVILLE:  [In a conversation about sovereignty, Drainville says…]  If we cannot hold a referendum in the first mandate [if we can win the next election], then we need to take the time during that mandate to show to the electorate that we’re able to [achieve sovereignty].  We need to give the economic numbers, we need to present economic and financial forecasts.   We need to demonstrate that it will be a good thing. Look what’s happening with the [TransCanada] pipeline [which they want to build across Québec].   [Liberal Québec Premier] Couillard tells us we have to accept a pipeline which moves 1.1 million barrels of oil a day, on our soil, solely in exchange for a [$9 billion federal] equalization cheque.   For me, forget the equalization cheque – because just look at the price tag which will come with it for us:  It’s going to be a 100 year pipeline, it can actually last 100 years if it’s well maintained.   So then [within that period], who’s going to pay if it bursts?   Who?  Who’s going to pay if it bursts [sometime in the next 100 years]?  (note:  I’m assuming he means that TransCanada, the company, may not exist in say 40 or 80 years, just as companies which existed 50 years ago don’t exist today).

MONETTE:  So then, are we better to then just continue importing our gas from Texas, already refined, on our St. Lawrence River?   You want it to be done this way rather than bringing it in from here at home, refine it here at home, and using it here at home?  That’s what I understand you to be saying.

(note:  Eastern Canada imports oil primarily from North Africa, Venezuela, and somewhat from the US.  This is because there are no pipelines from Western Canada.  Whereas Western Canada’s gasoline is mostly from domestic sources, Eastern Canadian gasoline is primarily imported from other countries).

DRAINVILLE:  Come on, we don’t refine anything here at home.  The TransCanada pipeline…

MONETTE: So then we don’t do anything?  We do absolutely nothing?   The money that Canada will make from the pipeline, it’s going to come back to us.  It’s also our money too you know.

DRAINVILLE:  The TransCanada pipeline, it’s used to transport oil across our territory [Québec], which is not refined here.  [The pipline’s] only function is [to move the oil from West to East], to export the oil.

MONETTE:  Yes, but that money, who do you think it goes to?   Canadians get it.

DRAINVILLE:  (Pause, & puffing noise)

MONETTE:  We get it back in taxes!  Would you rather pay for oil from Texas, and bring it in by boat on our St. Lawrence, than bring it in by pipeline?   I don’t understand you.

DRAINVILLE:  My objective is to reduce our dependence on oil.  You know, our oil comes in from elsewhere, regardless if it comes from Alberta, Newfoundland, or Saudi Arabia – it all comes from elsewhere.  It’s about time that we replace…

MONETTE:  Why not bring it in from here at home?  It’s always better to bring it in from our own country than from another, or a Mid-East country, or the United States?

DRAINVILLE:  What’s the interest in allowing a pipeline which brings us hardly any major advantages?

MONETTE:  It’s the most secure form of oil transportation that exists.  It’s coming across our territory [Québec] regardless.  So we’re better to take it in this manner for the time being [by pipeline], and once we develop other resources, then we’ll take those other sources.  But for the time being, I know it sucks, but my car doesn’t run on water.

DRAINVILLE:  Well, once we get to that point, the pipeline, we’re going to be stuck with it for 100 years.  I’m not one for that.  I think there are ways we can develop… Yes, I think you’re right, we have to make a transition.  Of course we’re going to continue to use oil for a certain period of time…

MONETTE:  We don’t have a choice.  Look around you.  About 95% of anything you see if made from oil.  We don’t have a choice.   I don’t want to buy my oil from the United States, or from the Middle-East.  We have it here, so why don’t we use it in our own country?

DRAINVILLE:  No, not with the [environmental] price that’s to be paid for it.  Not with the risks that come with it.   It’s not right what you’re proposing.   The oil sands, the dirtiest form that exists.

MONETTE:  When it comes to oil, there is no such thing as dirtier or less dirty, or half-dirty… Can we just agree on this?  I don’t want boats coming here from Texas with oil that has already be refined.

DRAINVILLE:  I’m going to tell you something… If you run a pipe under my property, but I’m the one who assumes all the risks, if an accident does ever occur, then I’m the one who’s on the hook for cleaning it up.   Can you think of a reason why I should say that’s ok?

MONETTE:  Ok… we have the (Québec) Ministry of Natural Resources who have already announced that the risks are going to be assumed by the pipeline companies. It was all covered in the media last week.

DRAINVILLE:  Oh, come on… look at how you believe that sort of thing!

MONETTE:  Yes. Well, it’s better than listening to the Parti Québécois when they say we’ll be living a rainbow dream with separation and that will make us rich.

DRAINVILLE:  We saw how much the “beautiful assurances” did for us when we saw what happened in Lac-Mégantique.  (Note:  A train, moving oil from North Dakota to Maine, transited Québec two years ago, derailed, exploded, killed about 40 people, and basically blew an entire town off the face of the map – it was an awful tragedy, and emotions have been running sky-high ever since). Frankly, in Lac-Mégantique, Transport Canada didn’t do its job – Specifically Transport Canada.  We saw the risks involved when you transit oil through our territory.   Don’t you think it’s possible to draw some lessons from that experience?  Don’t you think we can create a goal of reducing our dependence on oil?  Are we not able to resist jumping on board in such projects, such as those of TransCanada which do nothing but make us run enormous risks for marginal benefits?

MONETTE:  Oh, come on. No way, No way.  It will be billions of dollars in taxes which will go into Federal coffers from this.

DRAINVILLE:  Yah, there you go (sarcastic tone), right, the Federal government is going to put the money in “their” pockets.

MONETTE:  Well, they’re giving us right now $9 billion dollars [in equalization payments], so I’m not jumping on the line you’re feeding me, you know. We’re never going to agree on this.

DRAINVILLE:  No, on this we’re not going to agree on, but there will be other things we can agree on.


The two concluded their conversation on other topics.   After hanging up, Monette had the following to say…

MONETTE:  Bernard Drainville is someone for whom I still have respect, even if I agree with almost none of his stances, except for the Charter of Values.   He’s come to the studio for past live interviews.  We always have good discussions, but then we always finish in a pile of crap (tout le temps dans la marde).   It’s not complicated – it usually goes like this… we start out never agreeing, our conversations go slowly up-hill, it turns an a not-so-great direction, but at least we finished on a good note.

—————————- ————————–

As you can see, pipelines are very hot-button issues in Québec, with many people at odds on how to view them.  I’m doing my best to write this post in as an objective manner as possible (I do have long-standing views on oil pipelines myself, but I don’t consider my views to be extreme, one way or the other.  I consider them to be balanced, but in this post, I won’t discuss my own specific views in order to maintain a more neutral tone).

I can tell you, from my own personal experience in discussing this issue with friends in different regions of Québec, the whole issue of pipelines can become very emotional.  There can be a strong principle & ideological based divide between people who believe pipelines are mostly an environmental matter versus those who believe they are mostly an economic matter.  Adding to this complex mix, some people believe the issues should be managed strictly on a principle and ideological-based platform, and others believe the issues should be managed strictly on a practical, quick results, and a day-to-day reality basis.  Regardless of your views on oil pipelines, more than in any other province in Canada, it would be in Québec where you would be likely to get into a very heated and emotional discussion on this issue (of course there are exceptions in every province, but I’m presenting this post in very general terms).

Probably only a few major issues will play into how Québécois will vote in the next Federal election (perhaps 4 or 5 major issues).  One of the main issues will be the issue of laying oil pipelines within Québec.

In order to understand the issues, it’s important to mention that environmental and natural resource issues are usually “provincial” jurisdiction – but they constitutionally become federal jurisdiction when it enters the realm of cross-border domestic pipelines or cross-border international pollution – and thus because the pipelines will be crossing various provincial borders, the matter has become federal jurisdiction.  It thus becomes an issue for the federal vote.   That being said, Federal parties are more than aware that it would be political suicide to not include their provincial counterparts in the discussion, and at the very minimum, give weight to what provincial governments have to say (even if it’s not provincial jurisdiction).  Much like BC and Ontario, Québec’s provincial government has said it will not give their (symbolic) consent to the TransCanada pipeline project unless certain environmental and safety conditions are met (Québec and Ontario drafted a list).  Despite the province not having jurisdiction to impose such conditions, it would be political suicide for the Federal government to ignore such conditions – and thus the Feds are agreeing to accept provincially outlined conditions.

People in Western Canada are generally used to dealing with pipeline issues.  Generally speaking (and yes, I’m overgeneralizing here):

  • we see strong support for pipelines in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba,
  • little support for them in BC (particularly in urban regions where the majority of the population resides, and especially when discussing pipelines in environmentally sensitive areas),
  • very mixed signals towards them in Ontario (Ontario is a funny case – some regions are ok with them, yet other regions and people are quite skeptical or anti-pipeline)
  • Pro-pipeline and luke-warm support in Atlantic Canada (yet NB is quite anti-fracking, which is interesting because other pro-pipeline regions across North America are often OK with fracking),
  • A very mixed bag in Québec, but overall, a negative view towards pipelines being laid in the province. But there seems to be a lot of soul-searching on the issue in Québec at the moment.

I say there’s a mixed bag in Québec because of the Montréal / Québec City political and economic divide.  Québec is often a Tale of Two Provinces (a concept very poorly understood in the rest of Canada).  It’s a split between two major population zones; the East (Greater Québec City, and to some extent Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean / Beauce), and the West (Greater Montréal and to some extent other adjacent regions).

To give you an idea just how differently these two regions think, view issues and vote, you need to look no further than today’s Crop-La Presse poll on Québec City’s voting intentions :

  • In Québec City region, with 37% of intended votes, the Federal Conservatives would win the majority of the vote if an election were held today.  They would also likely pick up additional seats. The 2nd place goes to the NPD (31%), the Federal Liberals are 3rd place (they get 21%), and the Bloc Québécois is 4th place with 11%
  • The poll didn’t give Montréal (West Québec) voting intentions, but it did give Québec’s overall voting intentions as a whole. The Liberals and in 1st place (37%), the NDP 2nd place (30%), the Bloc Québécois has 3rd place (17%) and the Conservative are 4th place (13%).   That 13% presumably is entirely concentrated in the Québec City and adjacent regions.
  • These latter numbers are for Québec as a whole, but Montréal votes much heavier for the NDP than other reasons. In Montréal, I would not be surprised if the NDP has 1st place, the Liberals 2nd, if the Bloc is 3rd, and the Conservatives have almost zero (the exact opposite from Québec City and Eastern Québec).  These are what recent past polls have shown at any rate.

Montréal, and surrounding regions (which has the bulk of Québec’s population) are generally against pipelines – and you see this reflected with almost zero Conservative support in the Montréal region.  There is a strong anti-pipeline activist movement in the region and in Montréwood media.  People in the region often take a harder environmental line based on principle.  Yes, I know there are nuances, but this is a general overview.

Québec City and surrounding regions (the 2nd most populous region of Québec) are not as hostile towards to the idea of pipelines, and you’ll note that the Conservatives are leading in this region.  There is a major refinery in the Québec City metro region (Lévis), and people in the region are used to seeing (with their own eyes) petroleum ocean tankers going down the St. Lawrence, past downtown Québec, and docking at the oil terminal port in Lévis (when I was in Québec City this week, I stood on the banks of the St. Lawrence and watched as a couple foreign oil tanker steamed passed me – it was interesting to watch them dock at the refineries – and even more interesting to know that this very oil, be it from Africa or Venezuela, could very likely end up in my car’s tank in Toronto in a few weeks time).    Also, overall political tendencies in the Greater Québec City region can be very different from those in Montréal.

If we look back to the radio conversation, both sides said things which are valid, and there are many other things both sides could have used in their respective arguments.  As you could see, the conversation was generally discussed on an environmental vs. economic scale.  Some of the facts which both Drainville and Monette gave were not correct, and some of the facts both gave were correct but incomplete.  But the points which were incorrect were not major inaccuracies.

Drainville could have mentioned additional argument points, such as:

  • the high CO2 emissions and waste water created from the oil-sand extraction process (in Alberta)
  • issues regarding water and solid waste resulting from the oil-sand extraction process (in Alberta)
  • the need to inject polluting and diluting chemicals directly into the heavy oil within the pipelines in order to make the oil viscous enough to be transported – and the problems of what to do with all these chemicals after the oil reaches its destination
  • the emissions which will come from the Suncor, Lévis and Irving refineries in Québec and New Brunswick once a heavier oil is refined in these three refineries (imported oil, currently being refined in here is much lighter and doesn’t require as much upgrading).
  • Even after refining and consuming the pipelines’ oil, there will be an excess of oil (about 1/3 of all the oil piped in the pipeline) which can be exported from Québec ports to other countries of the world. To date, proposed locations for new export terminal ports have been in environmentally sensitive areas, such as Cacouna, Québec – a place where noise-sensitive Beluga whales (an endangered species) mate and rear their young. (Note, two weeks ago, both TransCanada pipelines, the Québec government and the Federal government all agreed Cacouna is not an acceptable place to locate an export port – and they’re now searching for a new location)
  • With more pipelines come more oil extraction, and there is a question as to whether “per-ton of oil” reductions in pollution can outpace “per-ton increases” in oil extraction.
  • The potential damage to the environment (in Alberta and Québec, through potential pipe leaks, oil tanker accidents, and general emissions), while waiting for better environmental results to come about, could be severe.

Monnette could have mentioned things such as:

  • Alberta’s provincial government carbon market imposes financial penalties on oil companies which pollute above a certain bar. The penalties are paid on a per-ton of pollution basis, and monies garnered are automatically placed in an environmental technology development fund.   Companies have therefore been actively developing ways to reduce their pollution per ton of oil extracted, and every year there are better results per barrel of oil.   If results continue in this same direction for another 30 years, there could be very promising results which will satisfy a much larger part of Québec’s concerns.
  • Alberta’s government has been investing massively in developing new environmental pollution control technologies, and has been making substantial progress.
  • The Québec Provincial government and BAPE (A Québec Ministry of Environment public consultation mechanism) have imposed newly developed, strict environmental and safety conditions on the Federal government. They minimize risks of accidents on any portion of the pipeline and oil transport process.
  • Both the Suncor oil refinery in Montréal’s East End, and the Jean-Gaulin refinery in Lévis (Québec City) will, for the first time ever, be refining domestic oil. In order to refine the heavier oil-sands oil, they will require major upgrades with the latest and most modern environmental technology available (more modern than almost any other refinery in the world).   Thus, their pollution controls will be among the strictest available anywhere in the world (better than they currently are), and they will directly create hundreds of direct jobs in Québec, and thousands of indirect jobs.
  • Oil tanker ships are already doing daily runs on the St-Lawrence (Québec City residents see them every day, but Montréal residents don’t see them owing to the location of docking locations). The situation wouldn’t change from today’s current situation, except for the direction the tankers will take.   In addition, all levels of government and private industry are looking for a much safer and environmentally friendly location for an additional export port (after Cacouna’s rejection).
  • There will no longer be any need to transport oil by train across Québec (which is much more dangerous than through pipelines).
  • Pipelines already cross under the St. Lawrence River and all across Québec (even underneath various parts of Montréal City itself), so in this respect, there would be nothing different from what is already being proposed, and nobody has complained before.  The new pipeline would be even more modern and safer than existing pipelines.
  • Current oil tankers bringing in foreign oil on the St. Lawrence are often from developing countries, and their safety designs are not as good as those proposed for the new tankers which will take Canadian oil from Québec ports to foreign markers (thicker hulls, newer technology, etc.).

There are many other arguments both Drainville and Monette could have made, apart from the ones I mentioned above.  But some arguments become quite complex and technical (while still remaining quite significant).  They’re not generally arguments made on a fast-paced radio program or around a kitchen table.

Regardless, Premier Couillard’s nix (a complete ban) earlier this week on any shale gas extraction within Québec was directly related to the public’s lack of appetite for running various environmental risks.  That in itself shows just how touchy a matter energy and the environment can be in many parts of Québec – regardless of what arguments and counter-arguments are presented.

But what really makes things complex is that there is a large part of Québec (the Québec City and surrounding regions) which would be for the pipelines, whereas another large part of Québec (Montréal and surrounding regions) is very much anti-pipelines.    There’s a lot of internal debate in Québec, and heavy-weight public personalities, on both sides of the issues, are making very vocal arguments in the media – television, radio, and newspapers (often anti-pipeline voices are heard much louder simply by nature the Québec’s media base being physically located in Montréal).

It will be very interesting to see how things pan out over the next year.  I personally predict that the pipeline will be built, a much less sensitive location will be found for the new export port, but that the Federal Conservatives and Liberals will both continue to pay a political price in the Montréal region (whereas they’ll continue to fare quite well in the Québec City region) — status quo if you will.  The provincial Liberal government’s own public opinion ratings (and the CAQ which is allied with the government on this issue), as well as those of the opposition PQ may also see similar political consequences shift in théier favour or against them based on a Montréal / Québec City split.

That’s my prediction, but time will tell.  As usual, things will remain quite interesting.

fnry1 fnry2

Québec’s Evening News Programs (#45)

If you’re like me, and many of you are, the internet has changed the way how, where, and when you receive your news (as opposed to 10 or 15 years ago when we sat in front of the television to catch the evening newscast).

Nonetheless, major evening newscasts still exist in both in English and French.  In Anglophone Canada the major evening newscasts are CBC’s “The National”, “CTV National News”, and “Global National”.

In Québec, the French language major evening newscasts are

  • Radio-Canada’s “Le téléjournal” at 10:00pm, (click HERE to view the last newscast), and
  • TVA’s “TVA Nouvelles” at 10:00pm, (to view the last newscast, click HERE to open the news page, then click the box at the right side, half-way down the page, named “Revoir le TVA Nouvelles”).

Because of competition from the internet, the evolution of these evening news programs has closely followed the same recent changes in Anglophone evening newscasts.  Many people in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s are now accessing news through mobile phones and the internet throughout the day.   Their interest in, and need to spend an hour before the television in the evening to catch a resumé of the day’s news is no longer as vital (and even viewed as a waste of time by many).  Therefore, just as “The National” and “CTV National News” have had to change and adapt their formats to remain relevant, so too have “Le téléjournal” and “TVA Nouvelles”.

These news programs’ recent countermeasures to remain relevant and unique include presenting a brief resumé of the news, but then to greatly supplement news reports with analysis and commentaries.  Due to budgetary restrictions and travel limitations for foreign correspondents, they have incorporated long-distance on-screen interviews into their programs using Skype to discuss current events with independent reports, eyewitnesses, and news-makers around the country and around the world.   Although the public may not have perceived this gradual change over the past several years, when you compare evening news today (in both English and French) to the same programs a decade ago, the difference is actually quite stark.

TVA Nouvelles generally attracts a larger viewer audience than RC’s Le téléjournal.

Le téléjournal:

Radio-Canada is the Federal public broadcaster (the French counterpart of the CBC).   For several years now, the chief anchor and host of Le Téléjournal has been Céline Galipeau (prior to Galipeau, the host was the well-known Bernard Derome, who was the chief anchor for nearly 30 years.  Stéphane Bureau hosted the program for a short period prior to Galipeau taking the reins.

Le téléjournal is broadcast every evening across Canada, in every part of the country, from the most Northern Arctic communities, and from the Pacific ocean to the Atlantic coast.

They do cover issues across Canada, but the concentration of news and matters discussed continues to be on Québec-specific affairs (news covering the provincial government, events in cities, etc.).   For television news geared to Francophones and Francophiles in other provinces or regions, Radio-Canada offers the 6pm Téléjournal [provincial], such as Le téléjournal Alberta, Le téléjournal Acadie, Le téléjournal Manitoba, … Ottawa, … Colombie-Britannique, … Ontario, and … Sasktachewan.

TVA Nouvelles:

TVA is a private broadcaster owned by Québecor’s QMI.   QMI also owns the English language Sun News television (available in various part of Anglophone Canada), as well as the Sun newspapers and other newspapers across Canada.   In an earlier post, I had mentioned that Pierre Bruneau is the well-known host of TVA Nouvelles.

TVA Nouvelles concentrates mostly on issues of interest to Québec viewers (its prime audience).   When it reports news from elsewhere in Canada or on Federal politics, it does so by relating the relevancy to Québec and how it may impact Québec viewers.   If you’re outside of Québec, you may find TVA Nouvelles is not as pertinent to you, unless you wish to have a better understanding of what news the Québec public is watching.  Remember, just like pop-culture, news exposure, and how it is presented, can influence a society’s collective views and opinions – the word is “soft power”.   Thus, catching TVA Nouvelle’s perspective on issues of national events can perhaps round out your own views.

Good for learning & improving your French :

Both newscasts are presented in standard, international French, albeit with a Québec accent (just as BBC is presented in standard, international English, but with a British accent).   If you are beginning to learn French, these program’s avoidance of joual (slang and informal French) make them ideal launching grounds with which you can train your ear and distinguish the different sounds in French.   At the beginner’s stage, it’s not as important to understand what is being said as much as it’s important to be able to make out different sounds.   If you’re at an intermediate level, these are good programs with which to begin to build a greater vocabulary.  If you’re at an advanced level, well then, just enjoy taking in the news.

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: