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Québec’s 20 most trusted individuals: 19th position [post 10 of 11] (#265)

We’ve arrived at the 19th spot in this series which looks at the 20 most trusted individuals in Québec.   These rankings came from an Ipsos Reid poll of people across the province.  Lets now look at the last two spots on this list of the top 20.

This particular post was supposed to be the last post in the series (10-post series)… but I used up so much of the room’s oxygen from all my huffing and puffing from typing so much about Anne-Marie Dussault, that there was no time for me to make this the last post in the series.

Thus there will be one last post after this one.   Let us now get right into this next post!

#19  Anne-Marie Dussault

Of all the people on this list, Anne-Marie Dussault is the one who I’ve dreaded the most to write about.  The reason is actually quite simple:  I simply do not know what to make of both Dussault, or her show 24/60.

I’m going to get something off my chest before I go into why I believe Anne-Marie Dussault is one of Québec’s most trusted individuals (et ça je dis avec une pince sans rire). 

This is going to be a completely subjective opinion piece… I have a couple of friends who completely disagree with me — so let it be known upfront that I certainly do not have the monopoly on opinions here … and you are free to watch 24/60 to form your own opinions.

I also say the following while fully recognizing, that Anne-Marie Dusseault knows her subjects, quite often formulates excellent questions, and works for an organization (Radio-Canada) which I feel normally does an very good, professional job.

My beef rather is with the format and the direction her show, 24/60, has taken.

24/60 airs on the 24-hour news channel, RDI.   It is a dinner-time talk show.   The show has a format very similar to Larry King’s old show.  In this sense, Anne-Marie Dussault could be considered Québec’s Larry King.

I’ve mentioned 24/60 and Anne-Marie Dussault a number of times throughout this blog… I even did a post on what I thought was one of her train-wrecks of an interview (although a couple of my friends chewed me out in private after writing that post, since it was their belief that I missed the point of the interview entirely – and they love Anne-Marie Dussault).  Regardless, I still stand by that post, which you can read by clicking HERE.   Thus, if I’m going to continue to mention 24/60 in this blog… I might as well let it all out with how I feel about the direction Anne-Marie Dussault has taken her show.

I watch her show quite often.  It comes on TV when I get home from work, and I often watch it as I’m doing stuff around the kitchen.   The fact that I watch the show demonstrates that I value the show’s overall societal contribution.   But I still can never quite shake the feeling that the show makes me uneasy.   I feel it misleads the public into a false sense that they’re their receiving the “full-picture”, whereas I believe it gives only half the picture (if even that).

Actually, I think I just hit the nail on the head when I said the show gives me a feeling of “uneasiness”.  You’ll note that I chose to say that Dussault is Québec’s Larry King, and I did not chose to say Montréwood’s Larry King.  There is a difference between saying “Québec” and “Montréwood”, and it’s all in the nuances.

If I chose to use “Montréwood” as an adjective (ie:  Montréwood music, Montréwood movies, Montréwood Television, Montréwood radio, etc.), then it is Francophone culture which is open, inclusive, and available to anyone who also shares that same culture (or to anyone who at least integrates a large part of that culture into their daily lives).  It doesn’t matter if the person lives in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Québec, or Nova Scotia.  It is a bit of everyone’s culture – and it’s something all of us can be proud of.  I can use Hollywood culture as a parallel analogy.   It would be wrong to say that Hollywood culture belongs to only those who live in California.  It belongs to people living in Washington, Florida, Vermont, and Missouri.

But if I chose to use “Québec” as an adjective to describe something cultural, such as a Québec TV program (such as my description of Anne-Marie Dussealt as being Québec’s Larry King)… it means that I feel there has been a wall erected between whatever it is which is being discussed by Dussault , and the rest of the country.   It makes me uneasy… especially as someone who lives a big chunk of his life in French outside of Québec.  This has been the topic of conversation among a few other people I know here in Ontario (both Francophone and Anglophone;  all who share French as the common denominator in their daily lives and) – and they too also share the same sense of unease regarding Anne-Marie Dussault and her show, 24/60.

First of all, her show is presented and advertised to us as supposedly being an objective interview program.   Yet, I can’t shake the feeling that it is an opinion-maker columnist-styled program (read the next post on Richard Martineau to understand the difference).

That is my #1, main beef.   I would not have a single problem with the show if it were promoted as an opinion-maker, subjective, and columnist-driven program.  But it is not.  You can’t say you’re one thing, and then act as if you’re another.   Ironically… I likely would give her show raving reviews if those behind it simply faced up and said very loud, very clear that they are an opinion-maker columnist-styled program.

But the rest of my critique will be from the stand-point of critiquing a program which purports to be objective.  Buckle your seat-belts… because I have a lot to say, considering they (and the CBC/Rad-Can ombudsman) claim the show is supposed to be “objective”.

Her show airs on a national (pan-Canadian) network, for which we all have in interest, investment and certain expectations (RDI belongs to Radio-Canada, and is one of “our” public broadcasters).

Yet this show is 99.99% Québec-centric (even when it discusses “national” or “federal” issues, it only presents the arguments from a Québec-centric point of view).   Regardless if you are living in Whitehorse, Yukon (which, by the way, is over 25% Francophone and Francophile), or a 50 minute drive away from downtown Montréal, just on the other side of the Québec/Ontario border, you get the sense that this show doesn’t give a beep about you (purposely, might I add), unless you physically reside in Québec – or are Québécois de souche.  Anyone else with an interest in this show might as well not even exist (so much for our caring “national” host with the most).

You can’t help that this show deliberately wants to erect walls, that it deliberately choses lines of questioning and topics which accentuate the notions of the Two Solitudes (including the pan-Canadian Francophone-to-Francophone Two Solitudes, as well as Anglophone/Francophone Two Solitudes, and Québec/Canada Two Solitudes). 

You wonder if Dussault wishes to send a message which says “there’s us, and there’s you, and we don’t give a rat’s-ass about you”.   Seriously…  If that’s the case, it’s just not right.   Imagine if one of Hollywood’s highest rated “national” talk shows refused to relate to the rest of the USA, or refused to point out the importance of anything unless it happened in California?!!  In other words, unless it were California related, then it is not worth two cents.  Do you think that CBS, ABC, NBC, or PBS would dare to format one of their national programs in such a manner?   That’s the situation we’re seeing with the direction Dussault and her team have taken with 24/60.  (And don’t think that I give a free-pass to certain CBC programs either… they have programs which are just as guilty of this – and which fail to live up to its national mandate).

I don’t have many beefs about Radio-Canada.  I’m a huge supporter and friend of Radio-Canada.  I greatly appreciate its dedicated, hardworking, and well-intentioned employees.   Radio-Canada is an essential and commendable institution.  But this is one of the very few shows which I feel has gone off the rails.

But hey, if I have pegged this show wrong… then someone from Radio-Canada, please, by all means, post a comment and tell me I’m wrong (I saying this while “knowing” that there are people within Radio-Canada who are reading this blog).  Thus, I’d be more than happy to “publicly” receive a rebuttal from Radio-Canada insiders – even if it’s done anonymously.

I’d only ask that the 24/60 Robert Latimer interview in Vancouver not be used (again) as an example of the show’s “openness”   After all, Latimer obviously felt lost by Mme. Dussault’s lines of questioning during the sit-down interview in Vancouver.  She kept drilling him about “Québec” and “Québec’s deepest political inner-workings”, and how it pertained to the right-to-die debate.  Robert Latimer had never even once set foot in Québec (he went from living his whole life in Saskatchewan, to going to prison, to being released in Vancouver).  Thus it left him speechless about how to answer Dussault’s questions (just as someone from Manitoba wouldn’t be able to comment on the inner workings of the Newfoundland government).  Not only was Latimer left speechless, the rest of us were left speechless that Dussault would even formulate her questions to him in such an insensitive manner.

I just find it ironic that for a show which is supposed to be non-biased, with a goal of putting things into “overall context”, that it seems that guests who have an interest in Canada’s welfare (and its overall citizen’s welfare) seem to be the ones who are taken to task the most.  Read into that what you will

It’s unfortunate, because Anne-Marie Dussault can otherwise be a very good interviewer.

What I find even more ironic (and just plain weird) is that I see sovereignists complain about a bias against them (accusing Dussault of being Federalist with a chip on her shoulder against them), and then I see Federalists complaining about a bias against them (but this time, accusing Dussault of being sovereignist with a chip on her shoulder against them).   So I (and many others) are left to wonder what the heck?!   That in itself shows that Dussault’s program is flawed — nobody should be complaining along these lines.

Can’t the show just balance everything out – and put the issues in an overall provincial, national, and international context??   Then nobody would care if she’s left, right, sovereignist, federalist, blue, green, fluffy, bumpy, plump, thin, tall, short, yummy, sour, a fashion wreck or a fashionista.

RDI’s other two flagship shows do a commendable job.  Therefore what is holding 24/60 back from doing a better job?  RDI’s Le Club des ex” (with Durivage at the helm) gets rave reviews from everyone (it’s no wonder that it’s RDI’s highest rated program).

Over the past year, even RDI Économie has done a very commendable job of adding greater local, national and international perspective and context to the issues being discussed.   I’ve noticed a significant difference in how Gérald Fillion of RDI Économie has re-balanced his show and how it presents its stories in a more provincial, national, and international context.   Hats off to that program as well.

Radio-Canada has many other examples of well-balanced, probing programs.  Just because you touch upon sensitive subjects does not mean that you cannot lose objectivity.  An excellent example of a program which definitely does things right is Faut pas croire tout ce qu’on dit – and it is only one of many.  It touches upon many of the same subjects 24/60 does, but the difference is night and day.

So what is Anne-Marie Dussault and 24/60 waiting for?!?   Her colleagues at RDI and elsewhere in the network are leaving her behind in their dust!

What’s even more unfortunate is that I think I agree with a good number of Dussault’s viewpoints… and thus I am not saying any of this from the standpoint of being an ideological enemy towards Anne-Marie Dussault .   She just is unbalanced in how she presents her program which many people depend upon to help them shape their views of the world.  People are being mislead into believing that the views being presented to them are objective (that’s scary!).

Perhaps I should just lighten up a bit with respect to Mme. Dussault, and just laugh.  Here’s a funny clip… and if you’ve been following this blog, this clip mentions many people who have been the subject of previous posts over the last few months.

Good… now that I got that off my chest, I’ll get back to the bit where I’m supposed to be objective. 😉

Every evening (Monday to Friday), at 7pm, Anne-Marie Dussault invites Québec-related newsmaker guests or current-events experts to her show to talk about the major events of the day.

As the host of 24/60, Anne-Marie Dussault demonstrates a deep knowledge of local Québec-related subjects of the day.

She brings years of accumulated knowledge to the table, and she is able to pose probing questions which can lead her interviewees down a path they may not otherwise feel comfortable talking about.   I suppose that’s the value of her program.

Dussault chooses what guests she will invite, how far she will push her guests, and which guests she will push harder (and guest she will not push as hard).

I guess there is a good chunk of people out there trust her for that.

I watch her show.

I have nothing else to say about her.

Moving on…

The next post will be with respect to our last person in the list of the top 20 most trusted individuals in Québec.

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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.

Québec’s 20 most trusted individuals: 14th and 15th positions [post 8 of 11] (#263)

This post continues our little journey of looking at Québec’s 20 most trusted individuals.

What’s interesting about the two people in this post is that one is a very famous elected official, and the other is very famous, but is not elected — although she acts as if she is.   This may be the most “controversial” post out of all the posts in the little series on the most trusted individuals in Québec.

#14  Régis Lebaume –

I previously wrote a post about Québec’s two best known mayors; Denis Coderre (Montréal), and Régis Lebaume (Québec City).   You can read the post by clicking here:  The Duo “Coderre – Lebeaume” (#175)

The post on the famous “duo” sums up why the mayor of Québec City, Régis Lebaume, is so well liked, both as an individual and as a mayor.   But as with anything, there are many nuances (lately he has come under fire for his support of certain private sector initiatives… and some are wondering if we are beginning to see the end of his honeymoon).   But I’m not going to go into the nitty-gritty of all the little nuances.  I’ll simply try to concentrate on why I believe he was named one of Québec’s most trusted individuals.

To understand things in context, Québec City has gone through more than 25 years of very interesting politics.  For 16 years of the past 26 years, the mayoral seat was held by the former mayor Jean-Paul L’Allier.   Of course, there are real reasons why he was re-elected numerous times.   But as with anyone who is in politics for a long time, L’Allier was fast approaching his “expiration date” in the mind of voters.   He had the political prowess to know how to read the tea-leaves, and he decided to not seek re-election.    His successor was extremely popular as a “regional” mayor in Ste-Foy:  Andrée P. Boucher.   But unfortunately she passed away only two years into her mandate in 2007.  It left a huge hole in Québec City politics.

That hole was soon filled by Régis Lebaume.  He came with a background and personality that many big cities could only dream of having in their mayor:

  • He was a successful businessman
  • He talked like the average person in the street, and not like a politician (he didn’t have la langue de bois, as we say in French)
  • He didn’t talk “down” to people
  • He sought consensus (well… at least more than we see with other mayors),
  • He was more than willing to work with anyone who was also willing to work with him (regardless of their political stripes),
  • He has “star-power”… in the sense that the talk shows and tabloids can’t get enough of him (you would think he’s a pop-culture star as much as a popular politician),
  • He has not made many “bad” decisions (perhaps he’s being “tried” as of late, and he’s being qustioned on certain decisions more now than in the past – but up until quite recently, he has done quite well)
  • He has usually conveyed a message which makes many believe he truly cares about the welfare of his electorate.

I believe it’s a combination of all of the above which gives him a ranking in this year’s list of the most trusted people in Québec.   What will be interesting will be to see where (or if ) he places in next year’s poll of the Québec’s most trusted personalities.

#15  Julie Snyder –

Oh boy, Julie Snyder

If I were writing this post only two years ago, it would be completely differentJulie Snyder has undergone a dramatic public transformation, all within less than two years.

I previously wrote a post on her, which you can read by clicking here:  Julie Snyder (#9)

A little preamble (before I get into what is going on with Ms. Snyder)

She went from becoming one of the most popular, well-known, pop-culture icons in Québec (perhaps on par with what Angelina Jolie would be to Americans), to being one of the most politically divisive individuals – not only in Québec, but in all of Canada… period.

Whenever someone is labelled as being “divisive” , that means they “divide” the population.  There are those who “like” her, and there are those who probably can’t stand the smell of her.  At this point in time, I truly do not known what the proportions would be:  40/60%?  60/40%?  30/70%?  70/30%?  50/50%?   Truly, I have no idea.   But if I were pushed to hazard a guess, I would guess that somewhere around 40% of the population either truly likes her or dislikes her – simply based on the actions of her recent “political activism”.   But I truly wouldn’t know on which side of the fence that 40% would fall (I don’t know that anybody would — and I have yet to see any official polls in this regard).

With that being said, there is obviously a large enough percentage of the population who likes her — enough that she places #15 on the list of the most trusted people in Québec.

But… (and there is always a “but”), you will note that Julie Snyder ranks 5 full positions lower than her sworn enemy, Philippe Couillard.  I believe that says a lot – to the point that public opinion may be turning against her.

So what’s the beef?

Julie Snyder has been a TV star from the 1990s, until the present (I, like millions of others, sort of grew up, or spent a big chunk of my life watching her on numerous television shows).  A good number of years ago, she started her own production company, and she became the romantic partner of Québec’s media mogul Pierre Karl Péladeau, AKA “PKP” (who owns 40% of Québec’s television and radio press).   When Snyder became romantically involved with PKP, it was a natural thing that her entertainment production company’s near-exclusive client was PKP’s Québecor owned TVA television network.

So far, so good…

Snyder did a marvelous job of creating top hit television programs for TVA.  Some of the biggest viewership numbers in Montréwood and Canadian history followed (her shows regularly draw in millions of viewers per episode).  Star Académie, La Voix, and Le Banquier were instant hits.  She also embarked on other projects, including promotional works with her « best friend », Céline Dion. 

All of this propelled Snyder from being a “regular” celebrity household name to being Québec’s “superstar” – with perhaps only Céline Dion who could eclipse her stardom.

And then came the politics…

Julie Snyder began to engage in political activism a few years ago.  However she did not put a partisan label on her activism at that point.   The following is a good example.  She appeared as a witness before a provincial parliamentary commission, in which she attempted to put the “then” health minister, Philippe Couillard, in his place for not providing better access to invetro fertilization.

But then came the party politics… and in no small way, either.

To the surprise of many (and to absolute elation of others), Julie Snyder appeared on stage at a Parti Québécois election rally in August 2012, in support of the PQ and of Québec independence.

In the eyes of many in the public, everyone’s favorite celebrity lost her aura of innocence and jumped off the pedestal so many had placed her on in their minds.  It was a huge kick to the gut for a good chunk of people.  But on the flip side, others rejoiced.

Twas the birth of a brand new, yet extremely “divisive” Julie Snyder; born and rebapatised before everyone’s eyes.   And boy, was it the start of a saga!

That same year, Snyder became heavily involved in street-level protests against the Liberal government.  She advocated for the Parti Québécois’ extremely controversial and divisive Charte des valeurs (proposed legislation telling immigrants how to behave and how not to practice their religion in certain public environments).  Snyder not only divided the public’s opinion about her as a person, but she also helped to divide Québec’s population on issues of fundamental importance to Québec’s overall society.   This was no laughing matter which we simply see in a television entertainment program.  This was now real life.

And if you think it couldn’t get any more controversial…

Fast forward to January, 2014.  Julie Snyder and PKP announced their breakup.   The mystique of the fairy-tale life seemed to be in the balance.   But lo and behold, soon after their break-up, in March 2014, the presumably newly single PKP appeared in front of a microphone with the then PQ leader, Pauline Marois.  With his fist in the air, PKP proclaimed he was running for office to “make Québec a country!”.

But wait a second… what about Julie?  Was this not “her” dream?

Well, then came be bombshell.  Let me say upfront that celebrity stardome and politics do not necessarily make the best mix.  But, regardless, soon after PKP announced his plan to free Québec from the “tyranny” of Canada (which I say sarcastically), Snyder and PKP quickly reconciled and announced their engagement — Boy that didn’t take long!.

(And back to that little quip about “tyranny”… I figure I’m just as much the face of Canada and the average Canadian as the rest of them… so if I’m considered to be the typical representation of the Dark Lord of Tyranny… then God help us all!!  The world might as well end now.)

It left people asking one of two questions:  (1) Did Snyder & PKP reconcile as a result of PKP pursuing their mutual dream of independence?  or (2) did they reconcile because PKP was pursuing “Julie’s dream” so as to convince her to reconcile?   We may never know.

“Officially”, they both stated that they knew they realized they were meant to reconcile when they both flew off to Scotland to be first-hand witnesses to Scotland’s birth as a nation on referendum night (that little bit didn’t go so well for them).

But what struck me when the media (and PKP) reported this as their “official” reason for reconciliation was that fact there was no mention of their children (seriously… you would think that “children” would be the publicly stated reason for reconcilation… not a new-found ultra-nationalist kinship with Scotland!! wouldn’t you?).  I guess it brings me back to my two previous questions… Did they only get back together to achieve Québec independence or for PKP to woo Julie by persuing “her” dream?  Boy, what I wouldn’t have given to have been a fly on the wall during their reconciliation pillow talk (with my eyes closed, of course).

So how’s that working out for Julie?

Let’s just say it has been quite an interesting year for Julie Snyder, for her relationship with the public, and for the Parti Québécois’ overall relationship with Québec and even its own members.

In the one year since Snyder and PKP reconciled in May 2014, PKP entered the PQ leadership race (which he will win in a few days — Today is May 11th, 2015).

A number of political commentators and columnists allege that it is Julie Snyder who is truly calling the shots behind the scene.  They allege that Snyder is metaphorically ever present, just behind the stage curtain, always pushing PKP out onto stage and into the spotlight.

We may never know if this is true or not, but it has not stopped the speculation – which seems to only be increasing with time.

But much of the increasing speculation stems from Snyder’s increased vocal, and very public activism against anyone or anything who is not “nice” to her husband, and his political aspirations.   For example, she has come out and publicly attacked the leader of the third party in the National assembly (François Legault), the Liberal minister of health (Gaetan Barette), and political columnists (Joanne Marcotte).

Her perceived media “soft-power” has caught the ire of a good chunk of Québec’s political circles who are facing off with the PQ.   The reason:  Snyder’s entertainment productions come into more contact with more of Québec’s people than any other mass media channels.  She has the ability to form a message, chose the delivery method of the message, and then execute that message so that more people in Québec hear her message than anyone else’s.  Her opponents are crying foul.

Seriously, it is not just anybody who would be allowed to randomly jump on stage during the concert of one of the largest pop-music icons (the Franco-Ontarienne singer, Marie-Mai – who was discovered by Snyder).  Snyder’s sway and reach in the pop-culture world is unlike anything we have ever, ever seen before.

To add to the soft evidence of Snyder’s “media power interference”, just before the PQ’s vote to crown PKP as their new leader, Snyder went and collected 101 signatures from some of the best known names in the artistic and entertainment industry.  The signatures were to “acknowledge”, in writing for the world to see, PKP’s contributions to Québec’s culture (and presumably to be used to boost PKP‘s chances of securing the PQ leadership, and shoring up his votes).

What was very “interesting” about this list was that some of the names (actually, more than just a few) are known federalists.   Yet, these same people may depend on the PKP owned TVA television network, and perhaps Snyder’s own production company for some of their bread and butter.  It left many wondering if there was a dose of unethical backroom arm-twisting to acquire the signatures.   (A number of people have pointed out that what is even more intriguing is that some of Julie’s closest friend’s names do not appear on this list – such as Céline Dion.  These are not people dependent upon TVA.  And if they’re not willing to support their best friend Julie Snyder, then are we starting to see the very first signs of chinks in Snyder’s armour??)

As an asideI want to give you an example of how much this can all get out of hand — and especially just how wide of a net this situation can inadvertently cast.  When I started this blog, I swore I would never do a post on Celine Dion.  I wasn’t going to touch her (there was just no need – everyone knows all about her).  But we’re possibly starting to see the sort of damage which Snyder’s political aspirations can have for others around her.   I’ll explain…

Québec’s Montréwood artistic, entertainment and celebrity industry leans heavily towards an ultra-progressive version of sovereignty.  If I had to hazard a guess (and I have no numbers to back this up), I would guess it is an industry which is perhaps is 75% – 80% sovereignist  (there are exceptions of course, such as Gilbert Rozon, the owner of Juste pour rire, but there are not all that many like him… and most keep quiet to keep the peace with their sovereignist peers).  I understand it.  Picture it… imagine you’re a celebrity in Québec, and people fall all over you for autographs, photos and just to be in your “aura” the moment you step out your door.  Then picture that you drive 45 minutes from downtown Montréal to the Ontario border, you stop in the first town in Ontario (Cornwall), and nobody (who is anglophone at any rate) – has any idea who you are.  You fly on Air Canada across the country, and the flight attendants, passengers, and public have absolutely no idea there’s anything special about you or your achievements.  Heck… many can’t even speak to you in your language.   Would you feel you’re still in your “country”?  Welcome once again to the world of the Two Solitudes.

Celine Dion is a huge superstar and is best friends with Julie Snyder’s.  She has never talked publicly about her political affirmations.  I’ve heard high-profile celebrities say she is federalist, but I have no idea… and I’ve heard some high profile people say René Angélil is federalist, whereas others say he’s sovereignist.   Regardless, Céline and René never ever talk about it publicly, and they have avoided politicizing themselves at all costs (they would alienate a huge portion of their fan-base and peers, one way or the other).  This is an extremely difficult act to pull off considering the entertainment milieu in which they find themselves on a day-to-day basis.

The only time in my entire life I have ever seen Céline Dion be politicized was waaaaay back in 1990.  At that time, she was making the transition to singing more and more songs in English.   Québec’s “sovereignist” music industry did not like this one bit.  The ADISQ awards (the Montréwood version of the Grammy’s and Juno’s) created a “separate” category just for Céline, and awarded her the best “Anglophone” singer award.   Céline was less than impressed.   Actually, she was pissed!  When her name was called out during the awards ceremony, the look she gave René Anglil said it all.   She marched up to the stage.  Live, in front of hundreds of thousands of people (perhaps millions of people), she gave the ADISQ organizers a tongue lashing, she sternly affirmed she is not Anglophone, she refused the prize, and she marched off the stage.   NOBODY has EVER tried to politicize Céline again.  Below is the video.  They all “got taught” — until now.  

BUT, for the very first time since 1990, people are now dragging Céline Dion into this whole Julie Snyder rigmarole.  Columnists are openly pointing out that Céline’s name does not appear anywhere on Julie’s list of 101 people artists who support PKP.  They are pointing out that Céline is not getting involved in Julie’s initiatives, and that Céline is not publicly standing beside her best friend.   I’m am sure this is not the sort of coverage Céline wants.  She has worked her entire life to avoid getting caught up in divisive politics… as have 90% of Québec’s arts and entertainment scene (regardless of their political affirmations).

This whole Julie Snyder affair seems to be “forcing” politics down the throat of Montréwood.  I can’t help but wonder (1) if this will some day backfire in the most grandiose way against Snyder, and by extention, against PKP? or (2) if this will somehow play right into the hands and the ultimate goal of the Snyder-PKP duo?   This is uncharted territory, we have NEVER ever seen anything like this before in Québec or Canada.  The stakes are large (the stakes of an entire country).

The Liberal government in Québec City appears to want to formulate legislation to force PKP and Snyder to divest themselves of their media empire (to forbid party leaders and their “immediate” family members from owning shares in media companies).   The also are talking about revoking tax credits for production companies (ie: Julie Snyder’s company) if they provide services only to one main client, rather than to a diversity of companies.  The PKP-Snyder duo are fighting back – and the PQ is taking up their cause.

The Liberal government (and the CAQ opposition party) argument is that when the PQ was in power several years ago, the PQ forced David Whissell, a liberal member of the National Assembly, to resign because of shares he owned in a company which gave the appearance of a conflict of interest.   Thus, the Liberals and CAQ are arguing “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander”.

You can imagine how well this is going over with Julie Snyder.  She came out in the media (“her & hubby’s” media, of course) alleging there is a witch hunt with her name on the “most wanted” poster.

So with all of this going on, why then is Julie Snyder ranked the #15 most trusted person in Québec?

Gee, I’m glad you asked.   Like I said earlier, there is a portion of Québec’s population who agrees with Snyder’s politics and her end goals.   There is a portion of Québec who has grown up watching her on television – and who, after all these years, likely feels they know her as a person.  Media stars become “stars” because they forge a special bond in the hearts and minds of their fans.  These people (both political supporters and die-hard fans alike) probably would list Julie Snyder as one of the people they trust the most.   Hence, we see her on this list.

But as I also mentioned earlier, her main political foe, the (very) Federalist Premier of Québec, Philippe Couillard, ranked five places higher than Julie Snyder in the same poll.   I believe that in itself speaks volumes.  Are we witnessing the fading of Snyder’s star?

This coming year will be quite interesting.  There are many things up in the air – and I would not even hazard to guess where she will be on the next years’ list (Higher? Lower? Even on the list?).   Stay tuned on this one, and keep watching.

After all, everyone else in Québec is following this one too.

The next post will look at the “husband of the the other” (I’ll explain the expression in the next post), and someone who makes fun of them all.

Note:  All videos are streamed from YouTube channels

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

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

These next two figures in the list of the “20 most trusted people” have forever shaped Québec’s cultural landscape and collective psyche.  As a reminder, this list comes from a recent poll of Québec’s public.

#12  Alain Gravel –

Montréwood and Québec’s #1 rated investigative journalism TV show is named Enquête.  It is a Radio-Canada production.

Since 1997, Alain Gravel has been the main host of Enquête (which means “Inquiry” in English).

However, in September 2015, he will be giving up his position has the host of Enquête to take the role of Radio-Canada’s main morning radio host in September 2015 (replacing Marie-France Bazzo, who left Radio-Canada in April 2015, owing to a mysterious divergence of opinions with management”; her words, not mine).

When Gravel does assume his new role as Radio-Canada’s main morning radio host, he will be directly competing with Paul Arcand (in the #3 position on the 20 most trusted individuals) for the top spot as the most listened to radio-host in Montréal (and the entire province).

Getting back to why Alan Gravel is the 12th most trusted individual in Québec…

In Québec the investigative journalism program, Enquête, is perhaps more influential, with higher “proportional” viewership numbers, than “The Fifth Estate” & “W5” in English Canada, or “60 Minutes” in the United States.

Enquête has become so powerful, that it recently lead to one of the largest political and collusion-related shakedowns in Canadian history.

If you refer back a couple posts to France Charbonneau (the #7 position on this list), the Charbonneau Commission may have never taken place had it not been for Enquête.   Enquête tirelessly investigated and broke the story about illegal collusion between construction companies, unions and provincial government procurement bidding.   The investigation came with a risk to the personal safety of the program’s reporters, and one of the alleged participants involved in the collusion scandal even sued Gravel for $2.5 million – which many assume was to try to stop the program’s investigation.

Nonetheless, the program continued its investigations and blew the lid off the whole story.  A number of the program’s episodes aired the results of the investigation in 2009.   The public’s faith in the Premier Charest’s Liberal government plummeted when Charest refused to launch an inquiry.  This was one of the reasons why Jean Charest lost the 2012 election, after which the Charbonneau Commission started.

The public’s trust in Alain Gravel’s and his team’s work shot through the roof – to the point that he is now one of the most well-known, trusted public figures in Québec.

#13  Guy A. Lepage –

Guy A. Lepage was the topic of one of the very first posts of this blog.   His talk show, Tout le monde en parle, was the topic of the very first blog post I wrote (the translation for Tout le monde en parle is “Everyone is talking about it”).   You can read both of those blog posts by clicking the blue links.   It is the second highest rated television program in Québec and Canada (after TVA’s La Voix).

Tout le monde en parle airs every Sunday night, across Canada on Radio-Canada television.  It sometimes draws in over 2 million viewers per episode.

The fact that I chose to write about him and his show when I first launched this blog should already be an indication that there is something very unique about him.

Most people refer to Lepage as simply as “Guy A.”

I am going to say right up front that there is a major ideological difference between Guy A. and myself.   Publicly, Guy A. can be “quite” political.  He is sovereignist, he has strong nationalist sentiments for Québec, and he’s an advocate for a very strong, rather heavy welfare state.  Deficits and high taxes (especially for corporations, but society in general) do not seem to be an issue for Guy A.  He is quite far left (sometimes I’m not sure if the NDP would be far enough left for him).  He used to vote for the Bloc Québécois (he lives in Gilles Duceppe’s former riding), but I suspect that he voted NDP the last go around (he won’t confirm that though).  But with that said, Thomas Mulcair seems to be a favorite guest of his show (Guy A.’s riding is now NDP, by the way — the riding in the Le Plateau district of Montréal — Canada’s strongest Left-leaning riding).

Contrast that with me… I too can sometimes be “quite” political (if you haven’t noticed from time to time).  But I am federalist, and my nationalistic sentiments are a bit wider – for both Québec and the rest of Canada.  I too take an interest in both Québec’s and Canada’s progressive future… but I have a notable streak of financial and business (small “c”) conservatism in me (a range of politics which Lepage generally has not looked favorable upon).  I would say that economically, I certainly am further to the right of Guy A.  Fiscally, I am right of centre (Lepage is to the left). But on social issues I’m more centred and left of centre (if I feel we can find a way to pay for the programs with a balanced budget).  Thus politically speaking, I’m kind of all over the map – which makes me a political orphan.  And my vote has a tendency to be more fluid.

That’s all to say that Guy A. Lepage’s politics and my politics are not the same.

Yet, I have a good deal of respect for Guy A., and my respect for him has only grown with time.   I believe I have seen him change as a public figure over the past two to three years – from someone who tries to “push” a political agenda through his television program, to being someone who tries to “round out” everyone’s views through his television program.  He doesn’t shy aware from where he stands politically, but he seems to be making more and more of an effort to include “alternate” and “competing voices” in public debate.

Québec’s “public political debate” forum has always been in its legislature.  But there seems to have been a metaphorical shift the last decade.  It seems to have shifted, in large part, from the National Assembly (the Québec legislature) to Guy A.’s interview program, Tout le monde en parle.

Metaphorically, he is both the interviewer and the “Speaker of the House”.   Every Sunday night, a huge portion of Québec’s public rushes home to make sure they catch the latest show (which runs for 2 hours and 30 minutes !!).  It is also simultaneously broadcast live on the radio across Canada.  It is the #1 rated program for Radio-Canada.

The issues of the week are discussed openly on the show, and players on all sides are invited.   Invitees can be as varied as politicians, celebrities, pop-culture icons, professionals, sports stars, and ordinary people.   The who’s who of Québec society regularly appears on the program, as do all major news-makers.   Guy A. makes an effort to invite panels of opposing views, which can sometimes make for interesting sparks.

Careers have been made as a result of appearing on Tout le monde en parle, and other careers have been broken following appearances.   Regardless, it would be political or career suicide to not turn down an invitation to appear on the program (if you are not there to defend yourself when you are going to be the topic of conversation, you might as well hang up your hat on the spot).

An example:  Jack Layton probably would have not taken all of Québec, when the NDP won the province in 2012, had he not accepted Guy A.’s invitation to appear on Tout le monde en parle.   He performed brilliantly on the program, and the next day his popularity in Québec went through the roof.   In many ways, it won him the province.  Likewise, Justin Trudeau appeared a couple of times on the program, and (hmmm… how should I put it…) his performance was “less than stellar”.   The Federal Liberal’s ratings in Québec went down after his appearance, and it has never really fully recovered (he appeared during the winter of 2015, and it is now May 2015).

Guy A. is a strong supporter of the Arts and Entertainment industry.   Little-known signers have been invitees on the program.  But after their appearance, they became instant household names and saw amazing record sales (New Brunswick’s Lisa Leblanc is a prime example… she became a huge French-language music star after appearing on Tout le monde en parle).

On the opposite end of the scale, there was another celebrity, a comedian (who will go unnamed) who made mesogenous remarks about another celebrity on his blog.  He took a lot of heat for that move, and was sued.  Appearing on Tout le monde parle perhaps was his last chance to publicly redeem himself.  He appeared on the program, but came across miserably.  The public seemed to lose all confidence in him, and days later he permanently retired from show-business.

Guy A. is not only one of the most well-known people in Québec, but his program’s “soft-power” makes him one of the most powerful people in Québec (this is truly not an understatement).

I admit that I used to be more than a little concerned that he was wielding his own political views a bit too much on the program, in support of his own political agenda.  The controversial nature of the program shot the ratings through the roof!   It was a windfall for Radio-Canada (the advertising dollars were spectacular!!).  But at the same time, it must have also been a huge ethical and moral dilemma for Radio-Canada;  in the sense that the #1 program for Canada’s “national” public broadcaster had a pro-sovereignty, and very far-left political bias to it (I cannot imagine being the head of CBC / Radio-Canada and having to deal with such a scenario).

But as I said, Guy A. has tamed down remarkably (Of his own free will?  Perhaps, but I don’t know).  I and everyone else knows where he personally stands on many issues.  But I think we all recognize that his tone has changed.  He now seems to give more space (actually a good portion of the show’s overall airtime) for opposing views.  He does so in a very respectful manner (much more respectful than in the past, without much of the past “cynicism” we used to expect from him or 3/4 of his panel).

That’s why he has earned my respect.    It is an extremely difficult thing to try to remain politically neutral, or to give political breathing space to opposing politics.   For such a political-oriented personality as Guy A. Lepage, the challenge must be even greater than for most people.

But the results of his efforts are visible, and commendable.

As a side note:  I have met a few people who “personally” know Guy A. Lepage.  Although I have never met Lepage him myself (perhaps I will some day), people who know him tell me he is one of the most personable, most “humble” people you could meet… without any sign of having an off-screen “confrontational” character, or of having an ego.   I suppose that says a lot too.

When you take all of this into consideration, that is why he is one of Québec’s most trusted individuals.

The next post will look at two very interesting characters.

Even the media can have a bad day, week… or year (#211)

A little bit of warning:  If you have wine, beer, or something stiffer in your cupboards, you may want to grab a glass of it now… because you’re going to need a drink after reading this.

If you are already well-versed in Canada’s & Québec’s political spectrum, you can skip much of this post and go straight down to the section entitledHow the media’s elastic band became stretched (below).

The first half of this post is going to give you some general information so that the second half makes sense.  This unfortunately is not the type of post that I can break up into smaller chunks, so bear with me.

This is a post about how political tension has been building in Québec’s media for years (particularly since the 2012 student protests – which you can read about by clicking here regarding an earlier post about Gabriel Nadeau Dubois), and how it appears that the elastic band just “broke”.   It will be interesting to see if someone pulls out a “new” elastic band in the coming weeks.

Backgrounder

I have always listened to a LOT of talk radio (both from English stations across Canada, and in French from both Québec & other provinces).  The French-language talk radio I tend to listen to the most are Radio Canada’s “Radio-Première”, primarily from Montréal and Toronto, as well as RCI’s Radio-X in Québec City.

As far as where these two radio stations sit on the socio-economic and political scale in Québec, you couldn’t get two radio stations further apart.

pty.stns

I find that in Québec, radio & TV media can be labelled on a wide-ranging scale in terms of “political ideologies” much more than in English Canada (people often talk about their choice of media in the same breath as their political allegiances).  It is quite interesting in this respect.  In English Canada, with the odd exception (such as the now-defunct Sun News, or certain talk radio stations / shows), people tend to think of English-language radio & TV media as fairly middle-of-the-road, with aspects which can appeal to people on all ends of the spectrum.

With this said, despite Radio-Canada often being grouped into a range which often appeals to certain personalities on the left, I do not believe the “bulk” of its programming venture too far beyond a “mid-range left”.  Of course, there are exceptions to this, and we can’t paint all programming or all hosts with the same brush.

In the same vein, Radio-X often is often labelled as a station which would appeal to those on “far” right.  However, although their programs have a good-deal of overlap with the Conservative party, I do not believe the “bulk” of their programming ventures much further to the right than perhaps what former Federal Progressive Conservative party occupied, or what the formal ADQ party in Québec occupied (however, they are not as “eco” as what the former federal PCs were, and their “eco” stance is one area where they very much overlap with the current Conservatives).  Despite being on the right-end of the Canadian spectrum, Radio-X does not have any religious element to it (Canada generally does not have any Federal parties which venture, on the whole, into religion politics — and where there is a religious element, it is often isolated to a small handful of “independently-minded” MPs or MLAs).

If we to compare where Québec’s TV & radio falls on a comparison with Canadian political partisan scale, the following chart can be quite telling.

pty.pstns

Here is what the chart looks like if we take out other Canadian parties, and just concentrate on those which are players in Québec (federal or provincial).pty.pstns.qc

Generally speaking, adherents who find their political voice reflected on the political chart will also find their voice reflected in the same corresponding range on the media chart.   Take a look at both of the media & political charts, and see if you can line up which media best fits the physical locations of various political parties on the same scale.   This is important, because it plays into the rest of this blog post.

Some side-remarks regarding the political chart:

Because so many parties are so close on the political spectrum (even if their platforms are different), it’s all in the nuances.

In the above chart, although I didn’t mention it, the various NDP & Liberal provincial parties would be roughly positioned in the same place as the Federal NDP & Liberals.  For the sake of reference, I threw in some provincial parties outside of Québec (since there is a variance between the provincial PC parties… Alberta’s is a prime example of one of the PC parties which has made a slight shift to the left over the past 3 to 4 years).

Also, you will note that there is a great deal of overlap between all parties in Canada (mostly concentrated within a couple notches of what would be considered Canada’s “centre”).   Because of this overlap, much of our Canadian politics come down to:

  • (1)  Personality politics of the leader (or of the individual MP, MLA, MPP, or MNA at a local level)
  • (2)  Individual platform issues, rather than an overriding vote for a party as a whole (It is for this reason why we see elections boil down to 3 or 4 major issue demarcations, even if those 3 or 4 issue only constitute 10 or 20% of a party’s overall platform).
  • (3) Voters, like myself, carry a very mixed bag of viewpoints.  What that means is that many voters see constructive views from all ends of the spectrum.  Take me for example:  I know where I stand on many individual issues, but my views are not “partisan” or particular to any one party.  Rather, I have issue-by-issue views which are liable to shift with time, as I become better informed, or with circumstances.   Come election time, I, like many (or most) Canadians try to find the party which best matches perhaps 65-70% of my own issue-by-issue views.  No party will every match all of an individual’s views 100%.  But if I find a party at election time which matches 65-70% of my views, then I’m comfortable when I cast my vote.  But if there is a party which matches every one of your views, you should be a lottery ticket!   In fact, considering our parliamentary style of democracy and how many choices we have out there, this approach is very “Canadian”.  It’s an approach which is generally quite practical, efficient and effective, not to mention very reflective of how a good portion of Canada’s population votes.   And more importantly, it seems to work (after all, we don’t have deadlock for a lack of political options or platforms out there)

These three elements are also the primary reasons why the average Canadian voter is more apt to change their vote from one election to another.   There tends to be much less “party loyalty” or “lifelong loyalty” in Canada than exists in other countries – likely because there is so much overlap.  It just takes one or two major platform issues, or the right (or wrong) personality to come along, and the average person will be more apt to change their vote in a heartbeat (otherwise we would never see polls in Canada shift to the extent that they do, sometimes right up to election day).

Considering that I regularly listen to both Radio-Canada and Radio-X (which are supposedly at “opposite ends of the scale”) I find it fascinating that elements of all these media, as well as the written press (which I didn’t place on this chart) are so often at each other’s throats!   They sometimes hurl accusations at each other even louder and more spiteful than any ruckus in the House of Commons, as if they’re yelling at their worst enemies.

As I continue to write this post, I want to emphasize that,

  1. I’m not a member of any political party, and
  2. I’m not taking a partisan stance as I write the rest of this post (Politically speaking, I’m going to approach the rest of this post as objectively as I can).

How the media’s elastic band became stretched

For about the last three to four years, private talk radio station hosts, newspaper columnists, members of the artistic community (some of whom happen to be hosts at Radio-Canada, Télé-Québec and TVA), and certain television program hosts on all TV networks have been engaged in a verbal tug-of-war – Mostly between the Left and the Right.   Because Québec City’s media is more to the “right”, whereas Montréal’s media is more to the “Left”, this verbal war has also taken on a somewhat “geographic” form (Québec against Montréal, and vice-versa).

The geographic aspect to this verbal media war is much more talked about in Québec City than it is in Montréal.  People in Québec City are much more “aware” of this geographic war of ideologies, perhaps owing to the fact that Montréal doesn’t pay much attention to Québec City’s media, whereas people in Québec City are accustomed to seeing Montréal’s media.  People in Québec City are also much more aware that Québec generally votes to the “right” of the centre line, whereas Montréal generally votes to the “left” of the centre line.

When Montréal’s media takes aim at anything right of centre, I get the impression that Montréal’s Left believes its Left-leaning media is scoring unhindered, unchallenged political points … whereas nothing could be further from the truth.   The moment Montréal’s “Left-leaning” media takes a shot at the “Right” (usually the Conservatives, but also the CAQ, anyone who takes a union to task, budgetary restraint issues, certain industries associated with a rightist perception such as oil, etc.), Québec City’s “Right-leaning” media, within hours, goes bazerk!   The phone lines of Québec City’s talk show programs light up, Québec city twitter accounts smoke from being overworked, and Québec City newspaper columnists put pen to paper for the next day’s editions – all to counter the shots fired from Montréal’s Left-leaning columnists and media programs.   But what I find extremely interesting is that when Québec City’s media also goes on the offensive, most of the time Montréal just yawns, or doesn’t even notice.

How the elastic band finally broke

Since 2011/2012, I’ve been hearing Québec City’s “Right-leaning” media cry foul.   For lack of a better word, they feel that Montréal’s “Left-leaning” media has high-jacked the province’s political scene.  Whether that’s accurate or not, I’m not too sure (everyone is able to vote, after-all, and certain regions and the province as a whole has taken a few sharp turns towards both the right and the left over the last couple of decades).

But needless to say, since the 2012 student protests, the elastic band of this Left-Right war of words has been getting

tighter…

… and tighter

… and tighter

And the elastic band broke!

Something huge happened about a month ago.   It was so big in fact, that I have been holding my breath for the last four weeks, patiently waiting for follow-up reactions in the media…

Here is what happened:

First I will say that I believe Radio-Canada, for the most part, does a very good job of remaining neutral (most of the time).  They are a big organization, with many different personalities – sometimes very strong personalities.   However, I believe that the majority of their on-air (and off-air) personalities do a commendable job of keeping any political affinities hidden from the public (as they should).  The fact that I have difficulty guessing the political inclinations of most on-air Radio-Canada personalities speaks volumes (in a good sense).

But something went “astray” at Radio-Canada last month which I think is representative of numerous media outlets in Montréal – and they found themselves in the centre of this verbal media war of ideologies.  I’m guessing this incident only involved a few strong-headed, opinionated individuals.  But those individuals were aparently able to get their fingers on the “broadcast” button — which broke the elastic band.

A little bit of background:  The Conservatives cut almost $200 million from Radio-Canada/CBC’s budget last year, which resulted in 800+ people being layed off.  Radio-Canada employees held protest rallies and even a massive on-air protest concert.  You can see people at Rad-Can are not happy. (As an aside, the federal Liberals cut $400 million from Radio-Canada/CBC in the 1990s, but I don’t think we ever saw the same extent of displeasure towards the Liberals, at least not on the air).

With this backgrounder in mind, here are the events which lead to the elastic breaking:

In August 2014, Radio-Canada aired the anti-Harper documentary, “La droite religieuse au Canada”.  This is possibly the most politically controversial Canadian documentary of the past 30 years (or at least since Denys Arcand’s “On est au coton”).   After it aired in August, the Prime Minister’s head of communications publicly condemned Radio-Canada, stating that he “feared his worse suspicions about Radio-Canada were true”.  The Radio-Canada/CBC Ombudsman became involved.  The Ombudsman stated that the documentary’s airing did not meet the corporation’s standards requiring the organization to remain politically neutral.

The documentary purports that Steven Harper’s entire basis for being in politics is to align himself, and Canada’s governance, with Israel — so as to prepare himself and the world for the second coming of Christ, thus allowing him, his followers, and Alberta to go to Heaven.   I’m not BS’ing you here! (I couldn’t make this kind of stuff up, even if I tried).  If you don’t believe me, then click on the above link to watch the documentary yourself.  The link will take you to Radio-Canada’s own online re-broadcast site.  The documentary is an hour-long.

For a very long time (years), Québec City’s Right-leaning media had been going nuts over this type of bias, and have consistently cried foul over these types of things.  For months they beefed up their condemnations of Radio-Canada, of Montréal’s Left-leaning media (be it Télé-Québec, Rad-Can, newspaper columnists) and of the province’s very politically-vocal union movements.  In the meantime, Montréal’s media (both television and written press, as well as Montréal’s based union federations) stepped up their attacks of anything right-of-centre.

The elastic band got tighter…

… and tighter…

… and tighter.

Everything came to a head the last half of February 2015.  Get ready for this (grab that drink if you haven’t already… because you’re not going to believe this…):

  • On February 9, 2015, the host of a gourmet-cooking television show on Radio-CanadaChristian Bégin, took take part in anti-Québec-Liberal demonstration in a distant region of Québec.  He joined the unions to very publicly protest provincial Liberal budget cutbacks.  He appeared on television shouting and screaming in the name of anti-Liberal protestors.   This caught the ire of Québec City’s right-leaning media.   Québec City’s media tore into him, as did the very few elements of the Right-leaning written press in Québec.
  • On Feb 11, 2015, Lise Ravary, one of the few Federalist and Right-of-Centre columnists at the Journal de Montréal, wrote a column condemning Bégin’s actions.  In her newspaper column, she took personal shots at him for living the high-life, with a high salary paid by taxpayers (at Radio-Canada), and labelled him as a hypocritical, wine-sipping, gourmet loving bourgeois who is all talk, but doesn’t care about the little guy for whom he was protesting (Ouch!  Harsh! — now you can see they type of verbal war that has been going on since the 2012 student protest, between both sides!).  Rather, she charged that his protest was motivated by political reasons (against the Liberals, versus truly caring about the little guy).   She called him and those like him “La gauche champagne” (which means the “Champagne Left”).   [Don’t quote me on this, but I believe the expression in Europe would be “La Gauche caviar“, which is slightly different from our expression in Canada].  This garnered a lot of attention in the media (both Left and Right), and all media circles (the Right, the Left, sovereignists who traditionally lean Left, federalists who are traditionally lean Centre or Right-of-Centre, artists, columnist, etc)…  basically, everyone went to town over this one.   It was a verbal brawl like I haven’t seen for a very long time – and once again, it happened over the airwaves.
  • Around Feb 12, a host of Radio-Canada’s radio show “La soirée est encore jeune” sought revenge and took direct aim at the columnist Lise Ravary, calling her an “idot” (une dinde) on air, as well as taking aim at Québec city radio stations Radio-X and FM93, calling them “garbage”, and going so far as to lump anyone who is right-of-centre in the same category (again… this is what has been happening for 3 to 4 years, and it has been getting more and more out intense).
  • On February 13th, Québec City’s 93FM and Radio-X “let into” Radio-Canada and its program “La soirée est encore jeune”.  Radio-X’s host, Dominic Maurais, said he heard Rad-Can was going to move “La soirée est encore jeune” from the radio to television in order to give it more “visibility”. Maurais basically gave Radio-Canada a direct on-air warning, stating (actually, yelling, on air) that if Radio-Canada dares to make such a move by moving this program from the radio to television, considering that this program regularly blasts anything right of centre, that it will wake the dragon and will spell the end of Radio-Canada.   Radio-X basically stated that the cuts Radio-Canada was subjected to from the Federal government will be nothing compared to what they will suffer should “La soirée est encore jeune” be moved from radio to television.   Maurais basically told Radio-Canada to get ready to be privatized if things continue as they are.
  • I believe it was around Feb 14th, right after the above, when Radio-Canada aired a very peculiar episode of its popular prime-time family sitcom “Les Parents” (kind of like a Radio-Canada produced version of “Different Strokes”).  In this episode, the Radio-Canada scriptors took direct aim at the Right leaning Conservative Party by having the actors say that it is an embarrassment if a family has children who support the Conservatives.  In this prime-time episode, one of the children of the fictional sitcom family said that he wanted to grow up to be a Conservative so he could “change everything in the world”.  (Again, I’m not kidding you!).  His parents (in the show) told him he wasn’t raised like that, and to not tell anyone that he wants to be a Conservative.  Whoa!!  Holy Crap!    The next day, independent media again went nuts with this one.   Radio-Canada was blasted.
  • On February 15th, Harper made the unprecedented decision to wade into this very public spat himself (I was completely shocked it got to this point! — I’m not saying he was wrong, but holy smokes… I couldn’t believe it actually got to this point)  Harper granted an interview to Right-wing journalist Éric Duhaime of Québec City’s right-of-centre FM93 (the second most popular talk-radio station in Québec City).  Harper stated he (quote) “believed there are anti-Conservative elements inside Radio-Canada with an agenda against him”.
  • I believe it was the same day as Harper’s FM93 interview that Radio-Canada aired, unbelievably, for a second time, “La droite religieuse au Canada”— the documentary which alleges Prime Minister Harper’s entire agenda is to religiously rule and align Canada with Isreal so as to await the second coming of Christ so he can go to Heaven (without giving a “rat’s behind” about Québec, might I add — at least that’s the gist of the “documentary”).
  • Usually when I wake up in the morning, I grab my iPad and quickly skim the headlines before crawling out of bed.  The next morning, I just about fell out of bed when I read the the #1 headline on Radio-Canada’s website at 7:00am – the morning of February 16th.  Quote: “Steven Harper believes many Radio-Canada employees “Hate” Conservative Values” (the link for the article is here: “Beaucoup d’employés de Radio-Canada « détestent » les valeurs conservatrices, croit Stephen Harper”).   

So how did this very public p@##ing contest… er … media catastrophe from hell… er…  spat all end?   Well it looks like Radio-Canada’s senior management must have become involved.  By 10:00 or 11:00am, the above article was no longer anywhere to be found on Radio-Canada’s main webpage.  I’m guessing it must have been ordered taken down by someone higher up in management who wanted put an immediate end to this drama of epic tempertantrum proportions “innocent misunderstanding”.   The above article was taken down, moved and buried where nobody could find it… at the very bottom of an off-shoot page in the political section of Radio-Canada’s website.   This was the first time I had ever seen Radio-Canada take down a headline article within 3 or 4 hours of posting it.  I can just picture the emergency meetings senior management must have held on the top floors of the Radio-Canada tower that morning.  What I would not have given to have been a fly on their wall that morning!

I suppose this sort of thing is bound to happen from time to time in every media organization.   But considering the background of this last incident, I was surprised more self-restraint was not exercised much much earlier.

Regardless, it appears that everyone is now finally exercising a great deal of “lip-biting” self-restraint.   I have been waiting, watching and listening since the end of February – but for the first time since the 2012 student protests, everything seems to gone silent in this vicious Montréal-Québec, Left-Right tussle — on all sides.  I guess the elastic band did finally break.

But guess what’s right around the corner… Union backed student & street protests against Liberal government cutbacks.  I have a funny feeling it may soon be a case of “here we go all over again”.

As an aside, just so you know that these sorts of episodes of crazy manipulative mania can happen in English Canada too… I can give you a similar recent example of where a few over-zealous employees at the CBC pulled a similar stunt.  It happened when CBC decided to air the hour-long documentary “The Psychopath Next Door” (a documentary on what clinically defines a psychopath).  CBC aired this documentary in the time slot just before it aired the Fifth Estate’s hour-long episode “The Unmaking of Jian Ghomeshi”, (a investigative reporting program which investigated Jian Ghomeshi).  “Coincidentally” the Unmaking of Jian Ghomeshi gave all the same psychopathic signs mentioned in the earlier clinical documentary.  Don’t even try to tell me CBC’s back-to-back airing for two straight hours was not a coincidence;  it sure looked like an effort on the part of CBC to seal-the-fate of Ghomeshi in the minds of the public, but more significantly, to deflect public criticism away from how the CBC handled the whole Ghomeshi affair, and shift more anger towards Ghomeshi (sneaky!).   Frankly, it was morally and ethically wrong on the part of the CBC to air the clinical documentary right before they aired their investigative report on Jian Ghomeshi, regardless of the allegations against Ghomeshi.

But with all this said and done… fortunately I still believe that the vast majority of Rad-Can’s  & CBC’s employees and management do their best to remain (and succeed in being) neutral, and do not, nor would not act on any sort of hidden agenda.  Most people who work at Rad-Can are just normal people, raising normal families, and trying to make both ends meet.  Personally, I have met a good number of people over the years within the organization, and have followed the organization for long enough to allow me to believe otherwise (the vast majority are normal people like you or me who would never pull these kinds of stunts).

I think the issue simply came down to a question of the sheer size of Radio-Canada, with hundreds and hundreds of employees.  In an organization of this size, you’re bound to get a few very opinionated individuals (even if they are not the majority) who will make the odd poor decision and who will goof up.

As with anything in life, it’s always the most vocal ones, or the most opinionated ones whose opinions tend to come across the strongest (or push the broadcast button the quickest).  Thus these few high-profile people sometimes tend to give rise to our media outlets acquiring an undeserved bad rap (on the radio, on TV, and in the written press).

I’m not going to give a shortlist of who I think these individuals are, but as you acquaint yourself with various media, you’ll soon find out who I’m talking about – on the Left, in the Centre, and on the Right.

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Addendum:  

27 March, 2015 — things still seem “quiet” on the Radio-Canada front.  Additional Rad-Can job cuts were announced yesterday, but people did not make a spectacle or flip-out over it over the public airwaves (which is something which occurred in the past).  Curiously, Marie-France Bazzo announced her departure today from Radio-Canada as of April 2015.  She very much was one of the on-air personalities who embodied a very public anti-right-of-centre standpoint.  The reasons invoked for her departure from Radio-Canada were “divergent viewpoints” between her and Radio-Canada management as to which direction her popular morning talk-show “C’est pas trop tôt!” should take (the flagship morning show of Radio-Canada).  I wonder how this little event fit into all of the above.  Again, what I would have given to have been a fly on the wall in Radio-Canada’s executive offices when these “divergent viewpoints” were being discussed.  😉 .  (Radio-Canada’s Bazzo’s announcement of her departure, with audio clip (curt, short, and very low-key… makes you wonder what happened):  http://ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelles/arts_et_spectacles/2015/03/27/001-bazzo-emission-radio-canada.shtml

ADDENDUM:  2015-07-10

I’m still watching, and listening – across all media platforms, to try to figure out what the next chapter in all of this will be.

Quite interestingly, PKP has become the head of the Parti Québécois since the above spats.  It has become more than obvious that a good number of reporters, radio hosts, and television hosts on the left, centre and right so not like PKP and the PQ’s choice in having him as the head of their party.   This “less-than-kind” temperment for PKP (and coincidentally his wife, Julie Snyder) seems to have “united” the media across Québec, regardless if the media personalities are Federalist or Sovereignist, or left, right or centre.

Media elements which usually compete (and take shots at each other) on an ideological basis seem to have lost interest in each other for the first time in years.  Rather, they’re all focusing on what is happening within in the PQ (giving the PQ largely disproportionate news coverage — and often not good new coverage).   This in itself is quite interesting.

This is not to say that competing media elements have ceased taking shots at other media elements with opposing ideological standpoints (I still am hearing cheap-shots being taken on a range of issues), but PKP and his wife’s (Julie Snyder’s) political activism has certainly monopolized much of Québec’s media’s overall energies.

The winner in all of this?  The Provincial Liberal Couillard government (who is not being severely criticized, even from those who are usually most critical of the provincial Liberal camp – namely left-wing sovereignists).  Also, the Federal left-wing NDP party… and now even the Federal Right-wing Conservative party seem to be getting a free ride owing to a lack of airtime stemming to PKP having sucked all the oxygen from the room.

Intriguing stuff.  I can’t wait for the post-summer election season drama to resume in a few weeks to see where this all goes.  With the media squarely focused on PKP (namely against PKP), such a fragmentation of media attention could have an unintended impact on Federal election results.

ADDENDUM:  2015-07-28

It’s the middle of summer and good grief!  It seems to be starting again.

A show on Montréal based Radio-Canada lit into a show on Québec City based Radio X (you can listen to it here:  (Radio-Canada entretient sa guerre contre CHOI)

And Radio X let into Radio-Canada.  You can listen to it here:  Les Salaires à Radio-Canada.

Well, at least it makes for great entertainment.

ADDENDUM:  2015-09-12

Yup, we’re seeing the two “factions” back at each other’s throats again (Sigh x 10!).

Radio-X is all over Rad-Can for what they see as leftist and political bias from 24/60 and a hate-on coming from La Soirée est encore jeune.   They’re also lambasting Montréal’s media (and particularly Radio-Canada) for what they perceive as a continued news bias against anything right of centre.

As for Rad-Canada, Le Devoir, and other Montréal media plaftorms, we’re seeing the same mud being slung towards Québec City and the people of Québec for their overall right-of-centre standpoints.  One Radio-Canada program when so far as to call people from Québec City “des Mongols” – “Mongolians” in English – which is an extremely derogatory term for people with down-syndrome… making fun of their eyes, facial features and intelligence.  http://www.lapresse.ca/arts/medias/201506/17/01-4878745-la-soiree-est-encore-jeune-plongee-dans-une-crise-mediatique.php  

Wow… really really wow!  Unbelievable.  Here we go again!

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Post related to all of the above:  Le Plateau (#72)

Separate blog which regularly writes on the above topics:  http://www.cliqueduplateau.com/