Saturday, April 12, 2014

What a difference six months makes

Last fall I posted an uncharacteristically angry post.

Following that post, my fears were rapidly borne out.

Bigoted small-minded citizens were taking it upon themselves to chastise Muslim women wearing headscarves.  There were reports of women being shoved aside on escalators in the Metro accompanied by taunts that they weren't welcome here.

Another anxious turning point followed when the sovereigntist Parti Québécois minority government that had crafted the legislation to adopt the Charter of Values, had the gall to call a spring election.

They had done the very cynical calculus of polarization, betting that there were enough xenophobic Quebeckers supporting their ironically titled Charter of Values to vote the party into a fresh mandate with a majority of seats in the National Assembly.

About a month ago things were looking particularly bleak.  It seemed that the cunning strategy might work.

Then the situation aggravated, and seemed poised to get much, much worse still.

The government trotted out a surprise star candidate.  A renowned multimillionaire businessman, a pillar of Quebec's business elite.  He spontaneously and enthusiastically proclaimed that, in addition to the Charter of Values, he planned to renew the fight for Quebec's secession from the Canadian federation.  His exuberant manifesto was greeted by the cheers of the faithful, and a beaming smile with palm-pounding applause from Prime Minister Pauline Marois.

That moment has to rank as the most depressing moment of my life as a citizen.

If the strategy worked, and the Parti Québecois landed a majority government, which was looming as a very real possibility, an exodus of money and talent would be certain to ensue.  The folks who would likely abandon the province included religious minorities, many of whom are first generation Québécois, and Québécois whose mother-tongue is not French (most of whom speak French fluently).

Not surprisingly, many of those potential leavers were likely to be entrepreneurs and professionals with above-average incomes.  Our economy is already the weakest in North America, the last thing this province needs is another massive hemorrhage of talent and capital.  But that has been the lasting legacy of the Party Québécois.  It's one of the few areas where they excel.  The economy has never been a priority for them.

These dark events had shaken my belief in what I perceived to be the evolution of the province's politics. Prior to the election of the Parti Québécois in 2012, I truly believed that cultural and political peace had taken a firm hold here after decades of costly turmoil.

The economy that began to slide downhill when the Parti Québécois won a minority government in 2012 could be expected to begin a free fall if they won a majority in the upcoming general election.  Bleak was rapidly turning to black.

And then an amazing thing happened.

Quebec voters flatly rejected the kind of future that the Parti Québécois promised.  It turned out that most of my fellow Québécois were about as shaken and appalled by the prospect of that kind of backward, insular, ethnocentric society as I am.

Today, the sun shone brightly and the future looks bright as well.  Never has the Quebec electorate spurned the sovereigntist agenda or the politics of exclusion and cultural elitism with such unequivocal zeal.

My faith in my political perception has been restored.  For the first time since 2012, my outlook is solidly cheerful and optimistic.  We dodged a bullet.

I take these things to heart.  I tend to be a serious worry-wart, and while I do have a sense of humour, I face a crisis like the recent one with grim resolve.  I have difficulty finding the humour in such serious matters.

One of my favorite commentators, and one of Susan's favorite commentators, is Josh Freed.  Mr. Freed's columns are worth every penny of our subscription to the Montreal Gazette.  His post-election column expresses more about our recent past than I could hope to express if I had the luxury of spending weeks trying to find the right words.  Read it here.  To me, it's dead on, and totally hilarious.

Nice one Josh.

You're my literary hero.

You rank right after Mark Twain.

11 comments:

  1. David: I followed this election campaign with interest. I may have told you that I was born and raised in Quebec, only leaving in 1970, so I think I have some perspective. I'm glad the PQ didn't win their majority for all the reasons you mention in your post. However if they had, and if they raised the referendum issue again I would have been on the side of "Don't let the door hit you on the ass on your way out". As difficult and painful as separation would be I think it would be preferable to the incalculable costs to the entire country of having the sword hung over our heads decade after decade after decade. But perhaps with the Liberal majority we can put that spectre to bed for a long while, until Marois and all her still-living-in-the-60s Quebec elites have gone on to that big pure-laine Quebecois and Quebecoise paradise in the sky.
    All of which is to say, glad you're still with us.
    If you haven't, you should read Reed Scowen's book, Time to Say Goodbye. Very interesting.

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    1. Dave, living in Montreal definitely has its challenges. Overall though, the quality of life is really excellent, the city has one heck of a lot to offer.

      The year we lived in Toronto seemed a little boring, when you take daily politics out of the equation. You can become a little bit of an adrenaline junky.

      All that said, we're planning to get out. We have two of three kids in Toronto, plus two of my three sisters, and Susan has close family there, none here.

      It's time. We'll miss many of the things the city offers.

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    2. There's no doubt Montreal is an amazing city - I remember the 4 years I lived there with much fondness. As for the politics, well Toronto has Rob Ford, so shouldn't be too dull.

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    1. Sums it up in two words. Either as an exclamation, a moan, a wish or an anthem.

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  3. South of the border we seem to be facing similiar issues. Those in the "tea party" won a majority and pushed an extreme agenda. Only to be voted out and roundly defeated in the elections that followed, however they are backed by coporate money...so the influence does not die. I know your interests are different but the hate and vile is the same. In the end, progress and inclusion always win out, but the battles are long and bloody.

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    1. Rob, there's certainly no perfect place.

      My brother-in-law is fond of saying "America, great country, crazy people". He's been living in Florida since 1978 or thereabouts.

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  4. Since Montreal had always been a place that we considered living in one fine day we were quite irritated by the most recent xenophobic and very un-Canadian trend. I am glad that people have given the PQ the proverbial finger. My faith in humanity is restored now.

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    1. Sonja, Quebeckers are a passionate bunch. We have latin blood. Often, as in Italy for example, the bluster has much less bite than meets the ears. The PQ really did richly deserve that finger.

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  5. David:

    I wished the roadway signs were in English. It's frustrating to not know what is happening ahead.

    Ask mostly anyone here in British Columbia what they think of Quebec. As far as minorities out here, French doesn't even make it to the top 10 yet we have to cater to them. Yes we are bilingual here but it's Asian or Punjabi

    bob
    A weekend photographer or Riding the Wet Coast

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    1. You know Bob, they aren't in English in France or Italy either. It's part of the allure of an interesting place. The critical signs are mostly graphic signs, so it's not like we're putting anyone's life at risk. Besides, eventually someone speaks English. And then there's Siri and Garmin Dan, always willing to help.

      We have to keep some of the mystery alive.

      Tourists like it.

      Come here more often and you'll be bragging you've got it all down pat.

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