Friday, August 31, 2012
I feel badly for Quebec voters right now. In their election, they must choose between three leaders, all of whom have fatal flaws. The incumbent, Jean Charest, is about to be up to his derriere in dealing with an inquiry into allegations of corruption in that province’s construction industry. Although the charges of graft and fraud predate Mr. Charest’s leadership, he has still had since 2003 to do something about it. In fact, it was during his tenure, Quebec was found to be the most corrupt province in the dominion, according to a widely-covered 2010 Maclean’s magazine report. It’s no wonder most voters in La Belle Province want “ABC”: Anyone But Charest.
The second choice of the “Hob’s” variety is Francois Legault of the Coalition Avenir Quebec, or CAQ. Legault, Quebec watchers will recall, was once a Parti Quebecois cabinet minister serving the Ministry of Education from 1998 to 2002 and Health from 2002 to 2003. Legault left the party in 2009, resurfacing as a quasi-federalist, He claims to have set aside previous separatist leanings for a more pragmatic approach to governance. Unfortunately, despite a right/centrist social and fiscal agenda, Legault still reeks of separatist stench and his recent conversion to temporary federalism until their provincial house is in order, is hardly confidence building. His new approach seems too convenient to be trusted. He also suffers from being overly candid. Telling Quebec students they should emulate hard working Asians went over like a concrete canoe.
The third sketchy option for our Fracophone friends is separatist extreme, Pauline Marois She has brought electioneering to a new low; espousing government-sponsored racism to garner votes. Her promise to make French proficiency a requirement in any government position, even elected ones, creates a two-class system which allows discrimination while increasing tensions with English Canada. Even worse is her vow to make it illegal to wear any religious symbols at work, such as a hibab or yarmulke . Apparently, hypocritically, crucifixes are okay, however. Besides betraying their arrogance about their “pur lain” (pure blood) heritage, this policy will further discourage immigration to that province, which has trailed the rest of Canada’s despite their universally acknowledged need.
Quebec, once the most devout Catholic province, has largely cast off its Catholicism, only retaining its symbolic trappings for political purposes. The result is the once fecund Francophones are not producing enough offspring to replace themselves. Their population is aging faster than any other province. This will worsen their already dire debt situation, as there won’t be enough young workers to take over the reins of industry to pay the pensions owed the elderly.
Marois insists greater language protection is vital to fend off the constant barrage of English language culture that washes over the province via satellite dishes and internet connections. Most observers, however, see it as pandering to their base; the insular descendants of the French pioneers that populated the province. It is readily apparent to non-Francophone Canadians this isn’t about protection. This is a proclamation of superiority. For a country built on immigration from all four corners of the world, this mindset is a disgrace and an embarrassment. (And Justin Trudeau is ashamed of Stephen Harper’s vision of Canada?)
It is interesting to compare these three premier-wannabes to their counterparts in Alberta’s vote last April. We had one a leader, Danielle Smith, who was pilloried, and may even have lost the election, due to a couple of racially tinged comments by a pair of rookie candidates. These comments were rather mild, frankly, compared to the stated xenophobic policies of Ms. Marois but were vigorously rejected by Albertans of all stripes. One wonders who, now, are the “Rednecks”.
Besides Smith, we had the passionately healthcare focused Liberal Raj Sherman and the principled, NDP leader Brian Mason. The winner, with her pan-Canadian view of Alberta’s place in confederation, with a healthy majority, was the urbane, intelligent, bilingual Conservative Allison Redford. Platforms aside, I would have felt comfortable selecting any of those leaders to represent my province.
Quebec, alas, is not so lucky. They have been led astray by countless governments of every lean, making them believe they’re somehow more special than anyone else. They look down their noses at all things Anglo and tales of rudeness toward non-French visitors, and even Quebec citizens, abound. This helps neither their tourism industry nor their immigration deficit. This “French First” mindset hurts them in many other ways, too.
Since French speaking is a desired skill when selecting candidates for immigration, Quebec ends up with a large volume of people from the impoverished nations of the Caribbean and Latin America. These immigrants are less likely to have immediately marketable job skills than other newcomers. According to a Globe and Mail report, whereas Ontario takes in 50% of their immigrants from Asia, the vast majority of which are employment ready, those immigrants account for only 15% of Quebec’s intake. Worse yet, of the “investor class” immigrants that land on Quebec’s shores, only 10% stay in Quebec. The rest move on with their money.
There are, of course, other drawbacks to the extremist Francophone mentality. Precluding English background applicants from employment, even if they are better qualified is just one. Limiting employment based on anything but ability is both irrational and racist.
I know all Quebecers aren’t racists, however. Francophone students are publicly speaking out against Marois’ plans to limit access to English universities for French students. They realize if they ever wish to leave Quebec, English is a necessity. They don’t seek to limit their futures by embracing French-only beliefs. I wonder who will get their vote.
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