Quotulatiousness

November 22, 2014

The rise of the Quebec libertarian movement

Filed under: Cancon, Liberty — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 10:02

Back when I was active in the Libertarian Party of Canada, Quebec was an almost unknown area … there were so few libertarians or pro-free market people that we rarely tried to run a candidate in elections there. That apparently is now changing:

Published on 18 Nov 2014

“For a couple of years now, Canada has had a freer economy than the United States.”

That’s Martin Masse, one of the leading figures in the Canadian libertarian movement. Back in the late 90s, when libertarianism was a thoroughly marginal ideology in the country, Masse started Le Quebecois Libre, an online gathering place for allies to the cause.

Things have since changed. Free market ideas now inform Canadian public policy to a degree that’s probably surprising to the average American. Reason TV recently sat down with Masse to find out about this transformation and to discuss the future of liberty in our neighbor to the North.

November 14, 2014

Either kink is now pretty much mainstream … or Quebec is a hotbed of kinksters

Filed under: Cancon, Health — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 07:24

In Reason, Elizabeth Nolan Brown reviews the findings of a recent survey on what kind of kinks are no longer considered weird or unusual (because so many people fantasize about ‘em or are actively partaking of ‘em):

Being sexually dominated. Having sex with multiple people at once. Watching someone undress without their knowledge. These are just a few of the totally normal sexual fantasies uncovered by recent research published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. The overarching takeaway from this survey of about 1,500 Canadian adults is that sexual kink is incredibly common.

While plenty of research has been conducted on sexual fetishes, less is known about the prevalence of particular sexual desires that don’t rise to the level of pathological (i.e., don’t harm others or interfere with normal life functioning and aren’t a requisite for getting off). “Our main objective was to specify norms in sexual fantasies,” said lead study author Christian Joyal. “We suspected there are a lot more common fantasies than atypical fantasies.”

Joyal’s team surveyed about 717 Québécois men and 799 women, with a mean age of 30. Participants ranked 55 different sexual fantasies, as well as wrote in their own. Each fantasy was then rated as statistically rare, unusual, common, or typical.

Of course, the statistics also show where men and women differ in some areas:

Notably, men were more likely than women to say they wanted their sexual fantasies to become sexual realities. “Approximately half of women with descriptions of submissive fantasies specified that they would not want the fantasy to materialize in real life,” the researchers note. “This result confirms the important distinction between sexual fantasies and sexual wishes, which is usually stronger among women than among men.”

The researchers also found a number of write-in “favorite” sexual fantasies that were common among men had no equivalent in women’s fantasies. These included having sex with a trans woman (included in 4.2 percent of write-in fantasies), being on the receiving end of strap-on/non-homosexual anal sex (6.1 percent), and watching a partner have sex with another man (8.4 percent).

Next up, the researchers plan to map subgroups of sexual fantasies that often go together (for instance, those who reported submissive fantasies were also more likely to report domination fantasies, and both were associated with higher levels of overall sexual satisfaction). For now, they caution that “care should be taken before labeling (a sexual fantasy) as unusual, let alone deviant.”

It would be interesting to see the results of this study replicated in other areas — Quebec may or may not be representative of the rest of western society.

Update, 28 November: Maggie McNeill is not impressed by the study at all.

But there’s a bigger problem, which as it turns out I’ve written on before when the titillation du jour was the claim that fewer men were paying for sex:

    … the General Social Survey … has one huge, massive flaw that was mentioned by my psychology professors way back in the Dark Ages of the 1980s, yet seems not to trouble those who rely upon it so heavily these days: it is conducted in person, face to face with the respondents. And that means that on sensitive topics carrying criminal penalties or heavy social stigma, the results are less than solid; negative opinions of its dependability on such matters range from “unreliable” to “useless”. The fact of the matter is that human beings want to look good to authority figures (like sociologists in white lab coats) even when they don’t know them from Adam, so they tend to deviate from strict veracity toward whatever answer they think the interviewer wants to hear…

So, what does this study say constitutes an “abnormal” fantasy?

    “Clinically, we know what pathological sexual fantasies are: they involve non-consenting partners, they induce pain, or they are absolutely necessary in deriving satisfaction,” Christian Joyal, the lead author of the study, said…The researchers found that only two sexual fantasies were…rare: Sexual activities with a child or an animal…only nine sexual fantasies were considered unusual…[including] “golden showers,” cross-dressing, [and] sex with a prostitute…

Joyal’s claim that sadistic and rape fantasies are innately “pathological” is both insulting and totally wrong; we “know” no such thing. And did you think it was a coincidence that pedophilia and bestiality were the only two fantasies to fall into the “rare” category during a time when those are the two most vilified kinks in the catalog, kinks which will result in permanent consignment to pariah status if discovered? Guess again; as recently as the 1980s it was acceptable to at least talk about both of these, and neither is as rare as this “study” pretends. But Man is a social animal, and even if someone is absolutely certain of his anonymity (which in the post-Snowden era would be a much rarer thing than either of those fantasies), few are willing to risk the disapproval of a lab-coated authority figure even if he isn’t sitting directly in front of them. What this study shows is not how common these fantasies actually are, but rather how safe people feel admitting to them. And while that’s an interesting thing in itself, it isn’t what everyone from researchers to reporters to readers is pretending the study measured.

October 28, 2014

Civil service pensions

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Government — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 07:12

In City Magazine, Steven Malanga looks at Canada’s civil service pension problems, which may not be quite as bad as some US state problems, but are still going to be a source of conflict going forward:

Governments throughout the country are grappling with as much as $300 billion in unfunded government-worker retirement debt. In a country of just 38.5 million people, that’s a pension problem roughly equivalent to the one that California faces. And it’s widely shared.

Municipalities throughout Quebec, for instance, owe some $4 billion in retirement promises that have yet to be funded, prompting the province’s new Liberal government to demand this summer that workers pay more to bolster the system. A new report on the finances of Ontario’s government-owned utilities revealed their pensions to be unsustainable without deep subsidies from Canadian electricity customers. For every dollar that workers contribute toward their retirement, government-owned utilities now spend on average about four dollars, raised through electric bills—though the cost is even higher at some operations. The news is even bleaker at the federal level, where Canada faces more than $200 billion in total retirement debt for public workers, when the cost of future health-care promises made to public-sector workers is combined with pension commitments. One big problem is pension debt at Canada Post, whose budget is so strained that the federal government gave the mail service a four-year reprieve on making payments into its pension system, even though it’s already severely underfunded.

At the heart of Canada’s pension woes are some of the same forces that have helped rack up several trillion dollars in state and local pension liabilities in the United States. For years, Canadian governments have provided generous pensions at low costs to employees. Workers could earn full benefits while retiring in their mid-fifties, even as they lived longer. Politicians relied on optimistic assumptions about stock-market returns to justify those benefits. Governments were quick to grant additional benefits to politically powerful employee groups, but they underfunded pensions when budgets got tight.

September 9, 2014

UK re-runs Canada’s 1995 near-death experience

Filed under: Britain, Cancon, History — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:32

Andrew Coyne points out some of the parallels between the 1995 referendum in Quebec and this month’s referendum in Scotland:

It has been an entertaining, if unnerving, couple of weeks, recalling the referendum of 1995 and speculating about what would have happened had the separatists won. Now, thanks to the Scots, we may be about to find out.

Next week’s referendum on Scottish independence is indeed looking eerily reminiscent of the 1995 near-disaster: the same early complacency in the No camp, the same unbridled panic as the Yes side surges in the polls; the same unappealing mix of threats (“one million jobs”) and accounting on the No side, the same fraudulent claims (“we’re subsidizing the English”) and utopian fantasies on the Yes; the same blurring of the lines on both sides, independence made to look like the status quo (“we’ll keep the pound”) even as the status quo is made to look like independence (“devo-max” is the British term for special status). Add a charismatic Yes leader and an unpopular, seemingly disengaged prime minister, and the picture is complete.

Learning nothing from our experience, the Brits made all the same strategic errors we did, first conferring an unwarranted legitimacy on the separatist project, then attempting to pacify it with powers and money, only to watch it grow more ravenous in response. They have ended up in the same game of heads-I-win, tails-you-lose: a No vote simply marks the launch of the next campaign, while a Yes, supposedly, is forever.

[…]

We should not underestimate how much of separatism’s decline in this country can be explained by sheer exhaustion, especially post-Clarity Act. A great many soft nationalists, for whom it retains a romantic appeal, were persuaded it was simply too arduous an undertaking, full of too much uncertainty and upheaval. But if that premise appeared to have been debunked — if the British pull off the same quick divorce that the Czechs and Slovaks did in the 1990s — we might yet see the issue resurface. You see, the Parti Quebecois would crow? It is just as we told you. And Britain, of all places, has proved it.

August 21, 2014

Jacques Parizeau planned a unilateral declaration of independence after 1995 Quebec referendum

Filed under: Cancon, History, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:26

In the Montreal Gazette, Don Macpherson discusses a new book by Chantal Hébert to be published soon:

They don’t make sovereignist leaders like they used to. It’s hard to imagine any candidate for the Parti Québécois leadership matching the combination of Jacques Parizeau and Lucien Bouchard in the 1995 sovereignty referendum.

That referendum wouldn’t have been held without Parizeau’s single-minded pursuit of sovereignty. And the sovereignists wouldn’t have come within fewer than 55,000 votes of winning if it hadn’t been for Bouchard’s ability to gain voters’ trust.

Yet, as a forthcoming book shows, Bouchard did not trust Parizeau — and with reason.

Not only did Parizeau, who was premier, unscrupulously use Bouchard to deceive voters about his intentions, he intended to shove Bouchard aside after a Yes vote so he could make a unilateral declaration of independence.

The book is The Morning After, written by widely respected Ottawa journalist Chantal Hébert. It’s to be published early next month.

It’s based on recent interviews by Hébert and commentator Jean Lapierre (my fellow CTV Montreal political panellist) with political leaders of the day about what they would have done after a Yes vote in 1995.

Update: Paul Wells says the book also discusses an improbable Saskatchewan separation move if Quebec had left Confederation.

A team of Saskatchewan officials worked quietly to develop contingency plans in the event of a Yes vote in the 1995 Quebec referendum — options that included Saskatchewan following Quebec out of Canada, a new book reveals.

Roy Romanow, the premier of Saskatchewan at the time, never told his full cabinet about the secret committee’s work, Romanow told Chantal Hébert, author of The Morning After: The Quebec Referendum and the Day that Almost Was, to be published by Knopf Canada on Sept. 2. Maclean’s has obtained a copy of the book.

“Filed under the boring title of Constitutional Contingencies — a choice intended to discourage curiosity — [the Saskatchewan committee’s] work was funded off the books, outside the provincial Treasury Board process, the better to ensure its secrecy,” Hébert writes.

The committee considered a lot of possibilities for the chaotic period Romanow anticipated after a Yes vote — including Saskatchewan seceding from Canada; a Western union of Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia; abandoning the Canadian dollar to use the U.S. greenback; and even annexation of Saskatchewan, and perhaps other provinces, to the United States. “In the eventuality of a Yes vote, clearly you need to examine all your options,” Romanow says in the book.

Apparently 1995 was even more of an existential moment than we knew at the time.

August 19, 2014

Transportation Safety Board report on the Lac-Mégantic runaway train and derailment

Filed under: Cancon, Railways — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 15:21

The full report is available to download from the TSB’s website.

This summary of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s (TSB) Railway Investigation Report R13D0054 contains a description of the accident, along with an overview of the analysis and findings, the safety action taken to date, five key recommendations, and what more needs to be done to help ensure an accident like this does not happen again.

Lac-Mégantic derailment aftermath in July 2013

[…]

Shortly after the engineer left, the Nantes Fire Department responded to a 911 call reporting a fire on the train. After shutting off the locomotive’s fuel supply, the firefighters moved the electrical breakers inside the cab to the off position, in keeping with railway instructions. They then met with an MMA employee, a track foreman who had been dispatched to the scene but who did not have a locomotive operations background.

Once the fire was extinguished, the firefighters and the track foreman discussed the train’s condition with the rail traffic controller in Farnham, and departed soon afterward. With all the locomotives shut down, the air compressor no longer supplied air to the air brake system. As air leaked from the brake system, the main air reservoirs were slowly depleted, gradually reducing the effectiveness of the locomotive air brakes. Just before 1 a.m., the air pressure had dropped to a point at which the combination of locomotive air brakes and hand brakes could no longer hold the train, and it began to roll downhill toward Lac-Mégantic, just over seven miles away.

[…]

Almost all of the 63 derailed tank cars were damaged, and many had large breaches. About six million litres of petroleum crude oil was quickly released. The fire began almost immediately, and the ensuing blaze and explosions left 47 people dead. Another 2000 people were forced from their homes, and much of the downtown core was destroyed.

The pileup of tank cars, combined with the large volume of burning petroleum crude oil, made the firefighters’ job extremely difficult. Despite the challenges of a large emergency, the response was well coordinated, and the fire departments effectively protected the site and ensured public safety after the derailment.

Published on 19 Aug 2014

Animation – Sequence of events in the Lac-Mégantic derailment and fire

On 6 July 2013, a unit train carrying petroleum crude oil operated by Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMA) derailed numerous cars in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, and a fire and explosions ensued.

July 14, 2014

“Canada’s true sesquicentennial is happening right now”

In the Winnipeg Free Press, Allan Levine reminds us that not only is Canada’s 150th birthday coming up in 2017, but that the meetings that led to Confederation were being held 150 years ago and much of the success was due to a “forgotten father of Confederation”:

BOLSTERED by generous federal funding, the 150th anniversary of Confederation will be celebrated on July 1, 2017 with the great hoopla the birth of this country deserves.

Yet the hard work, political compromises, backroom negotiations and constitutional debates that made Confederation — a more remarkable development than we appreciate today — possible occurred during a five-month period from June to October in 1864.

In short, Canada’s true sesquicentennial is happening right now.

The two most notable events of 1864 were conferences in Charlottetown, in early September, followed by a more extensive one held in Quebec City for much of October. At the gathering in Charlottetown, delegates from the Province of Canada — divided into two regions, Canada West (Ontario) and Canada East (Quebec) — led by John A. Macdonald and George-Étienne Cartier, respectively, convinced politicians from the Maritimes a federation of all of British North America made sense. The fundamentals of this new constitutional entity were then hammered out in Quebec City, producing a comprehensive plan for a new country outlined in the 72 Resolutions, which became the basis for the British North America Act proclaimed on July 1, 1867.

Apart from Macdonald and Cartier, the other key political personality in Charlottetown and Quebec City involved in making Confederation a reality was George Brown, the publisher of the Toronto Globe. Born in Scotland, Brown had arrived in Toronto via New York City at the age of 24 in 1843 and a year later established the Globe. A large man, he was over six feet tall and powerfully built. Brown was hard and dogmatic, but also an energetic and passionate man with strong convictions about free speech, civil liberties and the separation of church and state.

Brown became a leader of the Reform movement in Canada West and rallied around him left-leaning Reformers in Toronto and western farmers he dubbed “Clear Grits” (this faction only wanted men of true grit). He was eventually elected to the Province of Canada assembly in 1851, the beginning of a journey that would culminate with his role as a leading Father of Confederation and a founder of the Liberal party.

Update, 15 July. Richard Anderson has more on George Brown, and neatly explains why of all the Fathers of Confederation, only Sir John A. sticks in anyone’s memory. Poor George founded the Liberal party, but wouldn’t recognize the party in its modern incarnation.

George Brown certainly founded the Liberal Party, The Globe and Canada as a viable nation state. The Liberal Party, however, would prefer if you not remember all that stuff. Like an unpleasant uncle whose Thanksgiving Day antics you have suppressed from conscious memory, Brown is an embarrassment to modern Grits. To understand that you only have to give glancing attention to the man himself.

Brown of the Globe was a classical liberal, or to put it another way he was real liberal, one who understood very well the root meaning of the word: Liberty. He denounced crony capitalism (see the Grand Trunk Railway), fought for the separation of church and state (see his attacks upon ultramonte Catholicism) and advocated for free trade. This fierce tempered, no-nonsense Scots-Presbyterian would have made mince-meat out of Pierre Trudeau and his dimwitted spawn. When the Liberal Party of Canada stopped believing in liberty they had no use for Canadian classical liberalism’s greatest exponent.

George Brown is more than forgotten, he is an orphan in our statist politics. We are much the poorer for it.

July 6, 2014

Lac-Mégantic, then and now

Filed under: Cancon, Railways — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 10:30

Maclean’s has a one-year retrospective photo essay on the derailment and explosion in Lac-Mégantic, one year ago.

Last July, a runaway train carrying crude oil derailed in downtown Lac-Mégantic, Que., and exploded, horrifically. The disaster killed 47 people and left a pile of twisted, burning metal in what remained of the town’s core. Martin Patriquin revisited the tragedy a year on and spoke to townspeople who are struggling to recover. “We aren’t enraged. Only terrorists get enraged. We are builders,” said Raymond Lafontaine, who lost three family members in the disaster and runs a local construction business.

Photographer Will Lew went to Lac-Mégantic, a town slowly recovering from the aftermath of Canada’s deadliest rail disaster. His photos revisiting scenes of devastation capture a gradual return to normalcy.

The photos are split, so you can move the slider to see the before-and-after images.

The front page of Le Journal de Montréal, courtesy of Newseum, with one of the most dramatic photos of the tragedy:

Front page of Le Journal de Montréal, 2013-07-07

June 18, 2014

Is the RCN “kicking the tires” of the Mistral?

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:59

The French navy is visiting Canada’s East coast this week, taking part in Exercise LION MISTRAL. David Pugliese reported on the operation a few days ago:

Approximately 200 Canadian Army soldiers from 5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group in Valcartier, Quebec will take part in Exercise LION MISTRAL alongside members of the French Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force from June 16-23, 2014, in Gaspé, Quebec, according to a news release from the DND.

  • Canadian Army soldiers, primarily from the 1st Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment (1 R22eR), will board The Mistral, the French amphibious assault ship and helicopter carrier in Halifax on June 18; 

  • Canadian Army troops will conduct littoral operations, including running air-land operations and battle procedures, and establishing a helicopter landing site and a beachhead. Ex LION MISTRAL will also feature a humanitarian assistance air evacuation operation that will help train expeditionary forces to respond to humanitarian disasters;


  • Ex LION MISTRAL will culminate in two disembarkation operations on a Gaspé beach on June 20-21 marking the end of the amphibious exercise. In response to a request by the town of Gaspé, the members of the 1 R22eR will also be offering a static display of their vehicles and equipment on June 21;


  • More than 400 French Navy members of The Mistral and 175 of La Fayette will be participating alongside some 200 Canadian soldiers, including 20 engineers from 5 Combat Engineer Regiment from Valcartier;



On Flickr a couple of photos from yesterday, as equipment was being loaded onto Mistral in Halifax:

Members of the 1st Battalion, Royal 22e Regiment load light armored vehicles onboard the French Navy amphibious ship Mistral as part of Exercise LION MISTRAL 2014 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, June 17, 2014. Photo: MCpl Patrick Blanchard, Canadian Forces Combat Camera IS2014-3030-06

Members of the 1st Battalion, Royal 22e Regiment load light armored vehicles onboard the French Navy amphibious ship Mistral as part of Exercise LION MISTRAL 2014 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, June 17, 2014.
Photo: MCpl Patrick Blanchard, Canadian Forces Combat Camera IS2014-3030-06

Halifax, Nova Scotia.  FS Mistral (L-9013) is an Amphibious assault ship, and lead ship of her class. She was commissioned in 2006. She features a landing craft dock, and Helicopter facilities. Photo: Halifax Shipping News

Halifax, Nova Scotia.
FS Mistral (L-9013) is an Amphibious assault ship, and lead ship of her class. She was commissioned in 2006. She features a landing craft dock, and Helicopter facilities.
Photo: Halifax Shipping News

Additional photos by M/Cpl Blanchard were posted on the Ottawa Citizen website.

June 12, 2014

QotD: Regulating cheese

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Health, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 07:00

France, for all its faults, has genuinely federalized food: a distinctive cheese every 20 miles down the road. In America, meanwhile, the food nannies are lobbying to pass something called the National Uniformity for Food Act. There’s way too much of that already.

The federalization of food may seem peripheral to national security issues, and the taste of American milk — compared with its French or English or even Québécois equivalents — may seem a small loss. But take almost any area of American life: what’s the more common approach nowadays? The excessive government regulation exemplified by American cheese or the spirit of self-reliance embodied in the Second Amendment? On a whole raft of issues from health care to education the United States is trending in an alarmingly fromage-like direction.

Mark Steyn, “Live Brie or Die!” SteynOnline.com, 2014-03-13

April 15, 2014

“You want to go into politics to fix public finances and put things in order? Fine. But to pump your fist and say you want a country? Tabarnac

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 07:30

In Maclean’s, Martin Patriquin reflects on the disaster for the separatist cause that was the Quebec election:

Sovereignty isn’t dead. It is impossible, sovereignists themselves often say, to kill a dream shared by a rock-ribbed 30 per cent of the population. Rather, Quebec’s sovereignty movement goes through fits and starts, peaks and valleys, a sleeping giant that can wake up and roar at a moment’s notice.

[…]

In this respect, the mortal enemy of the sovereignty movement isn’t the Liberal Party of Quebec, the Trudeau family, the federal government, Quebec’s immigrant population or any of the other central casting nightmares conjured up by the sovereignist movement over the years. No, the real enemy is the march of time.

As such, the sovereignty movement was pushed that much closer to obsolescence with the recent election. This Liberal win, like all Liberal wins past, means no serious talk of referendum, sovereignty or separation for four years at least. Decimated and leaderless, the PQ ranks will likely have to suffer through a wrenching leadership campaign before turning its sights on Philippe Couillard’s Liberals. PQ strategists will have to explain the party’s rudderless, error-prone election campaign that tanked its relative popularity in the space of a month. In the longer term, the PQ MNAs will have to answer for the party’s so-called Quebec values charter, which many feel targeted Quebec’s religious minorities­—and in all likelihood hurt the party’s chances of moving beyond its white, francophone base. All of this will take time, which isn’t on the PQ’s side.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Buoyed by a jump in the polls and a listless showing by Liberal Leader Couillard, Marois confidently called an election on March 5 with every expectation of getting a majority government. Instead, she (and the province) got a quick and nasty campaign dominated by referendum chatter and the short-term economic tremors it inevitably causes. The mere mention of an election last fall caused Montreal’s real estate market to dip.

Without a doubt, the turning point in the campaign was the press conference to introduce superstar PQ candidate Pierre Karl Péladeau:

The smart political strategist would do the following: put Péladeau on a stage and make him talk strictly about how he transformed Videotron from a Podunk cable company beset by labour troubles into the province’s leading cable and wireless concern. In the vacuum of a month-long election campaign, Péladeau the businessman could easily hide the red-ink-stained legacy of the PQ’s 18 months in power.

Instead, we got Péladeau the Quebec separatist. On a chilly Monday morning three days into the campaign, Péladeau took the stage with Pauline Marois and, after a 13-minute speech vaunting his economic record and the beauty of his riding of St-Jérôme, he uttered 30 words that would overshadow his campaign and that of his newly adopted party. “Finally, I end by telling you that my membership in the Parti Québécois is in line with my most profound and intimate values,” he said in French. “That is to say, make Quebec a country!”

[…]

In the immediate aftermath of Péladeau’s declaration, Marois mused that citizens of a separate Quebec would have their own Quebec passport; people and goods would flow freely over the open and undefended borders with Canada. Quebec would use the Canadian dollar, and lobby for a seat with the Bank of Canada. Her strategists quietly put an end to Marois’s flights of fancy within 48 hours, but the damage was already done. And it was irreversible.

In Quebec City, Péladeau’s candidacy should have hearkened a return of the PQ in what has been a bastion for the right-of-centre Action Démocratique du Quebec party and its successor, the CAQ, led by former PQ minister François Legault. Yet Péladeau seemingly did himself in with those 30 words in this surprisingly conservative and federalist region and beyond. “I’m so disappointed in the guy it’s ridiculous,” says Mario Roy, an insurance broker and sometimes radio DJ, who in 2010 worked on a campaign with Péladeau to bring an NHL team to Quebec City. “You want to go into politics to fix public finances and put things in order? Fine. But to pump your fist and say you want a country? Tabarnac.”

April 8, 2014

“It’s important to understand the scale of the calamity that has befallen the Parti Québécois”

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 07:02

Paul Wells on the electoral catastrophe for the PQ in yesterday’s provincial election:

Its share of the popular vote, as I write this, is solidly below the 28% the party won in 2007 when André Boisclair was its leader. This is, in fact, the PQ’s worst election result, in share of popular vote, in 44 years. The only time it ever did worse was in 1970, the first campaign the party ever fought.

Philippe Couillard did not have a flawless campaign but he has a full majority term to get the hang of premiering. And Quebec usually re-elects incumbent governments once. In fact, Pauline Marois becomes the first Quebec premier to fail to be re-elected since the 1920s.

But these are garden-variety problems. The PQ’s woes go much deeper still. It is now 15 years since the party won more than 40% of the popular vote; the Liberals did so in 2008 and again tonight. This is because the PQ sits on a policy it cannot sell: secession from Canada. But now it has added a second unsellable policy to its kit bag: a plan to fire librarians and emergency-room physicians if it is possible to tell by looking at them which religious faith they practice.

[…]

On all three policies — secession, coercive state atheism, and university tuition — the PQ is stuck between an electorate that doesn’t agree, and a party base that will not retreat. Compounding the near-guarantee of further PQ grief still further is its insufferable belief in its own infallible mind meld with the Québécois collective conscience. The PQ knows better than anyone on sovereignty, secularism and higher education. Or so its members tell themselves. So it will not abandon policies the broader Quebec population, including much of the francophone majority, finds risible.

The PQ is in clear danger of becoming Quebec’s Tea Party: a fringe movement in thrall to esoteric mail-order theorists and proud of it, ensuring continued defeat and resistant to any attempts to fix it. I won’t be predicting the death of separatism; that’s a cliché. But I do predict an extended purgatory for a PQ that will wonder, for a very long time to come, why everyone points and giggles when its leaders proclaim the things they believe most profoundly.

I’m not sure the Tea Party Wells refers to exists in any form other than media stereotype (although there are lots of individual Tea Party activists who fit the bill), but the rest of the piece strikes me as being pretty accurate.

March 24, 2014

Paul Wells’ Twitter summary of the last 48 hours in Quebec politics

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 14:19

March 17, 2014

On the election trail, the PQ would rather not talk secession right now

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:27

In Maclean’s, Paul Wells explains why Pauline Marois would prefer that the separatist part of the Parti Québécois platform just be background information:

The salvation of Quebec’s sovereignty movement has always been the reluctance of many voters and, indeed, of most political journalists to read and remember. Did you know that Jean-François Lisée, the Marois government’s minister for relations with anglophones, expects as many as 300,000 Quebecers to flee the province after a Yes vote in a referendum? Probably not. I’ve never seen anyone quote Lisée about the likelihood of a major post-referendum exodus. Yet he wrote it up in a book he published 14 years ago, and on the off chance anyone forgot to buy the book, he posted an excerpt on his blog, where it remains to this day. Lisée cites estimates between 150,000 and 300,000 departures after a Yes vote, before adding that even though it would mostly only be anglophones, it’d still hurt:

    There is no doubt this exodus would be all kinds of trouble for Quebec. The anglophone community contributes to Montreal’s and Quebec’s economic success, to its progress toward a knowledge economy … and powerfully contributes to connecting us with anglophone America, our main client and partner. The departure of 100,000 or 200,000 of them would stop Montreal’s economic recovery in its tracks and aggravate Quebec’s demographic decline …

Funny how he forgot to mention any of that during the 1995 secession referendum.

Lisée goes on to suggest means that might “reduce” this exsanguination from the Quebec economy, and I’ll leave it to readers to consider whether any of them constitutes more than wishful thinking. I’ll note only that he sees in promises of protection for Quebec’s anglophone minority “an important negotiating tool at the Quebec-Canada table” during post-referendum secession negotiations. I’m afraid this escapes me. “In return for allowing us to treat our anglophone minority well, you must … allow us to treat our anglophone minority well … or it will … uh … leave and become part of your workforce.” Then they’ll really have Ottawa over a barrel.

[…]

Anyway, I belabour all of this precisely to point out why Pauline Marois looks a little spooked these days whenever somebody asks her about her party’s raison d’être on the campaign trail. Negotiating, not with some vague angelic notion of reasonable Ontarians, but with Danielle Smith and Terry Glavin over the terms of deconfederation, in an attempt to stem a stampede of highly educated Quebecers that would, in Jean-François Lisée’s picturesque description, “stop Montreal’s economic recovery in its tracks,” is not super-high on most Quebecers’ to-do list for Q4 2014. How many Quebecers want to hear less campaign talk about sovereignty? Seven in 10, says today’s Léger poll [PDF]. One of my favourite rules of thumb holds that a party led by a veteran campaigner should have an advantage over a party with a rookie leader, but that’s predicated on the notion that experienced leaders are reassuring. A promise of nonstop secession headache eliminates Marois’s incumbent advantage. She could, of course, promise not to hold a referendum if elected. But that would tear her party apart. I almost feel sorry for her. Just kidding.

March 12, 2014

Quebec federalist leader calls for more concessions to Quebec (of course)

It’s apparently come to the attention of even soi disant federalists in Quebec that the rest of Canada is still taking advantage of Quebec and that concessions will be needed to begin to make amends for all our exploitation of that downtrodden province:

The leader of federalist forces in the Quebec election says Canadians from coast to coast should be prepared to make concessions to the province if there is any hope dealing once and for all with the recurring threats to national unity.

With an ascendant Parti Québécois seeking re-election and speaking bullishly about a new push for independence, angst outside of the province’s borders is noticeably higher in this election than in previous campaigns since the failed 1995 referendum on sovereignty.

The surprise candidacy for the PQ of multi-millionaire media titan Pierre Karl Péladeau, majority shareholder of Quebecor and the Sun newspaper chain, has only ratcheted up that tension, a rare across-the-board endorsement in an open letter signed by leading sovereigntists, including former PQ leaders Jacques Parizeau and Bernard Landry as well as ex-Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe.

[…]

Couillard raised the spectre of a new push for a constitutional amendment that would recognized Quebec as a “distinct” society in Canada. This after two failed attempts at Meech Lake in 1987 and Charlottetown in 1992 and the refusal of former PQ premier René Levesque to sign the repatriated Canadian Constitution in 1982.

The federal government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has refused the idea of re-opening the Constitution to introduce an elected Senate or to set term limits for Senators. The federal Conservative leader has said repeatedly there is no willingness in the country for another heart-wrenching round of talks that, if they fail, could breathe new life into the grievances of those who want an independent Quebec.

Harper contented himself with passing a 2006 motion in the House of Commons that recognized “the Quebecois as a nation within a united Canada,” but it carries no specific obligations or responsibilities of Ottawa and affords no new powers to the province.

Update:

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