Jean Tremblay: Loony but not irrelevant

Even the Liberals are pandering to Quebec’s Jesus-lovin’ country mayor

by Martin Patriquin

(Clement Allard/CP)

I was tempted to believe, as Antonia Maioni does in this morning’s Globe, that Mayor Jean “Yeah, I said it” Tremblay’s bit about having some Algerian-born foreigner type with a tongue-tying last name daring to dictate “French Canadian culture” as the ravings of an attention-starved, country-bumpkin crank. After all, the man is certainly as crankish as he is quotable. His previous claim to fame was being fined $30,000 by the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal for leading a public prayer before town council meetings. I interviewed him once, many moons ago, for a piece on the Canadian Council on Learning’s learning index. He was shocked—shocked!—to hear how Saguenay has come in dead last three years in a row, and had an interesting way of disproving it. ”We have the best judo facilities in North America,” he said, in all seriousness.

So: he’s quotable, a wee bit loony, and apparently has a thing for very public self-crucifixion. Perfect fodder, as Maioni puts it, “a day of media attention and Twitter hysteria”—as brief as it is sad/entertaining.

But then I got around to reading the reactions of some of his fellow politicians. I saw how, in condemning Tremblay’s remarks, Péquiste candidate Pierre Duchesne made pains to note how Tremblay was a federalist. I saw how Trois-Rivièves Mayor Yves Lévesque said Tremblay’s remarks, while perhaps a tad too harsh, reflected a “silent majority” of Quebecers who don’t want to see their bleeding, prostrate, half-naked religious symbols taken down off any wall, thank you very much.

Finally, and most importantly, I saw how the Liberals reacted. Serge Simard, candidate for the Saguenay area of Dubuc, didn’t hedge one bit in his support of Tremblay. “He never misses an occasion to let his ideas be known and I think he really has a courage that many people don’t, to be honest,” Simard said during a press conference yesterday. Ditto Carol Néron, Liberal candidate in the neighbouring district of Chicoutimi-La Fjord; far from having to apologize, Néron said, Tremblay was “reflecting what all Quebecers think.” Not even Jean Charest, who can normally string together a quote about inclusiveness and tolerance and all that good stuff in his sleep, would outrightly condemn Tremblay’s remarks.

To get a sense of why, exactly, these very serious politicians are playing footsie with an apparently irrelevant, God-obsessed municipal politician from the sticks, you can only come to the conclusion that while he may be a God-obsessed municipal politician from the sticks, he certainly isn’t irrelevant. Immensely popular—he took nearly 80 per cent in his last  elections—Tremblay has been mayor of Saguenay for nearly 12 years. As such, he rules not only his roost but, when it comes to exposure, the media landscape as well: a 2009 Influence Communication study noted how he garnered nearly as much media exposure as Quebec Mayor Régis Labeaume and Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay.

People may roll their eyes when they hear him, but apparently many are listening. So it’s no surprise that Simard, Néron and Charest nonetheless wouldn’t mind a sprinkle of Tremblay’s xenophobic pixie dust—Simard, first out of the gate in his defense of Tremblay, especially. Simply put, the erstwhile junior minister for natural resources is in deep trouble. He won the 2008 election by less than 500 votes, and is running in a fairly nationalist riding for a federalist party that barely has the support of one in five Quebecers. Néron is up against Stéphane Bédard, a popular péquiste minister. Charest? He’s in trouble everywhere, be it de-souche types in the Saguenay or blue haired Anglos in NDG.

It’s a rare thing to see a Liberal pander to a man capable of such words. Normally, this is identity territory sacrosanct to the PQ or the ADQ, the previous incarnation of François Legault. That the Liberals would do so speaks to the depth of their problems and the undeniable power of a certain Jesus-lovin’ country mayor.




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Jean Tremblay: Loony but not irrelevant

  1. I’ll take a “Jesus-lovin’” mayor any day over an iconoclastic journalist so smugly ignorant of the religion he hates that he can’t even spell “crucifixion” correctly.

    • Well phrased, although maybe he thought he was being clever by inserting the word “fiction.”

    • So which religion should we not be smugly or any other way ignorant of? Or even which version of which religion is the one that should be taken seriously and treated without smugness or spelling errors or even a modicum of ridicule.
      Oh and when you tell us, please include a reason as to why that particular interpretation of that particular religion is in fact the one that shouldn’t be smugly ridiculed in a treatise with typos whereas the others presumably should be. On a sliding scale of course.

    • Fixed spelling. Thanks for pointing it out. mp/

  2. What is so surprising about this article? Just one more christian hating journalist. You atheist boys keep it up and maybe someday your dream of burning a christian at the stake will come true. This is just one more example of the Canadian media’s desire to drive church going christians out of the public square. The goal turn us into as anti-christian a society as much of western europe. The only place where christians are not knocked is in the the Toronto Sun, Calgary Herald, Sun News, and on most of talk radio. Macleans could have done this article without going for the cheap shots. However, that would have a level of class that seems to be beyond the current staff at Macleans.

  3. Viva Quebec Libre – Please separate, take your dead language and let the rest of Canada be free.

    • Vive not Viva we don’t speak spanish we speak French and it’s hardly a dead language.

  4. I thought it was very interesting that Mr. Tremblay was referring to “French Canadians” not standing up for themselves rather than Quebecers/Quebecois. Not enough attention is paid to how Saguenay-Lac St Jean thinks differently about nationalism from the areas on the north and south shores not far from Montreal where no federalist party ever gets close to electing anyone. By contrast, federal Libs and Tories have been getting voted in in the Saguenay since 1997.

    • LOL what doofus voted this one down? explain yourself.

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