Enough immaturity

A story that should make Quebecers think, not close ranks

Jacques Boissinot/CP

The last issue of Maclean’s magazine had barely arrived on the newsstands when the entire Quebec political class was uttering cries of indignation. Gilles Duceppe spoke about “xenophobia.” Nathalie Normandeau got carried away: “Enough with Quebec bashing!” All because Maclean’s dared to run a cover headline that Quebec is “the most corrupt province in Canada.”

Of course, tenacious prejudices exist about Quebecers in some milieus of English Canada. But the Maclean’s feature is not part of that ilk. Our politicians’ quick and emotional reaction shows how hypersensitive we have remained to any criticism coming from “outside.” This immaturity is unworthy of what Quebec has become.

In an open letter, Mr. Duceppe points out that there have been political scandals in other provinces, a fact that the magazine’s journalist points out clearly. The Bloc leader notes that Canada’s first prime minister, John A. Macdonald (“Johnny Macdonald,” Mr. Duceppe writes), lost power because of the Canadian Pacific scandal; Maclean’s recalls this as well.

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The front cover is sensationalist but the reporting as such respects standard journalistic practices. It does not say that corruption is exclusive to Quebec nor that it is encoded in our genes. The author, journalist Martin Patriquin, points out that Quebec’s political history has been marked by a greater number of scandals than in the rest of Canada; this fact is undeniable.

While the politicians’ indignation is unanimous, Quebec public opinion is divided. Of about 10,000 people who responded on Saturday to the Cyberpresse question of the day, 50 per cent agreed with the magazine. This is food for thought for our elected officials.

Maclean’s puts forward a few hypotheses to explain the phenomenon of corruption in the province. Some of these hypotheses are worth discussing. For example, the everlasting debate on independence. The Québec Solidaire MNA, Amir Khadir, is quoted: “Today’s PQ and the Liberals are the same political class that has governed Quebec for 40 years. The more they stay in power, the more vulnerable to corruption they become. There hasn’t been any sort of renewal in decades. We are caught in the prison of the national question.”

Another possible cause: the omnipresence of the state. Since the Quebec government and its corporations play a determining role in the province’s economy, there is a great temptation for private companies to woo the members of the political class.

Maclean’s columnist Andrew Coyne, a sworn enemy of Quebec nationalism, was surely not surprised at the visceral reaction of Quebec politicians. In his contribution to the report, he attributes part of the problem of corruption in the province to the fact that criticism of the system in place is often very poorly received: “But constructive criticism in Quebec, given the francophone majority’s perception of itself as an embattled minority, all too often leads to a closing of the ranks against what is invariably described as ‘Quebec bashing.’ ”

Those who observe us from the outside are not always wrong . . . The question Maclean’s is asking today, like a cat among the pigeons, is “why are there so many corruption scandals in Quebec?” We should have been asking ourselves this question a long time ago.

André Pratte is the chief editorial writer of Montreal’s French-language daily La Presse. He can be reached at apratte@lapresse.ca
© 2010 La Presse. Reprinted with permission.




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Enough immaturity

  1. As a militant Québécois souverainiste, let me tell you that this whole story is pure bonanza for our case. Any time English Canada bunches up against Quebec politics and culture, it makes sovereignty stronger and much more reachable. I don't think Maclean's should apologize at all. Actually, I think Maclean's should make a whole series of those Québec bashing articles. Notice that offended Québécois are mostly strong federalists. As a matter of fact, Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois did not ask for an apology because she expect the political benefits in the near future. On the other hand, federalist premier Jean Charest wrote an official letter to Maclean's and asked for an immediate apology. He knows this kind of rhetoric is a strong case against federalism in Québec.

    • Because a sovereign Quebec will be able to ban magazine articles that are offensive to its political class?

      That's a great argument.

    • More more more. Racism and hatred. This is great stuff. There is nothing more appealing to my ears than English-Canadian anti-Québécois racist rants. Please duplicate your hatred of Québec on every forum you sign in. This serves us so well. You just don't know how much it help us. I expect 55 Bloc seats next federal election and a majority PQ government by 2012.

      • What a clever trick, post something inflammatory under one name and then reply with faux indignation.

        • Pauvre ti-Pit. Your "English"-Canadian fascination is remarkable. But what about the Italian-Canadians, Irish-Canadians, Greek-Canadians – et j'en passe – that you are leaving out of your hatred? Your vision of your country is so 19th century; the result of two centuries of religious education, I think. In abny case, it is passé.

    • No, it is because the poltician believes that the greater the indignation shown – the greater chance of a bump in popularity with realistically no chance of downside for them.

  2. Your militant Québécois souverainiste, don't speak french! They have endeavored to learn the World language, in order to get sucked into the big paying English Government jobs. And a nice comfortable belly prefers relaxation. We knew. You don't have the numbers! Not even enough numbers left to play the rolling poll game, in order to keep the rest of Canada scared. lol. Qe7 checkmate!

  3. 55 Bloc seats next federal election all feeding from the Canadian trough, and will never give it up! Some fighters! lol slurp, slurp. Meanwhile not one Quebecer will benefit because of not having one member in Government. 55 millionaire Bloc, and 7 million in poverty, until the Allophones and the huge number of uncle Pierre's, water down the whine to nothing but a cheer for our Queen. Not long now. The tipping point has gone by!

    • Liminator….this is why the Conservatives need a majority government in the next election. They are the only ones on record that would support the elimination of the per vote subsidy for political parties. This is the only way we can make the Bloc disappear. Starve it for funding. If Quebecers are prepared to support it with their own money fine but not with the money from all taxpayers.

      • You're being an idiot on purpose arent you now?? The Bloc of course do not get money in that ingenious plan other than from Bloc supporters. You get dollars/vote, sooooo only votes(psst – dollars) that the Bloc get come from their supporters in that election. Eliminating the party money by vote design will only result in a the loss of political consideration for those too poor to contribute to their party of choice. Which is why I called the per vote "subsidy" ingenious, our democracy is surely built to last – yes, even through Harper.

  4. Yeah the tipping point has almost gone by! Ireland will be speaking Gaelic, Canada will be speaking French and the United States will be speaking Spanish. LoL

  5. Where else on the planet can you spark a major political crisis for offending a snowman?

    • Only if that snowman is in high fashion.

  6. André Pratte was himself ''condemned'' by the Quebec National Assembly for a book he wrote in 1997 about political corruption in the province, so I'm sure he knows how it feels to be condemned by a parliament. I am quite sure this is an expression of solidarity on his part towards Maclean's, since both have now been denounced by government figures.

  7. When a bucket of cold water is tossed in your face, it's certainly shocking … likewise when a historical truth is spoken aloud, it is bound to raise a loud retort. The fact of the matter is, at least for this exiled Quebecois, the world of politics is strewn with liars, hypocrites and now thieves… It's no wonder as crooked fingers have been with us for a very long time and has insinuated itself in the culture of entitlement in this Province. It goes back way before Duplessis, and Taschereau before him. Indeed, governments have defeated themselves, more often than not, on the sword of corruption and financial crime.

    So, to all those who are crying foul, look it up….it's history that is still resonating and still around us.

    A good place to start would be with the record of the Commite des Comptes Public set up by Duplessis to out the Tashereau regime and establish himself as the Mr Clean of the time. Continued readings will prove to be both enlightening and entertaining and provide a good place to start fresh introspection in this Province.

    • To the typical intelligent newspaper reader/citizen in Quebec, a report about misdeeds there is not 'a bucket of cold water'. Their media have been reporting the issue assiduously. Do not wish too much for 'fresh introspection' on the issue, because that will reveal that much of the corruption there has taken place among anglophones, in federalist parties.

      • "…much of the corruption there has taken place among anglophones…" Yea, sure. Infamous anglos like Duplessis, Gagliano, Chrétien, et j'en passe…

    • The article is based on a biased selection of events. There is no presentation of a comparison of events between provinces. In this regard, the articles that have fed this frenzy are not good journalism, simply incendiary editorializing about political and business corruption. There is much to say, but once it is clear that this is opinion, you have to admit that the tone of the article and those that followed should have been different. A different tone and Quebec response would have been different.

      Again, I can only observe the tremendous amount of copies that have sold after this set of articles and the French language Actualité (also owned by Roger's) who will respond and sell like hot cakes. Bottom line journalism at its best.

      • aka sensationalism, as in tabloid.

        Newstand copies of MacLeans and Actualite sold out very quickly, but I understand Actualite subscriptions were being cancelled in Quebec – which led to the damage control pseudo-apology by Rogers. (Sorry but I don't know how to get an accent onto the e while typing this). I for one am finished with both Rogers (wireless) and MacLeans.

  8. "The last issue of Maclean's magazine had barely arrived on the newsstands when the entire Quebec political class was uttering cries of indignation."

    I don't care if the article contains the revelation of the week. Blatant exaggerations in the opening sentence turns me right off.

    • The word on these things can get out way before the printing presses are done. A nice pat on the head awaits, for those who make a politicican aware of a chance to stand up by to a bully – no matter if the bully hurls only stinging truths.

      • Find me one member of the Quebec political class uttering cries(oxymoron?) of indignation moments after publication. Maybe then we can extrapolate this single instance to the entire class.

        This kind of wounded heart journalism stinks of tabloidism.

  9. Having been out of circulation for a few days, I just watched Andrew Coyne defending MacLeans in his appearance on CBC's At Issue (online). I have to say that, IMO, Chantel Hebert schooled him on the ethics of journalism, especially the need to support a journalistic slant with evidence and research. Coyne's defense of MacLeans was ineffably lame and I suspect he knows it.

    Who wins in this little rhubarb? Sadly and undeservedly, MacLeans. When my subscription expires, I'll look elsewhere for reasoned analysis.

    • I agree wholeheartedly.

  10. I know eh, darn those opposition parties and their attention on Quebec!! Stick to the real provinces huh, am i right hollinm!

    • SirJohn_Eh……I do not agree with pandering to Quebec on any issue. The fact is it is one province of ten within the country. It should be treated no better and nor worse than the other provinces. Yes it is unique in the country but to discrriminate against the other 9 provinces in order to cowtow to the demands of the Separatists is a recipe for the break up of the country at some point. Cowtowing has not helped the majority of Quebecers move to vote for the federalist parties and in fact I would suggest that our appeasement policies simply encourage them to continue to vote in a block in order to have the attention and the money they demand. So if the old way hasn't work it is time to try another tactic. Cutting off the per vote subsidy is a start and adding more seats to the House of Commons to reduce the influence of Quebec on the national vote are two good ways.

      • Listen, all provinces get attention by the HoC if they get up all in arms about something. There's been no discrimination by the HoC to other provinces by spending time talking about this, and if you want to dwell on the past re: what Quebec has gotten differently than the other provinces – well from all accounts you'll have fresh reasons to be cranky when we can tally up all Harper will have done for them. Fact is, Quebec has the french angle when arguing for extras, and every province has shown willingness to exploit any angle they have in their negotiations with the Feds or anyone else. This isn't about the three left wing parties, its not about partisanship or pandering either, and especially not about the ridiculous lie that eliminating the per vote subsidy will somehow squash the seperatists.

        • SirJohn_Eh….there is no pandering to Quebec. What about fiscal imbalance where Quebec got an extra $ 1billion and prompty gave Quebecers a tax cut. How does the largest province in the country stay a have not province all the time. If pandering to Quebec is not evident how about the vote in the House the other nite about MacLeans? How about the vote declaring the Quebecois a nation?
          I do not like it one little bit that Harper has given Quebec a lot of attention and money but he isn't the first and won't be the last.
          Eliminating the subsidy may not do anything but it will force the Bloc to be financially supported by all Quebecers and not the ROC. If they want a Separatist party in the federal Parliament then support them with their own money.
          I don't know what other provinces have gotten or not gotten. I know McGuinty whines a lot so many he has. Williams did not get a change in the equalization formula that he was demanded.
          Am I cranky, as you put it, you bet.

  11. Have you ever known a parasite to leave wilingly??

  12. I like your open-mindedness, Mr. Pratte, but aren't people in Quebec thinking sufficiently about corruption already? Did they need Maclean's magazine to tell them? (Or do we need L'Actualite to proclaim the faults of English Canada to us?)

  13. I'm tired of the blackmail. It's time to call Quebec's bluff.

    Quebec has only gotten away with their baloney for 40 years because we English Canadians are such timid, wimpy cowards.

  14. I had a friend who's wife wanted to leave him and gave him grief about it for years. He attempted many things to appease her and make her want to stay but, in the end, she walked out. He later heard from her lawyer seeking an outrageous divorce settlement.

    If Quebec wants out then let her leave. Get the lawyers to put together a fair settlement package. If Quebec wants to stay then she stays as a province like all of the rest.

    Personally, I love Quebecois culture, art and food and wish that she'd stay.

  15. How can an article written by a an English speaking journalist be taken without offense when it says something offensive yet true about Quebec. You can't use the n word if you aren't black and you can't make a joke about any religion unless you belong to it. Being a minority is no easy thing. It seems that MacLean's does not realize that they crossed a line. Quebecois know that most of the article is right and that corruption is rampant in Quebec. However, if MacLean wants to publish such an article, have a Quebec journalist write it, and back it up with some strong data. The worst part is the cover. Too many quebecois won't get pass it and translate it to more Quebec bashing. Why can't English speaking Canada take the moral high ground? Why can't they accept that it is o.k. to be overly nice to a minority? I am no separatist, but articles such this one make me feel like the prospect of an harmonious Canada is just another dream. Many as more far fetched as the separation. Just sad.

  16. Again, just editorial opinion, clothed in lazy thinking and poor reporting. Here is a quote I take issue with: "Quebec's political history has been marked by a greater number of scandals than in the rest of Canada; this fact is undeniable."

    Not only is this deniable, but it is the core issue. None of the Maclean's articles/editorials on this issue have actually made this demonstration. Just sloppily justified opinion. The reason why this cannot be demonstrated is that it simply is not true. But saying it, without being able to uphold it, sells copies.

    Again, it is possible to have a discussion around the question of corruption in Quebec, without making the outrageous and incendiary claim that Quebec is the most corrupt province. This is the tone and content the basic reports should have had in the first place.

    • Andrew Coyne, of all people – who seemed to have a reputation of being an intelligent, professional journalist. It was kind of a shocker.

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