Archive for October 2008
I’m sorry to go after her again, but I’m lazy and it’s just too easy.
Everybody’s favourite National Post columnist Barbara Kay is all exited about a new film she just discovered called “L’illusion Tranquille” by Joanne Marcotte. The movie is nearly two years old but Barbara just heard about it, presumably because of the dubbed version that just came out.
L’Illusion Tranquille is documentary about what Québec’s Right considers the failure of the Québec Model.
The Québec Model is a one-size-fits-all of a concept used to describe all that is supposedly different about Québec’s economics, things like cheap tuition, cheap electricity, government intervention, one of the biggest cooperative sectors of the free market economies, high income taxes and low corporate taxes.
Everything that makes Québec either the shinning beacon of progressive capitalism or a stray Soviet republic, depending on where you stand.
We all know where the National Post and Barbara Kay stand:
“See [L’Illusion Tranquille] to be informed, but if for no other reason, see it to penetrate the wall of silence used by the mainstream francophone media to shield their audiences against criticism of the “sacrosanct” Quebec Model. The wall of silence ensured that press reaction to the French-language version of the film was, predictably, to shoot the messenger rather than acknowledge the message.”
See, this is what you get when you hire someone as uninformed about the society she lives in as Barbara Kay to write commentary about Québec.
L’Illusion Tranquille actually received an unprecedented amount of coverage in the Québec media considering it was small budget film made by a pair with no film-making experience. Just about every political commentator in the province wrote about or discussed the movie.
Canal D, a very popular cable channel, bought the right to air it 15 times.
This is an astonishing response for what turned out to be an uneven movie that even the people featured in it refused to endorse. The more enthusiastic called it a healthy Micheal Moore-style exercise in shit-stirring. The others dismissed it as a Micheal Moore-style exercise in shit-stirring…
L’Illusion Tranquille was first screened in November 2006. Four months later, the conservative Action Démocratique du Québec and Mario Dumont became the official opposition in Québec’s National Assembly on a pledge to overhaul the “Québec Model”. In front of them sat the Premier, Jean Charest, twice elected on a promise to re-engineer the “Québec model”.
In June 2007, six months after the movie came out, the film’s director, Joanne Marcotte, was named by the Premier to a government commission presided by former health minister Claude Castonguay on health care financing in Québec.
In six months Joanne Marcotte went from complete nobody to government consultant on the provincial government’s biggest budget expenditure, health care.
They sure shut her up!
What really bothers Barbara Kay about Québec is not the wall of silence, but precisely the absence of this wall. Barbara Kay has a problem with the fact that there is actually a relatively healthy debate on the issues in Québec and that people don’t automatically buy the Right’s Miracle Magic solutions to all that’s wrong in the world.
She has a problem with the fact that people in Québec ask the Right annoying questions like: Why are we in Afghanistan? What good will come of sending 14 year old children to jail when Québec already has the lowest crime rate in Canada? How exactly is the sad parody of capitalism currently collapsing all around us better than the Québec Model?
Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen are in Paris. It’s about midnight and there is no one around. Stephen holds up a small piece of paper with an address on it, not sure he’s at the right place.
-I told you it’s too late, Stephen! Everybody’s gone!
-Trust me honey, this is when French parties get started. We’re fine.
Stephen sees a man smoking a cigarette and walks up to him holding his piece of paper.
-Exkweesay moi, savay vous oo ey l’Eleesaye?
The man smells like cigarettes and Pinot Noir. He doesn’t even look at the piece of paper. He just shakes his head.
-Stephen Harper. Never thought I’d see the day we’d be at the same party.
-AngryFrenchGuy! I thought you looked familiar!
-Stephen Harper, the friend of France! Who would’ve thought? Trudeau was never a friend of France. Chrétien was never a friend of France. And then you, the rigid policy wonk from Calgary, you’re the one who gets the president of France to declare: “Our friends, the Canadians, our brothers, the Québécois”. Way to make it with the cool kids, neighbour!
-Don’t forget he also said he prefered a united Canada!
-Yeah, yeah.. whatever. C’mon I’ll introduce you to everybody.
-Are you sure it’s this way?
-Hey. This is my cousin’s house.
AngryFrenchGuy, Stephen and Laureen walk up the stairs to a vast room filled with people and cigarette smoke. EuroHouse music is playing very loud. AFG points over to a small gray-haired man standing by himself in a corner.
-That’s George W. Bush over there.
-Wow. I thought France and the USA we’re not getting along! Darn, even Republicans don’t want to be seen with Bush anymore!
-Hey, Bush is not only Sarkozy’s friend, he’s his brother! The first thing Nic did when he was elected President was have a barbeque at the Bush house in Kennebunkport. “Even within a family there are disagreements”, he said, “but we are still a family. And we may be friends and not agree on everything, but we are friends.”
-He said Bush was family...?
-Gaddafi? I thought we weren’t talking to him?
-Sarko is talking to him. He’s a friend of the family. He invited him to France for his first official visit in 34 years. He also negociated with him for the release of those Bulgarian nurses.
-But you can’t negociate with terrorists! That defeats the whole purpose!
-Sarko also talks to them all the time. When he was mayor of Neuilly there was this guy called the Human Bomb who took an entire class of schoolchildren hostage. Sarko negociated with him on TV!
-On TV!? That’s dangerous! A head of State just can’t go around talking to anyone, giving them credibility!
-Sure he can! Check it out over there: That’s Alvaro Uribe, the president of Colombia. Sarko talks to him. And over there in the fatigues, that’s the Colombian revolutionaries of the FARC. Sarko also talks to them. Oh! come here!
AFG grabs Stephen’s hand and drags him over to two angry looking men with red, white and blue ribbons accross their chests. One is old and sitting, the other is middle aged and standing.
-Stephen, I’d like you to meet Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the Front National and Vladimir Poutin, President of Russia.
-Le Pen? You can’t be a friend of Sarkozy!
-I am not. He eez a dirtee immigrant.
-But why are you at his party?
-I have to come here to see my friends, now. Before, ze other partees they leeve me alone with my supporters. This Sarkozy he openly copies my ideas and reeche out to my supporters.
-Is there anybody this Sarkozy will not be associated with? My God! Terrorists! Fascists! George W. Bush for crying out loud…
Stephen can’t finish his thought because Vladimir Poutin has him in a jiu-jitsu hold and has his face 2 centimeters from his own.
-You listen. Sarkozy is good man. He is only western leader who call me when I have big electoral victory in 2007. No one else call me. Be careful what you say. Sarkozy is my friend.
Poutin eventually let’s go of Stephen and he and AFG walk back towards the stairs. Stephen turns towards AFG.
-Listen, AFG… I’m going to go, now. I’m just not comfortable with this crowd. I thought this was a good move, you know, normalizing Canadian relations with France and getting the French president to support a united Canada… But I’m not so sure anymore. I mean, this guy will be friends with anyone! It’s ridiculous! How can YOU be friends with him?
-Oh, I think Sarkozy is a fucking jerk! He’s a disgrace and an embarassement! He’s not my friend at all, he’s my cousin! You know what they say: you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family…
You’re all going to accuse me of being a bourgeois socialist so let’s just make one thing clear right away:
I am. Big time.
I’m from the very bourgeois NDG and given we are exactly the same age, I came just this close to being bourgeois pinup Justin Trudeau’s classmate at the very bourgeois Collège Brébeuf. In my youth there’s been yacht clubs and brunches at the Hôtel Bonaventure. I’ve owned plenty of penny loafers and polo shirts.
That said bourgeoisie doesn’t always rhyme with money and I’ve got more working class patches than most of you bitches. I’ve got a taxi driver’s pocket number and I’ve hauled big rigs all the way down to MS and BC. I’ve been union. I’ve even been a Teamster.
(Although looking back at my trucking days, cruising in New England in my Volvo, sipping allongés from my in-cab coffee machine and listening to René Homier-Roy on my satellite radio, I have to admit I was still pretty bourgeois…)
As we head into worldwide financial apocalypse, all indicates that on next Tuesday Canadians are going to re-elect a Conservative government determined to avenge the memory of Herbert Hoover, who was kicked out of the White House in 1933 just as his Great Depression action plan of doing absolutely nothing for four years and letting the markets sort themselves out was just about to show some results, or so he said.
Great Britain is about to nationalize British banks and George W. Bush nationalized AIG, Freddie Mac and Fanny May. It doesn’t matter what your political ideology is or what Stephen Harper thinks about it, this is the new world order.
No other party than the Bloc has as many people who have first hand experience with the Québec tradition of using the state as an economic and financial agent with institutions like la Caisse de Placement et de Dépôt du Québec, Hydro-Québec, la Société Générale de Financement and the like. No party has as much knowledge on how such institutions work and how they fail. Conservatives are hostile to government intervention. The Bloc has people that understand government intervention.
Québec’s Quiet Revolution was Canada’s most wide-ranging, most recent and most successful attempt to use the state to manage and reform an economy. No other party can claim to represent the legacy of the Quiet Revolution better than the sovereigntists and the Bloc. The Bloc can’t form the government but we need their knowledge and expertise in Parliament and in the committees.
By definition sovereigntists have not been afraid of overhauling institutions. At the root of the sovereingtist movement there are people who spent their whole lives taking on corporations for the benefit of people who had no capital and limited power.
The Bloc’s left is not the old left. More than any other party, even more than the NDP, the sovereingtist movement counts people who have been at the front lines of novel and progressive ways of thinking about the markets and capitalism. Think of Yves Michaud (goolge’s sad translation) and what he’s done for shareholder activism or of Parti québécois vice-president François Rebello and his work for socially responsible investing.
The Bloc can’t make Québec an independent country without another referendum. You can support the Bloc without supporting sovereignty. Don’t let your Canadian nationalism stand in the way.
That said, I ain’t voting for the Bloc.
I vote in the riding of Westmount Ville-Marie and in my riding the MP is not chosen by the voters. It’s chosen by the members of The Party. Over here, as in the Soviet Union and in China, people don’t vote for ideas or candidates, they vote for the colour red. In 2006 the Liberals had an 11 000 vote majority. In 2004 it was 16 000.
The Conservatives are not a threat here. Our only hail mary hope for some change is for the riding’s sizable progressives (like myslef) and the handful or separatists (also like myslef) and the enviromentalists (that’s me) unite together like they did in neighboring Outremont and elect the NDP’s Anne Lagacé-Dowson.
In last Wednesday’s Gazette – Montreal’s Anglo newspaper – Lagacé-Dowson and Thomas Mulcair, the NDP MP from Outremont defended their support for a Bloc québécois bill that would’ve extended bill 101’s protection of the right to work in French to the federal service in Québec and to other federally chartered institutions.
“To give you the simplest possible example, a woman working at the Royal Bank doesn’t have the same linguistic rights as her colleague working across the street at the Caisse Populaire”, Mulcair told the Gazette.
He did qualify his support, saying he only wanted to extend the debate to committee, but you can’t deny it takes a serious set of mexican huevos for a pair of Anglos to defend the expansion of the Charter of the French Language in an English newspaper in the middle of an election campaign.
Armchair socialists of the world unite!
In a move that your kids will no doubt study as one of the classic blunders of Canadian political history, Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper decided that the best way to launch the 2008 election was to throw small bone to his loyal base and cut some 45 million dollars of arts funding that only handful of communists, faggots and infidels were going to miss.
Well, it turns out that pissing off underemployed creative types who express themselves for a living and know how to put up a website just might not be the best way to get a good media buzz going.
Only a few weeks ago people who know about this stuff were lamenting the hopelessly archaic web strategy of Canada’s political parties. 2008 was not going to be the year the Internet changed politics, many thought.
They were wrong. At least in Québec.
But the political parties had nothing to do with it.
The first shot came from three of Québec’s most successful artists. Michel Rivard, Stéphane Rousseau and Benoit Brière – the Québec-scale equivalent of Paul McCartney, Will Smith and Jerry Seinfeld – who released a 5 minute video on youtube of their apocalyptic vision of arts in a Conservative Canada.
It’s a strategy that Americans have been using for years. You make a controversial commercial, put it out on the web or on some local community TV station somewhere in Idaho and wait for the big media to pick it up and play the hell out of it for free as a news item.
Harper tried to brush off the attack. Ordinary working people did not identify with “rich artists”, he said.
Harper himself might get his political inpiration from Tom Flanagan and the Fraser Institute, but most ordinary people are actually quite attached to “their” celebrities – whether it is in Québec, Canada or Tennessee -and do in fact pay attention to what they have to say. If anything, Harper’s attitude might have encouraged others to act.
Unissonsnosvoix.ca is a website launched by young filmakers and web designers you and I have never heard of. On the site 50 personalities, many artists but also doctors, professors, farmers and the chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Québec, speak out against Harper and the Conservatives.
The concept is simple and everyone with a white wall and a webcam is invited to record their own video that will be added to the site.
Both initiatives are supposed to be non-partisan. Unissonsnosvoix.ca links to another interesting website called voteforenvironment.ca that has a neat little gadget that let’s you type in your postal code and tells you who you have to vote for to beat the Tories in you riding. In tight races in Québec City or in the Pontiac, the site does seem to recommend voting for the strongest runner up, whether it is the Bloc or the Liberals.
Conspiracy Theorists will notice that the look and message of Unissons Nos Voix is just about identical to the Liberal campaign ads that have been running since before the website went online. For the record the “trashing a rival in front of a white background” concept was around way before this election got underway.
In any case, the Bloc, not the Liberal party, is clearly reaping the benefits. While they started their campaign on the defensive, they have now taken back a solid lead while the conservatives have dropped to third place according to some polls.
And you can bet the Conservatives are going to spend the next four years trying to prove the separatists were involved and turn this into the Bloc’s little adscam of illegal campaign finance.
But when you take a minute to think about it, the unprecedended media hype and exposure these artists were able to get with basically a laptop and no money does beg the question: Why do they need federal funding at all?