AngryFrenchGuy’s Pop Culture Reference Institute explains Michel Gauvin/Mike Gauvin

with 131 comments


Way back in the day, after a young, ambitious and afro-ed young politician called Jean Charest was recruited by federalist headhunters to take the leadership of the Liberal Party of Québec and save Canada, a snoopy reporter dug up his birth certificate and discovered that – scandal! – his true name was not Jean has he had claimed, but John James!

Jean/John was coming to Québec months after the 1995 referendum, just as the emerging scandal about the illegal funding of the federalist campaign by secretive occult organizations was coming to light and amidst (still persistent) rumours that a ‘golden bridge’ was built for him by Canada’s business community, including a (confirmed) salary and Westmount home.

Already suspected of not being completely transparent about his financial supporters, the fact that he did not use the name his mother gave him only confirmed (at least in sovereingtist eyes) the duplicitous character of Jean Charest.

The Anglo-Canadian media’s interpretation? “Poor Jean Charest. He just isn’t pure laine enough for some Quebecers.”

It’s not that at all.

Jean/John James problem is that his birth certificate made him look like one of Québec’s most ridiculed archetypes, the Michel Gauvin/Mike Gauvin.

Michel Gauvin/Mike Gauvin is the hilarious character in the just as funny movie Québec/Montréal who completely changes the way he pronounces his name depending whether he is speaking French or English.

In some small circles, this is considered the ultimate in Canadian bicultural cosmopolitan cool.  Justin Trudeau lives in that world.  So does Robert Guy Scully/Robert Scully (said in a bad european accent in French).

This said, some people are able to pull off the Michel Gauvin/Mike Gauvin.  Brian Mulroney could be both French and English, although, to his credit, he didn’t change the way he pronounced his name.   To this day many francophones Québécois are convinced he is one of them, while many Anglos in Canada would be surprised to learn he speaks French at all!   Of course, Pierre Elliot Trudeau also played that game.  As did Paul Martin, with considerably less success.

Despite the appeal of this 21st century meta-Canadian who is both French AND English (and soon to be a little bit ethnic too) to nationalist Canadians, it is generally considered very uncool by the Québécois, both sovereigntists and federalists, to try to have two identities, depending on your audience.

The fact that the Michel Gauvin/Mike Gauvin is generally associated with politicians involved with shady financial conspiracies (Robert (Guy) Scully was never in politics but in 2000 he had to publicly and shamefully renouce the title of journalist after it was established he was involved in secretly government-financed federalist propaganda on CBC/Radio-Canada) doesn’t exactly help to project the image of name-switchers as stand-up honorable people.

The purity of the roots of these modern-day Januses is not what worries the Québécois.  Gilles Duceppe will repeat to anyone who will listen that his grand-father was British and, yet, it didn’t prevent him from kicking federalist ass in Québec for two decades.  The PQ had a Prime Minister called Pierre-Marc Johnson.  The Curzi’s, Rebello’s, Khadir’s and Kotto’s and McKay’s of the sovereignty movement have no problem being elected despite the fact they can’t hide their non-pure laine-ness.

The problem is not purity.  It’s a little bit about duplicity.  And a lot about just plain silly.

Written by angryfrenchguy

April 26, 2009 at 6:24 pm

131 Responses

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  1. C’est bon.. mon ami

    It was a joke anyways. I will be in touch as I think we would get along very well..

    De ou te i’habitate en montreal.


    May 3, 2009 at 12:43 am

  2. Tu aussi


    May 3, 2009 at 12:45 am

  3. i live on the plateau, it is a lazy choice for me..


    May 3, 2009 at 12:55 am

  4. Its a very nice area.. You are fortunate to “vivre en l’espace du plateau.”

    J’ai le maison en NDG. Il ete bien aussi. J’adore le petit restos et bars sur le rue de monkland.

    A bientot


    May 3, 2009 at 1:03 am

  5. @ABP,

    Just a very small point, but hopefully useful. You said that inflation was a risk; it is not a risk right now. In fact, a little inflation would be good in the US. In march they were in deflation. Deflation has left painful memories in history: Japan was in recession for 10 years because of it, and deflation was present during a good portion of the great depression. It may seems strange to us who lived in a (part of the) world were inflation was the rule, but we are now experiencing an event when printing money may well be the good thing to do.

    deflation in the us:

    in uk too:


    May 3, 2009 at 10:39 am

  6. Inflation brings on higher interest rates usually and this has the effect of stalling economies on the rebound. I don’t think we can take a great amount of roadblocks right now.

    Printing money as the US are doing devaluates the currency with its obvious effects on the partners of the US.

    A good interview was done in the Globe and Mail by madmoiselle Schofield who interviewed Niam Ferguson who is a financial historian from Harvard. I think this fellow has it right in that, at the end of the day, the partners (China, Europe and even Canada) will be worse off than the US.

    He also predicts that the current fiscal crisis will take many years to correct and the fiscal models that current economists are using for predictions are simply not valid in these uncharted waters.

    A good article. I cannot reference it here as I didn’t keep the URL but you could likely find it.


    May 3, 2009 at 6:38 pm

  7. I was just pointing that inflation was very low, indeed negative in some parts of the world (us, uk). Negative inflation (deflation) is very bad for the economy: people with debt end up paying with money that has more value than when they borrow. So they don’t buy. Meanwhile price falls, so there are incitative to buy later. While the interest rate is lower (as it is now), you pay with money that has more value, and your salary is lower, so… the downward spiral may continue for long.
    I agree that inflation is indeed bad (at least when accelerating – not the kind of inflation that we had in the last years, that was merely the reflect of normal growth of the monetary base). But that’s not the situation right now. (In Canada, we are in desinflation – decelerating inflation.)
    Sorry. It’s very offtopic (no link to the James-John debate), so I will not answer more. I will check the interview you recommends.


    May 3, 2009 at 7:25 pm

  8. Don’t want to be mean johnnyonline, but maybe they were just ignoring you deliberately because they thought you were baiting them, or just playing the old Canadian game of hiding the nasty stuff (or poo-pooing it) under the carpet that myself and James were denouncing.


    May 3, 2009 at 9:21 pm

  9. Oops. Last anonymous post by Acajack.


    May 4, 2009 at 7:35 am

  10. yes, that’s a good possibility to consider actually. Perhaps they were following the counsel of another French guy – Pascal, I believe – who said “Ignore the idiot.”


    May 6, 2009 at 7:18 pm

  11. yes acajack – that’s a possibility. more likely that most people don’t know and don’t care to know – but they read something about it once on the interwebs.

    james at 7:18 pm – i’ll ignore the slight and state that your post comes close to being the first reasonable thing you have written here. better late than never.


    May 7, 2009 at 1:15 am

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