Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Election Recap....The Good, the Bad and the Very Ugly.

I cannot help but wonder if anything could have gone much worse for Pauline Marois and the Parti Quebecois, looking for a majority government with the fail-safe backup plan that if they didn't get that majority, they'd be no worse off than before the election, perhaps buying another year or two of minority rule.

But as the old  saying goes,  'Mann tracht und Gott lacht' (It rhymes in Yiddish) or in plain English;
 Man plans and God laughs.....

The campaign was perhaps the most bizarre I can remember, where absolutely nothing went according to plan, and where not one of the so-called pundits came anywhere close to getting the final results right.

Now everything looked bright for the PQ at the onset of the campaign, you couldn't really fault them for triggering an election with a couple of points lead in the polls over the Liberals and the CAQ lagging badly, its best showing in months. If those poll numbers held, it would mean a PQ majority government.
But the wheels fell of the PQ campaign bus soon after Pierre-Karl Péladeau entered the fray, swearing his separatist fervour and telling voters that he'd work to make Quebec independent, something nobody could have predicted would backfire so badly.

Perhaps it would be an interesting exercise for me to engage in a little self-important hubris and not so humbly present to you what I'll call the Editor's Golden  Rules of Campaigning, rules that may seem cynical and perhaps, even counter-intuitive.
Nonetheless, I stand by them and so let's put them to the test;
  1. It isn't what you don't say that gets you in trouble, it's what you do say...so say as little as possible.
  2. Negative is positive..... Find your opponent's weak spot and hammer away, but do it politely.
  3. Don't promise voters anything, they won't believe your lame promises anyways. That is  UNLESS it is a new hockey arena or cement plant for their town. Local issues trump everything, so by all means, promise voters cement plants and hockey arenas, if you can deliver.  
  4. Dress impeccably, always wear a suit and tie (or women's equivalent.) Remember that being overdressed is expected of leaders. Don't don construction helmets or hairnets, lab coats or any other such nonsense during factory visits. (Ask Gilles Duceppe about this rule....)
  5. Never let them see you sweat, never answer a tough question, never ad lib or improvise and never deviate from talking points, no matter how hard it is to do. Don't think too much, just follow the plan.
  6. Don't defend the indefensible. Never compound an error. Admit a mistake and move on.
  7. Don't be wrong on the facts and try not to look foolish. Reporters will destroy you for your mistakes. This is perhaps the hardest rule to follow 
Let's apply these rules to the campaign.

The Fist Pump Fiasco 
Pierre-Karl Péladeau's entry into the fray was supposed to be a big boost for the PQ, everyone assumed that he would have a huge impact on the race and he certainly did, but not in the expected way.

This turning point in the campaign wasn't actually a PQ mistake, it didn't violate any of the above rules because it was supposed to be a key plank in the election, one that was supposed to be a positive momentum shifter in favour of the PQ.
It didn't work out, PKPs awkward fist pump and solemn pledge to work towards sovereignty went over like a lead balloon, but stunned PQ handlers were bowled over by the negative reaction and were clearly unable and unprepared to react.

And then Pauline made the worst mistake of the campaign;
“We could wish to have a seat at the Bank of Canada but we accept the fact it is the bank’s monetary policy that would apply,” 
We’ll still be able to go see the Rockies out West and go to Prince Edward Island and they’ll be able to come here. There won’t be any borders or tolls.”
Do you think that policy was crafted by PQ organizers before the campaign? I'll bet dollars to doughnuts that the exact opposite is true and the policy was to steer clear of such a debate.
So in one fell swoop, Pauline violated four of the above rules and violated them so badly, she and the PQ never recovered;

Rule One 
Why bring to the debate the issue of sovereignty and referendums when the whole campaign was supposed to be based on good government and perhaps the Charter of Values? It was an amateur mistake of saying too much, way too much.
Rule Three
She made unrealistic promises about an independent Quebec that had her looking quite the buffoon.
Rule Five
She went off message, improvised and ad-libbed, made up policy on the fly and completely ignored the polished script prepared for her by organizers. She took and answered questions that she should have deflected and looked ill-at ease in doing so.
There are four constraints in Rule Five, she violated them all.
Rule Six
She compounded PKP's inadvertent error over sovereignty in defending what had become an indefensible position... the possibility of a referendum. Trying to appease everyone by promising a referendum only if Quebecers wanted one, satisfied no one and actually alienated everyone.
Instead of immediately making the decision to forcefully eliminate a referendum possibility, Pauline soldiered on down the path of destruction

Now errors occur in every campaign, they are inevitable. Candidates are bound to make mistakes and say the wrong things at a certain point. Imagine this type of error as standing on the middle rung of a very shaky ladder, you can choose to keep climbing up or choose to stand down.
Only the smartest and most disciplined make the right decision to come down off the ladder, Pauline kept climbing to the top and and like Humpty-Dumpty, had a great fall.

The Anglo Student Fiasco 
The student fiasco occurred when an amateur and desperate campaign tried to seize on facts that were not facts, a clear violation of Rule Number Seven.... Don't be wrong on the facts.

The three Musketeers, including the Justice Minister  all get it embarrassingly wrong over 'dastardly' Ontario students

Holding a news conference to alert voters to an imaginary invasion of hordes of evil anglo students, intent on stealing an election would be a brilliant campaign strategy if it were true, but a disaster if it wasn't true.

It wasn't true.....

And so the Justice Minister Bernard St. Arnaud, who should have known better then to open his mouth without a clear understanding of the facts, demonstrated his rank amateurism and clear desperation.
When the facts surfaced that in fact there was no such invasion, the PQ looked utterly foolish, something that contributed more than one might think, to the public perception that the PQ were not ready for prime time.

The Janette Fiasco
Janette Bertrand was supposed to be an asset who would inspire Quebecers of a certain age and temperament to rush over to the PQ in support of the Charter of Values. Capturing the older conservative demographic was key, because of its propensity of voting Liberal.
The strategy worked well before the campaign actually started, with a seeming groundswell of support for the old-time and popular TV personality speaking for the Charter of Values, inspiring a small movement of activists.

But at a PQ campaign event  featuring a defence of the Charter of ValuesJanette Bertrand made a speech in which she accused rich Muslim McGill students of attempting to take over, a speech which had Liberal opponants howling in laughter and PQ supporters grimacing in pain.
"Imagine, she said, two men come to a swimming pool in a Montreal apartment, and the sight of women in the water upsets them.
“Well, suppose they leave, and go see the owner,” said Bertrand, an 89-year-old former actress and journalist, emphasizing that the owner would be happy to have such “rich” McGill University students in the building.
“Then they ask, ‘Well, can we have a day,’ and they will pay… And then in a few months, it’s them who have all the pool time.”
“That’s what will happen if there is no charter.” Link
As I said before, there's always going to be these 'gaffes' in any campaign but it was the reaction to Bertrand's fantasy story that was telling.

There was Bernard Drainville, standing stoically behind Madame Bertrand during her speech, nodding his head in support, instead of doing the perspicacious thing and grabbing the microphone away or failing that, slink out from the frame, thus perhaps disassociating himself from the fiasco and perhaps saving his own skin. But the stink rolled over him royally and he cemented the public's perception of him as an unrepentant ideologue.

But it was Pauline's impassioned defence of Bertrand's Muslims-in-the-pool missive, that clearly violated Rule Six, which reminds politicians not to defend the indefensible nor compound an error.

[Bertrand] spoke from her heart,” the Premier said. “She spoke of her commitment to a cause that has been close to her heart for 70 years, the equality of men and women.”  -Pauline.

None of the opposition leaders were willing to attack a dotty old lady, but it was that defence of Bertrand that gave opposition parties the ammunition to dump all over Marois and dump they did.

Now consider Jean-François Lisée's reaction, a textbook lesson in how to diffuse a bad situation.
He smiled broadly and told reporters that perhaps Bertrand had 'senior moment' one that we should all perhaps forgive.
My reaction was that this was not the best quote of the campaign, this was not the best argument for the charter.
But the woman is 89, so I’m going to cut her some slack.” 
Brilliant... Who's going to argue with that. Case closed!

Fire the Doctors Fiasco
There's nothing stupider than a throwaway candidate mucking up the works by making some inopportune statements that snowballs right into a fiasco of major proportions.
"Evelyne Abitbol shocked the crowd of scholars at Vanier College’s Charter debate by blurting out that doctors who would not comply in the given time to the Charter’s regulation could get fired – except those that work at the Jewish hospital. Link
The PQ candidate made two grievous mistakes, the first showing up to a debate in an English cegep, an act as stupid as gun control advocate speaking at a NRA convention, especially considering that she hardly spoke English.

But no where in the PQ policy handbook is there a hypothetical provision for firing doctors or nurses who refuse to remove religious headwear, so thank you Ms. Abitbol for wading into shark-infested waters.
Once again Pauline violates Rule Six by defending the indefensible and confounding the error.  In a radio interview over the subject, Marois jumped right into the quicksand, offering this nonsense.
In the laws and regulations that we propose, it is possible to find alternate pathways. And at the end  (transition years), it is possible we can admit or accept that there will be an extension.....We do not foresee and we do not want layoffs, she added. “We believe it is possible to find pathways to steer these people to other jobs that match their skills, because (the charter) does not touch the private sector,” Marois told Montreal radio station 98.5 FM. Link
Really... can that be helpful?

New Tax Breaks
People ask why I was so sure that the Liberals would win a majority government and I tell them it was Pauline's late promise of tax breaks, a move that even the most politically uninformed recognized as a desperate attempt to buy some love.

In fact the move was so nakedly desperate it could only have been precipitated by panic in the PQ ranks, where either internal polling indicated the coming meltdown or where candidates and organizers in the field were putting pressure up above in the face of voter abandonment.

Whatever the case, promising tax breaks is a clear violation of Rule Number Three. Voters aren't cynical, they just don't believe or care about these pie-in-the-sky promises.
Who of you out there believes that even one voter was swayed to change their vote over to the PQ over this lame-ass and patently ridiculous promise?

It's a sad litany of failure that should be compared to the Liberals error-free campaign.
I can hardly think of one Liberal gaffe, because Philippe Couillard kept his mouth shut on the issues and his head down over accusations of past corruption.
His one declaration, a not-so-veiled threat to Marois that if she flung dirt at him over corruption, he'd do the same over Pauline's hubby's alleged corrupt conduct, a threat she apparently took seriously.

Couillard promised almost nothing, but looked confident and handsome doing it. He avoided PQ attacks by doing a wildly successful version of political  rope-a-dope.

And so, Pauline and the PQ delivered an abject lesson in how to lose an election. She isn't alone, both the Alberta and British Columbia elections unfolded exactly the same way, with both the highly-favoured Wildrose party losing in Alberta and the NDP in British Columbia, both running similarly deficient campaigns.

Let's review Couillard's and the Liberal party performance in relation to the above-mentioned rules.

Rule One- Keep you mouth shut..............., CHECK!
Rule Two- Go negative.............................. CHECK! (referendums and sovereignty)
Rule Three- Make no promises.................. CHECK!
Rule Four- Look Handsome...................... CHECK!
Rule Five- Keep to the plan........................CHECK!
Rule Six- Don't defend the indefensible.... CHECK!  (there were no gaffes to defend....amazing!
Rule Seven- Be right on the facts.............. CHECK!  (when you say nothing, it's hard to be wrong!)

Woody Allen once said that 80% of success is just showing up and that's exactly what the Liberals and Couillard did, they just showed up, smiled and did nothing more.
The political lesson to be had....Look smart and  keep your head down and your mouth shut and then hope that the other guys do the opposite.

It happens more often than not..

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Philippe Couillard Needs to Clean House...

There's an old saying that reminds us that a 'new broom sweeps clean, in other words new management starts by making radical changes.

There's a tradition in Quebec, that when the premiership changes, certain very senior civil servants, deputy ministers in particular, are shuffled about in order to place those more loyal to the incoming government in positions of power, while shuffling off those loyal to the previous government, to less  sensitive areas of responsibility.
It isn't cruel or disrespectful and makes infinite good sense. Nobody is humiliated, those who are shuffled off are treated well and given positions  which are respectful to their previous positions.

But it certainly doesn't go far enough, especially in light of the PQ's avalanche of patronage appointments, which has over the last eighteen months seen an obscene amount of PQ loyalists, party hacks and failed candidates placed in too many positions of power.

And so for Philippe Couillard there lies an interesting political opportunity, one where he very well may kill two birds with one stone.

For Couillard and the Liberals, the only dark cloud on the horizon is the ominous threat of damaging revelations in relation to alleged corruption in the Liberal party.
Those revelations, if materialized would certainly sap the energy of the government, as opposition parties whoop it up in mock indignation, aided and abetted by a voracious press eager to trumpet scandal.

And so it would be perspicacious of Couillard to get in front of this possible bad news by becoming the champion of some honest reform, an effort to clean up government in some discernible and meaningful way that the public could appreciate, a definitive sign that Couillard is not Charest and is in fact the leader of a reborn and re-branded Liberal party.

To this end Couillard can demonstrate his resolve by sucking it up, and publicly ending the awarding of partisan patronage jobs, a practice which I have referred to in the past by its British slang...."Jobs for the Boys"

Despite Pauline's noisy claim during the 2012 election campaign that a potential PQ government would be somehow cleaner and more honest than the Liberal predecessor, it was but an empty slogan, a campaign promise like any other, meant to be broken, a Quebec tradition.
Upon her election, Pauline Marois embarked on an obscene orgy of partisan patronage appointments, with the early appointment of ex-PQ leader André Boisclair  to the position of Quebec Delegate-General in New York, most notable.
What got the ire of the then opposition Liberals and the CAQ was that this political 'at will' position was coupled with a job in the civil service at the level comparable to a deputy-minister, complete with job security for life.
When the opposition raised a ruckus, this 'permanence' was withdrawn and Pauline, in an effort to take the heat off, set up a committee to study and recommend the conditions under which these patronage positions should be made.
That report, prepared by a committee lead by André Perrault submitted its recommendations a year later, in December 2013, a report which recommended that these appointments be  made transparently, with greater emphasis placed on competence. Read the report{fr}

But Marois brushed off the report, first saying that she was too busy to read it and then saying that its recommendations were non-binding and simply food for thought and nothing more.
She told reporters that she would probably not implement its findings.
The report noted that about half of the 600 most senior positions in government are the issue of patronage appointments.

And so Philippe Couillard can truly distinguish himself by implementing the report's recommendations, that is to seriously curb political influence in the nomination of senior government employees.

That being said, this new campaign should be accompanied by a serious purge of the most outrageous appointments made by the Marois government over the last eighteen months.
I think a very public humiliation of all those appointees would set the tone of the Couillard government and would have the PQ backed up on their heels immediately, forced to defend the indefensible.

Now those appointed to the civil service cannot be fired, such is job security in Quebec. They've got a job for life, like it or leave it.
But those political hacks appointed to senior deputy minister positions should be sent to a desk to twiddle their thumbs for the rest of their days, à la Louise Marchand the disgraced ex-boss of the OQLF, who was sent packing to a do-nothing job at the SAQ, the liquor monopoly.

All these newly-appointed civil-servants, political hacks and PQ cronies should be demoted moved into dead-end less sensitive positions.

Here is a list of some of the PQ appointment made in the first few months of the Marois government.

Click on the image to enlarge
If you  are adventuresome, you can go through all the patronage appointments made by the government HERE selected by month and year.

At any rate some of these political appointments are not 'for life' as in the Quebec civil service, some for a fixed term, some actually 'at will'

The following is a list of PQ proxies that should be fired immediately by Couillard, paid off whatever is owing and publicly denounced as partisan political hacks installed in their various positions to do the PQs bidding.
Good riddance..

Andre Boisclair
The poster boy of political entitlement.
Boisclair was named Delegate-General to New York, a political position that paid $172k a year, but a job whereby the holder keeps the job at the pleasure of the government (at will.)  In other words, he can be fired anytime.
That didn't suit Boisclair at all, just in case the PQ minority government was tossed from office and the new Premier, not a particular fan. How prescient was that?

And so he negotiated himself a lifetime position in the civil-service, an insurance policy in the event of a PQ defeat at the polls.
It's something that the opposition went ballistic over and when the devious plot to give Boisclair a job for life went viral, Pauline backed down and the PQ withdrew the offer of permanency.
But soon after Boisclair took the job in New York, he came under fire over some scurrilous allegations made by Jacques Duchesneau over Boisclair's cocaine use of the past, With the pressure mounting, he was forced to resign by Marois who promised him a compensatory position.
That job materialized in the form of the head of COMEX, an obscure agency that deals with native issues up north. Even after visiting the website, I cannot say for sure what the organization does, reminding me perhaps of the fictional Department of Administrative Affairs of the British political satire Yes! Minister.

The problem was that the previous president was paid a measly $82K, so the PQ topped up the position's salary by about $100,00...Yup. $100K
To put put the cherry on top, the agency is based in Quebec city but Boisclair was told he could work from his home in Montreal.
Tony Soprano himself would be proud of the epic no-show job!

Nobody deserves to get the chop as badly as Boisclair, no matter what the cost, he is an utter disgrace and insult to taxpayers.
At least if he's fired and collects his salary there will be no pretense that he's contributing to society.

Sylvain Simard
The defeated PQ candidate was handed the presidency of the board of directors of the SAQ, Quebec's liquor monopoly, even though the current president had a year left on his mandate.
The job is mostly honorific, and doesn't pay six figures but the naked partisanship is galling.
The then Minister of Finance Nicolas Marceau,  brazened it out, telling journalists that he was the perfect candidate for the job.

Simard doesn't bring any business experience to the job, before politics he was a 'distinguished' Quebec nationalist writer and literature professor. He has been a PQ politician most of life until his retirement before the 2012 election.
In 1991, he argued that a sovereign Quebec would try to reduce the concentration of immigrant communities in Montreal neighbourhoods.

At any rate, the job calls for Simard to show up to just a handful of board meetings a years, where he can sleep through the proceedings to collect his $30K.
Truth be told, attendance is not even mandatory....
Appointing the 70 year old Simard to the SAQ job is as pure a patronage appointment as they come.

Nicolas Girard
From the CBC;
"Defeated in the recent provincial election, former Parti Québécois MNA Nicolas Girard has landed a plum post at the Agence Métropolitaine de Transport, the agency in charge of transit planning for the Montreal area.
The appointment was confirmed Wednesday at the PQ government's cabinet meeting in Quebec City.
"I have a lot of confidence in Nicolas Girard's abilities," Transport Minister Sylvain Gaudreault said....
...Girard lost his seat in the Montreal riding of Gouin to Québec Solidaire co-spokesperson Françoise David. She defeated him by 4,564 votes in the Sept. 4 election.
Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault denounced the appointment as cronyism.
"Mr. Girard, with all his skills, doesn't have any experience in management. So this is exactly what the Parti Québécois had been denouncing: partisanship over ability," Legault said.
The presidency of the AMT carries a salary of about $170,000 a year, well more than the basic MNA salary of $86,242 plus certain expenses.   Link

Nicolas Girard, a political science graduate, is a PQ lifer, hired right out of university. During his time at the Université de Montréal he was a tireless PQ organizer as well as, what else... a student union leader.

But criticism of Girard over his absence of business experience or knowledge of the train industry is perhaps unfair.
Mr. Girard was an avid train enthusiast as a child, and was even a conductor of his very own H/O train set, immersing himself in all aspects of building and running trains.
He was also an experienced real estate mogul having played countless hours on Monopoly Monopolie, buying and selling hotels and houses successfully!

Conseil du statut de la femme
When the president of Quebec's Conseil du statut de la femme (Council of Status of Women) Julie Miville-Dechêne came out somewhat against the Charter of Values, saying it needed further study before a firm position be adopted by the semi-autonomous agency, Pauline moved quickly to neutralize any potential political damage  that might ensue.
She stacked the odds by naming four new members to the body, all pro-charter.
"The head of the Quebec status-of-women organization accused the government of political interference after it appointed four pro-charter members to the body, the Conseil du statut de la femme.
Julie Miville-Dechene said the nominations came just one week before the organization was to meet to discuss the PQ's plan to forbid the wearing of religious symbols in the public service.
In a statement issued Thursday on government letterhead, Miville-Dechene called it her job to defend the group, which is supposed to be non-partisan and which "has, at its heart, the interests of all Quebecers, regardless of their origin."
She said that, until the latest nominations, half the council's members preferred the idea of conducting some research to evaluate the impact of the charter on women. She all but accused the government of implementing policy on the fly.  Link
The four nominations;
Lucie Martineau is president of the Syndicat de la fonction publique et parapublique du Québec. The day after the Charter was announced, she publicly came out in favour of the law, saying that government employees shouldn't be allowed to wear religious symbols. 

Julie Latour is a lawyer and ex-chairman of the Montreal bar association. In an interview back in 2011 she explained that she flatly rejects the concept of 'open secularism.

Leila Lesbet, is an ardent Muslim Arab feminist, originally from Algeria. She has been a staunch defender of the Charter, making the rounds of the various TV news talk shows, to offer her point of view.

Ann Longchamps is deeply involved with the Association féminine d’éducation et d’action sociale, who publicly took a position in favour of the Charter on behalf of the organization.

The four women changed the balance of power on the ten-women board that runs the CSP. Two positions were vacant and two other women did not have their mandates renewed. Wonder why?

All these women need to be fired, not because they are against the Charter, but rather because they tacitly agreed to be political whores on behalf of the PQ.

It took less than two months for the PQ to install two radical environmentalists to run  the BAPE (Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement,) the agency that holds public inquiries looking into the environmental impact of various energy projects in Quebec.

The PQ fired the president of the agency, deemed too 'Liberal' for the taste of the anti-exploration PQ, even though he had just had his mandate renewed. That firing will cost four and a half years of taxpayer-paid salary.

The PQ then named Pierre Baril as president and as if we hadn't spent enough money, added a new vice-president Louis-Gilles Francoeur.
Both nominations were made by the then PQ environment minister, the very radical Daniel Breton.
The two nominations of liked-minded environmentalists to the agency insures that no new project of impact could ever be judged on the merits.

Both gentlemen need to be shown the door.

As for patronage appointments, it seems that it's all a question of perspective, when in government, the appointments seem fair, while in opposition they are portrayed for what they really are.
In this regard I want to draw attention to the insufferably partisan Bernard Drainville of the PQ;

"Yesterday, the PQ Premier Pauline Marois announced the appointment of erstwhile Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau as chairman of the board of Hydro-Québec. Nothing wrong here, of course. Nakedly political and partisan appointments to Crown corporations are as much a staple in Quebec as anywhere else. It’s a way of thanking well-connected party supporters, currying favour with the powerful, and/or stealthily (or not so stealthily) advancing one’s own political agenda. Call it a winner’s perk, for both the political party and the individual involved. Drainville must approve; he hasn’t uttered a peep about Péladeau’s appointment.
This certainly wasn’t the case two years ago, when Drainville was righteously (and rightly) outraged at the patronage appointment of former Bell Canada CEO Michael Sabia, that other wealthy, well-connected businessman with known ties to the government in power. Here’s the transcript of a video snippet of Drainville’s reaction when Charest appointed Sabia as CEO of the Caisse de dépôt et placement, the provincially controlled public pension plan manager, in March 2009.

The reason we think [Sabia] is disqualified for the job of CEO [of La Caisse], is because of the process by which he was appointed. Michael Sabia was chosen by Jean Charest. There should have been a much more open process where other candidates were examined. In fact, the Caisse de dépot only considered one candidate, and it was Michael Sabia. [...] It was obviously a political decision. The Caisse shouldn’t be politicized, to become an instrument of the Premier of Quebec. It makes no sense.
Drainville’s 2009 musings about Sabia are even more fragrant in retrospect for a couple of other reasons. He scolded Charest for having appointed Sabia in part because Sabia still had business interests in Bell Canada. Drainville went so far as to say Sabia was in “conflict of interest” because Sabia could potentially benefit financially from Caisse decisions. Read the rest of the Story.

Couillard needs to implant a new system for public appointments and that goes all the way to include the 600 or so public tribunal administrators, who today are mostly appointed, not on competence, but connections.
 If you read French, here's an interesting article on the subject Link{fr}

Taking partisanship out of public nominations would be a big step in re-establishing credibility and Lord knows, the Liberals are going to have to work hard in that respect, especially in the face of the ongoing revelations coming out of the Charbonneau Commission and by the actions by UPAC.

Monday, April 14, 2014

PQ To Canada... How's About "Friends with Benefits?"

If there's anything that panics a certain 50% of a couple, it's those infamous and dreaded four words.
"We need to talk..."     Argghhh!!!!!...

Whether it's a girlfriend about to break up with you or you with her, a wife or husband about to unload on a spouse or a boss who invites you into her office for a little 'talk,' it isn't something that the object of such a discussion is keen to engage in, where in fact, some run from the exercise as if it's a communicable disease.  

I think we should start seeing other people.
It' time to move in together...
It's time to finally get married...
It's time we separate...
It's time we talk about money...
It's time you get off your ass and get a job...
It's time to stop drinking or drugging...
It's time to have a baby...
It's time to throw out your Playstation/XBox
It's time to grow up...
It's time you stop seeing that certain friend...
It's time to stand up to your mother...
etc. etc.

Yup, the 'talk' is that frank and uncomfortable conversation that couples have, albeit rarely, because it often leads to a drastic change in a situation.

For the PQ, it's been thirty-five years of promising Quebecers a new order, an elopement of sorts whereby the province flees the safety and comfort of Canada to stake out life in an independent country.
"We gotto leave Canada" has been just about the only conversation ever offered by the PQ on the subject and while the PQ has exhorted Quebecers to leave, they've never once indicated where Quebec will go.
It seems that the PQ never got up the nerve to have that very real 'talk' with Quebecers over the modalities of independence.

Will Quebec get a new currency?
How much will our taxes go up?
Will we maintain our Canadian passport?
Will we have free trade with Canada/United States
What about borders?
What will happen if all the Anglos leave?
Will Canada maintain good relations with us?
Will our geographic borders remain intact?
Will the natives revolt?

No PQ government has ever aborded these touchy subjects, perhaps because the answers, not exactly what the electorate wants to hear.

Sometimes these very serious 'talks' happens by design, but often enough by a dose of dutch courage, or by accident, where circumstances, coupled with frustration or desperation pushes a party to go where they never went before..
Such was Pauline's venture into the 'talk,' an act of frustration precipitated by badgering reporters who hounded her mercilessly after Pierre-Karl Péladeau's infamous fist pump.
And so finally, Pauline opened the real conversation about sovereignty, one that should have happened thirty-five years ago.

Her description of life after Canada wasn't at all what one might have expected from a hardliner, it was more like a couple breaking up but remaining friends with benefits.

Pauline's version of independence had Quebec using Canada's dollar, complete with Queen Elizabeth's picture on the money, a bit of a letdown to the purs et durs, I imagine.
In that monetary union Quebec would ask for a voice on the Bank of Canada, which perhaps might be re-named the Bank of Canada and Quebec, like Newfoundland and Labrador.
In Pauline's world there would be no borders between Canada and Quebec and Quebecers might hardly notice the difference at all, which begs the question as what the point of it all is.

No matter.....

Like the marriage talk to a reluctant boyfriend of many years,  Pauline's 'talk' went over like the proverbial lead balloon.
Quebecers fled in abject terror at the thought because while they liked to talk about sovereignty in a hypothetical way, setting the date, discussing the details made everything too real and faced with the 'talk,' reality set in.

It's bit of a long journey to make my point, which is that I utterly reject the hardliners' contention that sovereignty support sits at about 40%, because it just isn't so.

While perhaps 30%-40% of Quebecers are willing to entertain sovereignty in an abstract and hypothetical way, faced with reality those numbers would collapse.

What did we really learn from the election?
That any discussion of sovereignty by hardliners should be met not by silence, but a shocking dose of reality.

Partition, money, borders, native rights, debt, etc. etc., are all discussions that should be brought to the forefront now, because allowing the thirty-five year fantasy to live on, is unproductive and harmful.

Quebec has sunk from one of the richest to one of the poorest provinces in Canada, all because of the sovereignty fantasy.
It's time for Canada to stop enabling separatist fantasies by spelling out what Canada's version of sovereignty would be.
I don't think it would include continued equalization payments, a common currency or a common anything for that matter and certainly not any part of friends with benefits.

If the PQ wants to soldier on as a separatist party, Quebecers should understand the truth, that the PQ's end game is a recipe for disaster, complete with René Levesque dollars and decidedly hard borders in a territorially emasculated Quebec.

Sound like something you might like?... That's the real question those flirting with sovereignty must ponder.
40% support...I think not.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Let's Hope that Pierre-Karl Péladeau becomes leader of PQ

Vive le Quebec!.. Vivre le Quebec, LIBRE!
The prevailing view being peddled by stunned sovereigntist hardliners is that Quebecers rejected the PQ out of abject fear, panicked at even the remotest possibility of another referendum or in fact the remotest possibility of sovereignty itself.

For these faint-of-hearts, Pierre-Karl Péladeau's, (PKP) famous fist pump, made the likelihood of a referendum all too real and triggered many panicked francophone voters to abandon the PQ for the safety of the Liberal party, or so the narrative goes.

It reminds me of an episode of The Big Bang Theory where the lovable gang of scientific nerds goes to a bully's apartment to collect on a debt. When the doorbell is rung and the bully opens the door, three of the four turn tail and run away, leaving poor Leonard to face the music alone..... Ha! Ha!

That's what the hardline separatists would have us believe of the francophone voters who ran away from the PQ in the face of another referendum.  Fear.
But I'm not buying, not for a moment.

Now readers, if there's one food I can't stand, it's radishes. I don't like them, don't buy them, don't serve them and won't abide by them.
I am reminded of President Bush senior, who hated broccoli and wouldn't serve it in the White House.
That being said, I can assure you of one thing, I'm not afraid of radishes and I don't think President Bush is afraid of broccoli.

The fact that many francophones abandoned the PQ over the possibility of a referendum or sovereignty isn't because they are afraid.....

It's easy to brand someone a fraidy-cat just because that person thinks that jumping off a cliff with a bungee cord isn't a particularly good idea.
While the hardliners brand the reservation as 'fear,' I call it 'abundant good sense.'
Some people drink coffee, some tea. Would you brand those who prefer tea as 'fearful' of coffee?
Utter rubbish..
Reading the pundits in the separatist press, I understand the reason for this 'fear' theme.
The alternative explanation, that most francophones have evolved to reject sovereignty on its merits (or lack thereof), is just too devastating and difficult to accept.
Throughout the pages of Le Journal de Montreal, the theme of 'fear' is being peddled by columnist after columnist, politician after politician;

In an articled entitled 'A confused people' Mario Dumont describes Quebec Francophones as both 'confused' and 'afraid'....
"Is this normal? It's weird and  it underlines how shallow-rooted are our beliefs. I feel some voted out of fear." Link{fr}

"He (Drainville) acknowledged that the support for the Charter in the population wasn't converted into votes. "It should be noted that the fear of the referendum was stronger," he analyzed. Link{fr}

Mathieu Bock-Côté devoted an entire column to the 'fear' theme.
"Quebecers, for now, and perhaps for awhile, do not want to engage in sovereignty and in many cases, something they simply refuse to consider outright. Most of this analysis then, is meant to decipher this fear. What is it  about? What are its fundamental elements and what are its deepest determinants?... the struggle for sovereignty remains relevant and in the medium term, the strategy should be to confront this attitude and convert it to hope. In other words, the electorate can be convinced of a project that does not yet endorse .  Link{fr}

Clearly, hardliners are trying to convince themselves and others that if they can just convince Quebecers to get over their fear, sovereignty can once again be on track, just like convincing a reluctant bungee jumper, standing white-knuckled and frozen at the gate, to take the plunge!...Good luck with that.

And so I'd like to see the PQ taken over by this group of delusionals, led by Pierre-Karl Peledeau, and seconded by Bernard Drainville and other dreamers who cannot see that the sovereignty parade has passed Quebec by.
Let them them embrace the fantasy that its only a question of allaying Quebecers' 'fear' of sovereignty that delays the inevitable rendezvous with destiny.
Here's is that fantasy enunciated in all its glory by Mathieu Bock-Côté;
"One lesson is clear: soft-pedaling sovereignty is a losing strategy. The PQ will never convince Quebecers to embrace independence if they continue to hide their option. .. LINK{FR}

So the problem wasn't that there was too much discussion of sovereignty, referendums and independence during the election campaign, but too little!

A Parti Québecois, loyal and committed to 'Article 1' of its constitution, the commitment to sovereignty as the number one priority, is doomed to obscurity, reliving past glory, but no longer relevant.
Under such conditions, the PQ will pass into obscurity and fall by the wayside, like the Union Nationale, or the Créditistes, before it.
Let's hope the party finds a leader who will lead the PQ down this garden path, because there is a more disagreeable possibility.

It isn't impossible that the PQ can give up on 'Article 1' and evolve into a nationalistic party, one without the separatist option.

You heard it here first.
Jean-François Lisée, the erstwhile separatist and political opportunist is doing exactly that.
He is moving to lead the PQ away from the sovereignty agenda. In a long blog piece, Lisée is making the case gently. He may not be the only one in the PQ to understand the reality, but he is the first to  hint at a PQ without sovereignty.
"The combination of PQ + PKP gave the sovereigntist option a new credibility. However, this credibility awoke in nearly half a million French-speaking Quebecers a strong aversion to relive the referendum adventure, ..."
....But the elephant in the room is now clearly visible: a significant part of the French electorate is, in the foreseeable future, resistant to the referendum option. Resistant to the point of plunging Quebec back in the arms of the Liberals rather than to consider the option of country. "  Link{fr}
So Lisée is setting himself up as the alternative leader to those who will push hard for sovereignty, like Drainville and PKP.
He appears to be setting a course for a grand 'virage,' the PQ without a sovereignty option.

The word 'Autonomy' is starting to circulate as a replacement for the toxic 'sovereignty.'
Autonomy is a muddy concept where Quebec would pursue more power from Ottawa, but without any threat of separation.

The game's afoot, a hard line sovereigntist PQ with PKP or a social-democratic PQ with strong nationalism replacing sovereignty with Lisée.

I'm pulling for PKP to destroy the PQ once and for all.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Post-Election ...Winners and Losers

YGRECK's political cartoon, best of the year so far....
As you can imagine, there are some very obvious winners and losers emerging from this week's Quebec general election, Pauline Marois and Philippe Couillard in particular.
But let's go through a much wider list as well and take a look at who and what institutions took a hit and who and what institutions lucked out rather providentially.

Pauline Marois- Loser
YGRECK's brilliant cartoon says it all, a battered and bruised Pauline Marois joins the club of ex-separatist leaders, known sarcastically in Quebec as the 'Mother-in-Laws' for their rather obnoxious penchant for meddling and undercutting the current PQ leader, whomever she or he may be at the time.
What can I say that hasn't been said ad naseum about Pauline's self-inflicted downfall, but the pain of her deeply personal and humiliating political demise is being unfairly piled upon by the nasty PQ elite who have scapegoated her for the election debacle.
It's a longtime PQ tradition of exiling leaders in the most humiliating and demeaning fashion and Pauline hadn't even announced her resignation as party leader before the trio of jackals, Drainville, Lisée and Péladeau, were politicking on stage to replace her.

Make no mistake, Pauline just loved being Premier and it wasn't her idea to hold an election, she could have easily held on for at least another year, year and a half.
For Marois the ordeal is over, for Blanchet, perhaps it's just starting
She was pushed into the election by caucus hardliners and PQ strategists and has paid the price for their error in judgment.
But somehow, I feel no sympathy.

Claude Blanchet- Loser
Pauline's hubby has a reputation for being 'litigious', as the lawyers like to politely describe someone who sues at the drop of a hat.
Blanchet has sued and threatened lawsuits over these last years in an attempt to keep discussion of his alleged checkered business affairs out of the press.
He has sued the Montreal Gazette over a story about his amazing feat of building his chateau on agricultural land through alleged deception and chicanery. More recently, he threatened a lawsuit against vigile.net, the independent sovereigntist website.
Ex-PQ cabinet minister Richard Le Hir, who after the death of the founder took over as chief editor, penned two articles recently, warning that Blanchet's baggage would come back to bite the PQ come election time.
Blanchet was having none of that and true to form, sicced his lawyers on the website, demanding that the stories be removed. Vigile.net, already in the midst of an expensive slapp suit, just could not afford to contest another costly legal battle thus acquiesced to the bully and removed the articles.
I'm no fan of vigile.net, but am sympathetic to their situation, it is clearly a case of a rich person using their wealth and the threat of expensive litigation as a weapon instead of a remedy.

At any rate, there's only so much water you can bail out of a sinking boat when the water is rushing in from multiple breeches. Blanchet has recently taken a serious body blow from testimony given at the Charbonneau Commission over the infamous 'deal or no deal' affair where it was alleged by a witness that in exchange for a loan, Blanchet promised to lobby his wife Pauline, the then opposition leader, on behalf of the FTQ, Quebec largest and most powerful union.
For Blanchet, there's no suing or otherwise intimidating the Charbonneau Commission or its witnesses into silence, that strategy is out the window and so his reputation is clearly up for public examination.

Montreal's La Presse newspaper landed perhaps the lowest blow of all,  an attack piece some might argue was politically motivated. The newspaper is the property of the Demarais clan, avowed federalists and sworn enemy of the sovereignty movement.
In the final week of the election, the paper featured a story, a two page spread that described how Blanchet might have illegally accepted contributions for Pauline's successful leadership bid for the PQ.
The story was based on a sworn statement from a contributor who admitted to illegally employing a ruse to circumvent political contribution limits and giving the money to Blanchet in his hand in what he described as a quid pro quo for political access.
For Blanchet, there's no suing La Presse either, it seems that the newspaper is committed to defending the story, the very fact that they published it in the heat of the election, a clear message that the newspaper was ready, willing and able to defend itself.

How this all turns out for Blanchet remains to be seen. Because of Pauline's demise and resignation, it's possible that the media will pass on further attacks on Blanchet, but if I had to bet money, I'd say that the story is just too tempting and the oily Blanchet, just too juicy a target to pass up. 

No doubt at all, Pauline Marois and Claude Blanchet are indeed 'The Biggest Losers'

Philippe Couillard- Winner
The Right Stuff...Throwing mud while appearing innocent.
Okay, you don't need me to state the obvious, but I'd like to point out that Couillard deserves as much credit for the Liberal victory as did Pauline for the PQ's election loss.
Politicians across Canada should take note about how to run a disciplined and focused campaign. Political handlers I've talked to are all gushing at the incredible and masterful campaign, proving that election campaigns can be won on strategy, with form over substance, a valid and successful strategy.
Couillard focused not on promises, but cleverly shone the spotlight on the PQ's weak spot, sovereignty and the possibility of another referendum, an anathema to the majority of all Quebec voters.
He hammered away on the theme, sticking to the script while remaining calm and statesmanlike.

The one thing that the media seized upon as a gaffe was no error at all.
In a debate with the other leaders, Couillard mentioned that bilingualism was important, even for factory workers and the PQ and separatist media went ballistic, believing that he made a major misstep, promoting the bogeyman of rampant bilingualism.
But over two-thirds of francophones are actually in favour of the Charest promise to install an English immersion course for all francophone students in grade six, where a semester would be taught almost entirely in English.
While the PQ and the separatist media howled, the issue lasted a news cycle or two and died because there was no traction.

While Pauline and the PQ made one unpopular and ridiculous promise or policy pronouncement after the other, Couillard displayed a self-disciplined reserve and sang-froid, not seen in a Canadian politician in a generation, saying and offering nothing, when saying and offering was the right thing to do. Steady as she goes!
Couillard wisely surrendered the spotlight to the embarrassingly inept Pauline, who twirled around the political dance floor like a left-footed klutz.

By accident or design, Couillard gave politicians across this country a lesson in electioneering, a reminder that going negative against an opponent is always the best strategy, especially when you can pull it off without seeming like a bastard or opportunist.

Stephen Harper - Loser
While the press widely touted the PQ defeat as a victory for federalism, not all parties and leaders in Ottawa share equally in the good fortune.
For the Conservatives and Stephen Harper a PQ victory, whether minority or majority would have without a doubt assured a Conservative victory in the next federal general election as Canadians in the ROC sought out the biggest SOB to defend their interests against the enemy PQ separatist government in Quebec. And we all know that who that SOB of choice is.
Hands down Harper loses the most with the PQ defeat.

Justin Trudeau- Winner
The touchy-feely federal Liberal leader is the politician who is by far, the biggest winner in all this. His anti-separatist stance and multicultural values message has won the day and those Canadians and Quebecers who see a vital and renewed role for Quebec in a united Canada will see Justin and the Liberals as the leader and party which most-closely represents their values.

Thomas Mulcair- Loser
The NDP and Thomas Mulcair have everything to lose in the Quebec sweepstakes because they have the most seats in the province.
The status quo was working quite nicely for them and thus, a Liberal victory can impact upon them much harder than the Conservatives, who have but a handful of MPs. The Liberal victory provincially cannot but help the federal Liberals as well, all to the detriment of Mulcair and the NDP.

Denis Coderre- Winner
Montreal's newly elected mayor got major props in the federalist camp by openly siding with the Liberals in the provincial election. Coderre threatened to sue on behalf of its citizens in opposition to the PQ's proposed Charter of Values, a body blow that the PQ had difficulty absorbing. Usually mayors stay neutral in an effort not to poison the well, just in case they choose the wrong side, but Coderre was unequivocal in his hostility towards the Parti Quebecois and with good reason.
Whatever platitudes the PQ mouthed in public, federalist Montreal has always been a sworn enemy of any PQ government and always paid the price for its Federalist/Anglo/Ethnic/Bilingual status.
A big sigh of relief for Coderre who can now rightfully expect to enjoy the spoils of victory.

Ousted PQ cabinet ministers - Losers
There's only one thing worse than being voted out of office as a cabinet minister, that's being voted out and having your party fall into opposition.
It means that there's no patronage job coming your way to ease the pain as is the norm in our 'jobs for the boys' political heritage.
You might remember that when the PQ won the election eighteen moths ago, the first order of business was to find jobs for the faithful, including the most famous, Nicolas Girard, a PQ stalwart defeat by Françoise David who was named president of the AMT, a government commuter rail agency with nary a drop of experience in the industry.

Some of the defeated PQ ministers will land on their feet, the defeated health minister Réjean Hébert, can go back to being a doctor, (I'm sure he'll have no problem getting a PREM) but after the defeat, he admitted being extremely distraught.
The ousted Minister of Justice Bernard St. Arnaud, can return to his law practice, but it's a huge comedown, the limousines and the power hard to give up after such a short stint.
For ex-Radio-Canada reporter, outgoing higher education minister Pierre Duchesne, there's probably no soft landing, not unless PKP gives him a job in his media empire.
Yves-François Blanchet defeated minister of durable something or other, hasn't got much to fall back on either, he comes from the arts community and has flitted from job  to job before being elected. It's another hard fall.
For all of the defeated ministers, the Humpty-Dumpty fall means that that it's downhill from here.

Defeated Liberal candidates - Winners
Two days after the election , Philippe Couillard gathered his elected caucus in Quebec city, INCLUDING those Liberal candidates defeated in the election, a clear sign that he recognizes their contributions.
Say it with me readers...... 'Coming up... JOB FOR THE BOYS!'

Jewish General and Montreal General Hospitals - Winners
These two hospitals were on the PQ hit list, a determined effort to cut down their influence and power.
The defeated Health minister was bent on taking apart the fine oncology departments by shifting money from these cancer centres to hospitals in the 450 region.
So real was the threat, that junior oncologists and radiation oncologists in those two hospitals were sending out C/Vs, in the eventually that their jobs were made redundant.

Both hospitals would have also been devastated by strict enforcement of the Charter of Values, the workforce in both institutions decidedly representative of the Montreal reality.
That fact was actually considered a 'plus' by PQ hardliners.

McGill University & English cegeps - Winners
If there's any one public institution that sovereigntist hardliners detest, it is McGill University. The very idea that Quebec's finest university is English, galling to the nth degree. Defeated higher education minister Pierre Duchesne was working on a plan that would give additional money to universities that took in affirmative action students...in other words, more dummies, decidedly not McGill's style.
As for the English cegeps, the PQ plan to apply Bill 101 to the selection of students would bar enrolment to Franco and Allos, a disastrous situation not for the Anglos, but for the others. The English cegeps are the only schools in the entire network that has daunting entrance requirements, all predicated on demand. 

Gaspé region- Loser
Backing the wrong horse by voting in a PQ MNA may prove costly for the region.
While Couillard is not known as a vengeful fellow, he won't bend over backwards to shovel buckets of money to a bunch of ingrates and he'll have the backing of most Quebecers in dealing a dish of humble pie to those in the peninsula who have sucked off taxpayers generosity for generations.

Îles-de-la-Madeleine- Winner
Watch out for the reality of politics whereby backing the winning horse by voting in a Liberal MNA pays off big time for this island of three-month a year fishermen.

They may not be more hard working then the indolents in the Gaspé, but they are certainly more politically attuned, dumping the incumbent PQ MNA for the winning team.

Les 'Janettes' Losers
This ad hoc group of women from the artistic community was put together by PKP's ex, Julie Snyder, who was inspired by Janette Bertrand's impassioned defence of the Charter of Values.
The Janettes  became a force in the Charter drive till the fateful day when the leader opened her mouth and complained about fictional rich Muslim students from McGill university, taking over her building's swimming pool, like a barbarian horde.
POOF! That was it.

The women who supported the original letter published in the media, all added 'Janette' as their adopted middle name in honour of their leader, something that I'm sure they are cringing about right now

So let me remind them all of their folly, and put it out there for posterity...

  • Janette Bertrand, author, actress, TV personality
  • Abla "Janette" Farhoud, feminist writer
  • Brigitte "Janette" Poupart, stage directer
  • Chantal "Janette" Renaud, scriptwriter
  • Denise "Janette" Filiatrault, actress, Stage directer
  • Denise "Janette" Robert, directer
  • Djemila "Janette"Benhabib, writer
  • Édith "Janette" Cochrane, actress
  • Evelyne "Janette" Rompré, actress
  • Isabelle"Janette" Le Pain, teacher, author
  • Joëlle "Janette"' Morin, actress/activist
  • Julie "Janette"  Snyder, (Leader of the pack) TV host and producer
  • Louise "Janette"' Mailloux, professor of philosophy
  • Marie-Anne "Janette" Alepin, actress and producer
  • Michelle "Janette" Blanc, author and speaker
  • Naïma  "Janette"Lamghoupi
  • Rakia "Janette" Fourati, Secular rights activist
  • Rivkah "Janette"  Katz, studant
  • Stéphanie "Janette" Crête-Blais, actress
  • Valérie "Janette" Vennes, social worker

Elections Quebec- Loser

Now readers, I've deliberately left out many other  WINNERS and LOSERS, hoping that you'll contribute in the comments section.
So get to work and nominate some of your favourites!....
See you in the comments section..