It has to do with the stunning difference in the level of generosity between Quebeckers and Canadians as well as the exaggerated difference between Anglophone Quebeckers and Francophone Quebeckers in relation to charitable donations.
The decision to finally embark on this rather sensitive subject was triggered by some recently published statistics, an email from a reader who made some very salient points in regard to the subject, as well as a newspaper article about Cirque de Soleil's Guy Laliberté and his charitable foundation 'One Drop."
Let's start with the numbers. The Fraser Institute recently issued a report which clearly showed a magnitude difference in the level of charity between Quebec and other provinces;
You can download a copy of the report via PDF file here.
As you can see the numbers are pretty depressing, Quebec comes in dead last in terms how much is donated by taxpayers to charity at $609. Compare this to British Columbians who donate an average of $1802, one can sadly surmise that Quebeckers are only one third as generous.
In fact the numbers are even more depressing, with Quebec standing 60th out of the 64 North Americans states and provinces surveyed.
Consider that the Quebec figures don't break down the numbers to Anglophones/Ethnics versus Francophones, otherwise the $609 dollar figure might suffer a precipitous drop.
While evidence that anglo Quebeckers give more than their francophone brethren is hard to come by, one only has to look to the level of generosity towards anglophone institutions to draw fair conclusions.
McGill University's endowment fund, while not quite up to the University of Toronto standards, dwarfs any other institution in Quebec. In fact, it surpasses all the francophones universities in the province COMBINED!
Only 1.3% of Quebec university revenues come from private donations, compared to 2.8% in the ROC. Take McGill out of the equation and I shudder to think what that number would be.
The Jewish General hospital is in a similar situation, benefiting from the Montreal's Jewish community's particular largess, it's foundation dwarfs all other Francophone hospital foundations.
Other Anglo institutions, including the Children's Hospital and the Lakeshore Hospital all benefit from a robust financing campaign that badly overshadows fund raising efforts on the francophone side of the ledger.
A reader MURRAY, sent in a disturbing email;
"To illustrate exactly just how bad things are; This year the 7th annual radiothons of the Montreal Children’s and Ste Justine’s hospitals were held. The MCH radiothon was heard in the greater Montreal area and $1.6 million was raised. The radiothon of the Ste Justine’s was heard throughout Quebec and only $753,000 was raised.With a community over six times the size of the Montreal Children’s, the Ste-Justine’s Foundation raised only 10% more in total than the Montreal Children’s."
The culture of non-giving can be best highlighted by Quebec's francophone ultra rich who have displayed an alarming inability to get their wallets out of their purse or pants......Two years ago I spent four weeks in Laval’s rehab hospital, the largest rehab hospital in the Greater Montreal area. As I looked at the names of the major donors on the wall I noticed that only 2% of the names upon the plaques, were Quebecois."
Those who have made it big in the world seem to have forgotten their roots and any obligation to make the community where they grew up, a better place.
Let's start with self-promoter Luc Plamondon who left Quebec to take up residence in the tax-havens of Ireland and Switzerland, where he conveniently and uncharitably shielded his millions from Revenue Quebec.
He recently objected that Montreal's big charity soirées are decidedly bilingual affairs, an affront to Quebec francophones. Perhaps the blowhard should take heed to what bank robber Willie Sutton said in response to a reporters question as to why he robbed banks;
"because that's where the money is."Yes Mr. Plamondon, these charities depend on the generosity of anglophones because of cheapskates like you!
Next there's billionaire Guy Laliberté whose charity "One Drop" is a decidedly modest affair considering his billionaire status.
Over the last three years it has raised a paltry $40 million of which Mr. Laliberté donated about $17 million himself. Reviewing the 2009 financials, One Drop isn't a very impressive organization, raising just over 3 million from outside sources, while spending over a million to raise the money.
Mr. Laliberté has committed $100 million to the project, but over twenty-five years, a pitiful average of $4 million a year for his signature project, a yearly donation that represents no more than one-third of one percent of his net worth.
As to returning money to his native Quebec?....not so fast...
Alvin Segal family of Montreal who are wealthy, but by no means, in Guy Laliberté territory. Their $24 million donation helped build the Segal Cancer Centre at the Jewish General Hospital and has helped reduce waiting times for cancer patients of all stripes, be they Anglo, Ethnic or Francophone. (80% of patients at the JGH are not Jewish.) This donation is in addition to many other projects that the family supports.
What about Celene Dion? Has she completely forgotten her roots?.
Before I get a deluge of letters, let me say that there are many francophones who do give, with the Lucie and André Chagnon Foundation taking the lead.
The problem of course, is that it isn't enough.
Why are Quebec francophones less generous?
There can be no definitive answer to this question, but certainly it goes to a diminished culture of giving.
It's important to note that 32% of Canadian donations are directed towards religious institutions. Quebec francophone's wholesale rejection of the Catholic Church may explain, in part, why donation numbers are so much lower.
A generation ago, francophones were literally forced by the Catholic Church to donate money, with parish priests visiting homes and extorting money from willing and unwilling congregants. There are few of this generation who don't resent the arm-twisting.
Aside from that, Quebecker's capacity to give is diminished by the elevated tax burden and the inferior family income. This argument however, is weakened when one considers that even Newfoundlanders, poorer than Quebeckers, give more.
Perhaps the real reason for the diminished culture of philanthropy is the effects of the nanny state.
The government has taken over just about all the financial responsibility in regards to raising a family.
Daycare, Medicare, parental leave, pensions, workman's comp, low tuition fees, welfare, unemployment insurance programs all have combined to convince Quebeckers that the government will do it all.
Why not charity?
This attitude is underscored by the reduced personal savings and contributions to RSP and RHESP savings plans demonstrated by francophone Quebeckers as opposed to those in the ROC.
This sense of letting someone else take responsibility goes past charitable contributions. People who depend on others are always less productive and it's no surprise that Quebec also stands just about at the bottom of the North American productivity list.