The Shotgun Blog
Monday, October 04, 2010
Yes, It is Corrupt
Why are they so afraid of admitting it?
MPs took the unprecedented step Wednesday night of unanimously denouncing articles published by the country’s national news magazine, Maclean’s.
But the suggestion that all of Quebec was the “most corrupt province” was too much, apparently, for MPs from all parties, who unanimously supported the motion from Bloc Quebecois MP Pierre Paquette “that this House, while recognizing the importance of vigorous debate on subjects of public interest, expresses its profound sadness at the prejudice displayed and the stereotypes employed by Maclean’s Magazine to denigrate the Quebec nation, its history and its institutions.”
In the long, long history of Anglo appeasement of Quebec, this is a new and pathetic low. The Maclean's article is factually correct (the cover image is simply beautiful). Its discussion of the rampant culture of corruption in La Belle Province is a straight forward statement of what observers of the province's politics, the honest and attentive anyway, already well understood. Corruption and politics are siblings, but whereas in most of the Dominion the former is kept to a dull roar, in Quebec it's modus operandi. Sure, overpasses collapse all over the western world, but not quite in the same way, or for the same reasons as in Quebec. Sure, politicians make inappropriate phone calls, but so many and in so brazen a manner? Of course large sums of money vanish, but $100 million and in only one province?
Nor is all this a recent phenomenon. The Maclean's article mentions in passing the Pacific Scandal (which originated in Quebec) and Quebec Premier Maurice Duplessis' legendarily corrupt administration. Further back there was that vast engine of patronage, the Montreal based Grand Trunk Railroad. On the cusp of the Depression Mackenzie King, the Great Equivocator, was "humiliated" in the wake of Beauharnois Scandal. Though this did not prevent King from returning to power with a majority government in 1935. Then there was the Munsinger Affair, Canada's only certified sex scandal, which involved one of Dief's Quebec ministers. The province's culture of corruption and moral ambivalence, clearly, predates the Quiet Revolution's massive expansion in the scope and scale of government. It's in the air.
Take your pick of explanations for all this brown envelope shuffling; the Federalist-Separatist divide which poisons and distorts provincial politics; all that wonderful equalization funny money (Merci Alberta et Ontario!) slushing around; something in the poutine. My own favourite theory revolves around culture. As more than a few Quebecois will admit, privately, they tend to have a liberal understanding of the rule of law.
This isn't entirely a bad thing. The only thing worse than a bad law, is a bad law rigorously enforced. If not for Quebec, the whole of Canada might have joined the disaster of alcohol Prohibition. The ROC might have been puritanical prigs about many things, but the Quebecois understood that the perfect should never become the enemy of the good, or a good time. While such a lax attitude is useful in skirting bad laws, it can be disastrous in failing to enforce good ones. A culture of corruption isn't selective. It tends to corrupt everything. Maclean's did its job in exposing the dark side of Quebec politics. The cowards who inhabit our House of Commons failed in their duty, the first of which is to leave the press alone.
Posted by Richard Anderson on October 4, 2010 | Permalink
It seems to me that Alberta is the most corrupt province:
Posted by: Anon | 2010-10-04 4:53:42 AM
The fear of offending is the same reason that Parliament refuses to do away with those Human Rights kangaroo commissions.
Posted by: StanleyR | 2010-10-04 5:43:07 AM
Sounds like a light week in Montreal municipal politics.
Posted by: Publius | 2010-10-04 6:07:16 AM
Another shame that 'our' Conservative party joined in on. Not only is Maclean's exercizing free speech, but they happened to touch on an issue that is all but common knowledge to any Canadian.
- - you think 'Anon' likes Calgarygrit? or perhaps IS Calgarygrit?
Posted by: Leigh Patrick Sullivan | 2010-10-04 6:54:24 AM
This isn't surprising; Quebec remains firmly trapped in the 1960s, and likely will until the next "revolution" comes to pass, whether that takes a decade or a century. Corruption was endemic in many parts of North America in the 1960s, as famously exposed by Frank Serpico in the NYPD. Of course it still goes on today, but on a reduced scale, not because people have gotten any purer, but because it's gotten harder to get away with, except in those places where the public actually approves.
Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-10-04 8:27:40 AM
The big story is not that Quebec is corrupt; Quebecers acknowledge their Province is corrupt. The big stink in Quebec is that non Quebecers are saying it.
Like a journalist explained, a woman can tell her husband he is fat or lazy, but let a neighbour say the same, and the woman will defend her husband.
Posted by: Nothing New Under the Sun | 2010-10-04 10:06:06 AM
So stating a documented fact is considered prejudice, who would have thought? Corruption like an illness must first be diagnosed in order to be treated. I shall pass on the myth of the "Quebec nation" which is utter nonsense.
What is unacceptable is to see MPs from all parties behaving like a bunch of whores, or should I say like the political whores they are. Of course when one is unable to refute the fact stated in Maclean's, all that remains is to claim offended feelings. Gee, now where have we seen that act before?
Posted by: Alain | 2010-10-04 11:08:43 AM
As expats, we follow the decline of Canada with a blend of grief and disbelief. This latest pandering to a disloyal province by our country's parliament is indeed a new low.
We have our own blog out here in South East Asia, called Ross's Right Angle, and we'll do a story on this, mark my words!
Posted by: Connie | 2010-10-04 11:09:21 AM
The MP's are doing exactly what they think they need to do to stay in office. This is something they will do almost 100% of the time.
Posted by: TM | 2010-10-04 12:21:09 PM
McLeans tells the truth and is vilified for it.
This world is truly upside down.
Posted by: Momar | 2010-10-05 5:45:25 PM
The Maclean's article highlighted for me the utter failure of federalist politicians in Quebec. For all the trainloads of loot shoveled into that province for over a generation, what have they got to show for it? Today, both federalist parties are essentially stymied by the dominance of the Bloc.
It doesn't take a degree in rocket science to understand why. The Bloc promotes a fairly simple, tangible goal: Quebec independence. All their policies are guided by reference to that goal. And should attempts at independence founder, as they have, they have the perfect fallback position: hold the rest of Canada ransom by virtue of its electoral framework. It's win-win for the Bloc.
The federalists, as far as I can tell, have never had anything to offer in reply but vague bromides and pathetically ineffective slogans such as "Je tend le main du Quebec". Is it any wonder that the average Quebec voter feels disinterested in the federalist cause?
Woe betide any federal politician who tries to woo Quebec voters with a promise of fiscal restraint. We can see how that worked out for Stephen Harper in the last election. This time, he seems to have hit on a more tangible goal, and who knows, maybe it will work: build an arena with federal money in Quebec City. If baseless platitudes won't attract political support, maybe naked, unabashed vote-buying will. Why not? It seems to lend credence to the thesis promoted by Maclean's.
Posted by: Dennis | 2010-10-07 5:01:06 PM
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Posted by: clovis simard | 2011-01-22 12:37:35 PM
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