Canadian Election Coverage: Taking Stock of the Bloc

by Laurence Miall on April 13, 2011Comments Off on Canadian Election Coverage: Taking Stock of the Bloc

You have to hand it to Quebec for being one of the few places in the western world that articulates – and sometimes enforces by law – some vision of itself that goes beyond free markets, property rights, taxation-for-services, and an orgy of consumerism. Exhibit 1: Marriage is a partnership of equals, and so in Quebec, women cannot take their husband’s last name. CANNOT, you hear me. The law prohibits it. Exhibit 2: Quebec thinkers of serious renown have proposed an alternative to multiculturalism. It’s called interculturalism and no lesser an authority than Wikipedia has the lowdown. Summary: interculturalism dares propose that a polity should have a “common civic culture.” If indeed multiculturalism asserts that all cultures and civilizations are of equal value, Quebec would appear to reject that notion. …A thorny proposition in Canada! Especially if your name is Justin Trudeau (my MP since the last election). [Disclaimer: I have serious problems with this National Post editorial about Trudeau but it shows how difficult a ‘multiculturalist’ can make his own political life.]

Anyway, let’s get to the matter at hand: how will Quebeckers vote in the May 2 election? Well, the short answer is – not like any other Canadians, of course!

Graffiti reads "I am a damned separatist"

That most sensible of commentators, Jeffrey Simpson of the Globe and Mail, recently pointed out that the Bloc is set to capture the biggest share of the Quebec vote for the seventh consecutive election. A party that might once have been called an aberration can now be considered an abiding feature of politics in this province.

…the disengagement from federal affairs, or rather the apparent preference of francophone Quebeckers only to demand but never to participate, has become a well-entrenched norm. Jeffrey Simpson.

In keeping with the Bloc’s usual what-can-evil-Ottawa-do-for-us theme, the Champlain Bridge, which connects Montreal and the suburban south shore, has emerged as one of the hottest election issues. Practically everyone agrees (including the Liberals) that the federal government must hand over the approximately billion dollars it would take to replace what is the busiest bridge in Canada. “This bridge can be expected to collapse, partially or altogether, in a significant seismic event,” noted an engineering firm in a recent report.

Champlain Bridge, Montreal. Will it collapse? I'm not about to use it and find out.

Voilà un autre exemple qui démontre que le fédéral refuse d’accorder au Québec et à sa métropole un traitement équitable comparable à ce qu’il accorde aux métropoles des provinces. Here is yet another example that shows that the federal government refuses to give Quebec and its cities the same treatment as that of the cities in the other provinces. Gilles Duceppe.

In Duceppe’s world, it’s as if the rampant corruption scandals in Quebec’s construction sector had never happened. To recap: Quebec’s infrastructure has been in a sorry shapes for decades, largely down to a) proven shoddy workmanship and b) construction companies redirecting money from infrastructure itself and into the pockets of mafiosos instead.

Because of the deplorable state of the infrastructure here, Quebeckers have witnessed two fatal bridge collapses in the last decade – a total body count of seven. Lumps of concrete routinely fall from the Turcot Exchange and various other dilapidated pieces of infrastructure. Two summers ago, a lump of concrete fell from a hotel on rue Peel, smashed through the roof of a restaurant below, immediately killed a woman and sliced off the arm of her dining companion, her husband.

But naturally the Bloc’s not asking who is going to clean up Quebec’s corrupt construction sector. That’s not the kind of question that allows Gilles Duceppe to wag his finger sanctimoniously in the direction of Ottawa.

So as the Bloc cruises to “victory” number seven (and yes, Duceppe does talk about winning elections despite having never presided over a government in his life), it’s pretty much the same story in 2011 here as it was in 2008, 2006, 2004, 2000, 1997, and 1993. Give us our pocket money. Now take your country and shove it!

Update: There was an English-language debate last night that I couldn’t catch due to a night class I’m taking.  By all reports, Duceppe did what he always does at these occasions: said his party was there to defend Quebec’s interests and that the others can’t be trusted to do the same. Not much of a shock from the Bloc.