It seems like just yesterday that I was writing a regular rant about the state of politics and society for an alt weekly, but I have to admit that it’s been over 15 years. And, unfortunately, the little that has changed since 1996 has changed for the worse.
Jean Charest was a rising young star back then, a kind of Léo Bureau-Blouin with a Krusty the Clown haircut. He was a red Tory, a blue Liberal, a white Quebecer with a mission to conquer Quebec nationalism and set the economy on its rightful course — one where the province’s elite could make money hand over fist.
They included the Beaudoins and Bombardiers, Péladeaus and Quebecors, Desmarais and Power Corporations, the SNC-Lavalins and a cadre of construction companies that knew how to both play the game and translate political donations into power and influence.
They were Quebec, Inc., and they visited each other’s country estates in the Townships or rode each other’s yachts to plan the next steps in their consolidation of power, influence and corruption.
Yes, corruption. As the French love to say, the accusation brings out “les vierges offensées” among the elite, but who can take their protests seriously when Quebec Inc. giants like SNC-Lavalin admit their top officials played key roles in bribing and propping up dictatorships abroad?
Are we supposed to believe they don’t shit in their own backyard?
We’re standing in their shit. We can’t always see it, but we smell it when we discover the cost of city contracts and Transport Quebec contracts dropped by up to 40 per cent when the corruption floodlights were turned on by former Montreal police chief Jacques Duchesneau.
We taste it when we see the insistence of the Quebec government in pushing and subsidizing renewed asbestos mining, paying no mind to international outrage about the dangers of that product to human health. The taste is unmistakable when fracking for shale gas is shoved down our throats despite the significant volume of evidence that warns us we’re opening up a can of whoop-ass full of both known and unknown ecological side effects.
And then there’s Charest’s treasured Plan Nord, a backyard so far removed from most Quebecers that fewer than two per cent of Quebecers live there — a vast store of resources whose value is only truly understood by the mining and energy corporations that are chomping at the bit to exploit them, with Quebec ensuring profits that even the banks might term obscene.
As the race begins and politicians solicit our support, it’s worth remembering that the customary French expression for good luck is “merde.” Rather than wishing the Liberals, the Parti Québécois and the Coalition Avenir Québec merde, let’s insist they stop shovelling it down our throats instead.
The metaphorical ink on this inaugural blog was barely dry when CAQ leader François Legault announced the above-mentioned Duchesneau would be running as their candidate in St-Jérôme. It’s a huge coup for Legault, who also announced that Duchesneau will be his deputy premier if the party wins power.
But if Legault really wants to impress me — and what else really matters in this campaign? — he should promise to create a Ministry of Transparency and name Duchesneau to head it. Forget this token deputy premier crap. Give “Mr. Clean” an office and a budget, then listen for the sound of thousands of scurrying feet as politicians, lobbyists, entrepreneurs and bureaucrats dive for the shadows.
Peter Wheeland is a Montreal journalist and stand-up comic. His satirical observations about the city and province appear at least once a week in this space.
The fleur de lys image from the main page is used under Creative Commons license via Flickr.