2012 newsmakers in a nutshell

To say 2012 was a busy year would be an understatement. Here are the biggest Montreal and Quebec newsmakers of the past 366 days.

To say that 2012 was a busy year would be a massive understatement. Montreal’s journalists couldn’t catch a break, between Lin Jun’s gruesome murder, the prolonged life of the student strike, a provincial election held under duress and the election night shooting, the explosive Charbonneau Commission, the collapse of City Hall, reignited language wars and la fameuse Agent 728 of the Montreal police.

It certainly felt like the world was barreling toward ultimate implosion, but here we are, facing 2013 and likely another year of municipal madness.

Jacques Lafrance’s testimony on 50 years’ worth of corruption and collusion in Quebec’s construction industry kicked off the Charbonneau Commission on June 8, 2012. A week later, Jacques Duchesneau took the stand and became the province’s (and eventually the Coalition Avenir Québec’s) whistleblowing darling. Since then, the hits have kept on coming, revealing a political system teeming with corruption that starts at Montreal City Hall and radiates outwards. The Commission has until Oct. 19, 2013 to submit a final report that will, ambitious though this may seem, summarize the contracting practices of every organization the provincial government touches.

So what will we see between now and that fateful October day? If the past few months are any indication, we’ll at the very least add to the litany of leaders leaving office, which so far has included the mayors of Mascouche, Laval and Montreal — you know, Gérald Tremblay, whose resignation made way for the Michael Applebaum, the politico of anglo and Hebraic persuasions who now runs shit in City Hall and who gave us perhaps the best hashtag of the year: #AngloJewMayor.

But, provincially, that’s neither here nor there. The breadth and scope of the public inquiry, along with Quebecers’ general dissatisfaction with disgraced former premier Jean Charest’s handling of the student strike, led to a Labour Day election that saw him unseated by minority winner Pauline Marois. The PQ leader predictably canned the proposed tuition increase that led to her election, and Quebec’s CEGEP and university students returned to class.

Not that that return came easily. For months, the province’s students, under the banners of groups like CLASSE, FEUQ and FECQ — and, of course, their media-darling leaders, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, Léo Bureau-Blouin and Martine Desjardins among them — took to the streets nightly in protest of the proposed tuition increase, which would have seen fees rise $325 a year over a five-year period. Amid the vitriol, police confrontations and semi-nude manifs were the two emblems of the movement popularly known as the Printemps érable: the ubiquitous red square and the clanging casserole — that is, the pots and pans that people in your ‘hood were likely banging at 8 p.m. each day.

But the casserole is to our protests as the Olé, Olé, Olé chant is to our hockey games: a cultural import. Though the pots-and-pans tactic originated in Chile in the ‘70s, it gained traction here, even among those not swayed by the students, after the government introduced Bill 78, a law created to curb the popular marches. Many took to the streets in solidarity with the students.

Similarly, even as turnout for the protests waned (and then rebounded), the red square — the symbol of our discontent — grew in prominence. Back in May, at the height of #ggi, members of Arcade Fire wore the oh-so-meaningful piece of felt during an SNL performance. And, also that month, it made an appearance on filmmaker Xavier Dolan’s gear at Cannes.

In more edible news, the food truck movement that’s been steadily gaining ground since Grumman ‘78 started rolling a couple years ago has forced the city to look into re-evaluating its rules concerning mobile food. That, along with a public consultation on urban agriculture also set to wrap up in the new year, means that 2013 may shape up to be Montreal’s most delicious year yet.

And, food aside, certainly among its most politically charged. After all, because Tremblay stepped down with under a year left in his term, the aforementioned #AngloJewMayor’s time in office runs out November, which means an actual municipal election will happen. Will we elect a food truck-favouring candidate? An anti-corruption crusader? Hell, when the Charbonneau Commission concludes, will there even be anyone left to run? 

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