- While I was in San Diego, a French magazine published a poll run by a noted separatist. The poll basically "found" that Anglophones may be willing to speak French but not are not assimilating as much as they should. Anglophones were found to be less aware of key aspects of French culture and, worse, not big fans of the various laws that enshrine French and marginalize English.
- This has led to a big debate about the expectations placed upon the English folks. While the poll itself was questionable with biased questions, the general finding is probably accurate--Anglophones and Francophones are not the same.
- But are Anglophones Quebeckers? I think if the survey had asked about poutine consumption, about rooting for the Canadiens, and which beers they preferred, they would have found more commonalities than differences.
- Part of this new move to focus on assimilation is a product of the reality that Anglophones (with yours truly as an exception) have become quite bilingual and that most of the language battles were won a long time ago.
- The "crisis" over English usage in Montreal is hardly a crisis, but it makes more sense to focus on this than on the corruption battle.
- More revelations about how deep corruption is in the construction industry/political system. We already knew the generalities, but the specifics are becoming more obvious. With the centralization of this industry, serious penalties are hard because some of the companies are "too big to fail." That is, heaps of projects would stop if the government seriously punished the big companies.
- It took the Montreal Gazette seven years to get the information about Montreal hosting a swimming tournament that cost far more than it brought it. Montreal and Quebec cover everything with secret sauce so that people do not have to be accountable.
- This is not entirely a Quebec thing to be fair, as the Harper government consistently overreacts and tries to control every message. So much so that an effort by a journal to study a recent effort for joint research on improved technology to forecast snowfall met with much difficulty in Canada while in the US NASA was quite willing to talk to the media.
- Anyhow, back to Quebec, because construction is only open to Quebec companies, there is really no pressure to lower costs and every incentive to collude. The Parti Quebecois should be making much about the corruption, but given that they were complicit the last time they were in power and given their ties to unions that are deeply involved, the PQ is better off banging the drums of "oppressed majority" and "endangered French."
- Only rarely has the PQ stood for good public policy--they find it more important to push for independence than to govern well.
- And then there are the students on strike. Which actually is a misnomer since they are boycotting classes, not striking since they are not employees. The students are protesting a tuition increase that would keep Quebec at the cheapest place in North American for a university degree.
- The movement is obviously a mix of folks, but some of the folks involved have more radical aims--posing as anti-capitalists--and allegiances to ... the PQ. The PQ has always been in bed with the student movements--good politics, bad public policy.
- Recently, the conflict has escalated with universities seeking injunctions to get relief and some members of the moment engaging in vandalism and sabotage, closing down the metro system for short periods of time. Way to win friends and influence people! Time is getting critical as many schools have not had classes in weeks, and if they don't start soon, students will lose the entire semester. That means that they will end up facing problems getting/keeping jobs without degrees, that they will finish a semester or two latter, meaning more money spent, etc.
- I am fairly convinced the iron law of oligarchy is at work here: the interests of the organizers and of the students in general are not identical. Part of the problem is that when strike votes are held, not everyone shows up. So, small numbers of voters determine outcomes.
- I have realized that the best thing that happened to McGill was the event of November 10th last fall: the occupation/riot police encounter. It led to a mobilization of moderates who turned out to vote against a boycott. So, McGill's students will graduate on time. Folks have argued because there are more foreigners at McGill or more people who don't have a stake in Quebec. I think the real difference is that McGill simply had a relatively representative decision process, and the majority of McGill students felt that a strike was not in their interests. All my posts about McGill students not understanding the math were wrong. They get it--getting through and getting done is more important than fighting against a tuition increase that actually might be good for their long term interests. Even in the short term, as many are realizing, the costs are pretty high--as in a semester that will be lost. Time is money.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Perfect Storm: Nationalism, Corruption and Entitlement
Ah, spring in Montreal: the protests are blooming, the strikes are enduring, the corruption is blossoming, and the nationalism is need of some mowing.. I have really enjoyed Montreal, but living in this province has been a huge drag. Why? Let's take a quick tour of three very related stories over the past month: a poll about Anglophone assimilation, the tuition wars, and the corruption battle.