Saturday, June 2, 2012

Quick Hits and Runs on Quebec Protest Stuff

Another depressing morning reading coverage of the Quebec protests and what they portend for the future of the province (have I mentioned how thrilled I am to be moving in 25 days?  Oh, I have?  Never mind). 

Let me just address a few stories and reactions:
  • There is an interesting piece in the Globe and Mail about some entrepreneurial folks who have been translating the French press into English since there seemed to be such a divide in coverage and perceptions.  There are a few problems with this.  First, there are Anglophones who have been supporting the students.  Just check out the past couple of days of pieces in the Montreal Gazette written by McGill profs.  Second, maybe the problem is with the French media?  Given that public opinion is not pro-student and is especially not pro-student outside of Montreal, perhaps it is not the English media that have a bad grasp of what is going on but the French media.  Of course, there are language politics in play, as ably analyzed by Jacob Levy, but not all of the French folks love the status quo.
  • Past QC protests gave us the current generation of leaders. which explains much.  If this is true, then the future of Quebec is mighty dark indeed.  These student protest leaders have little control over their groups, their groups have dubious legitimacy given how voters were conducted and given how the overwhelming majority of students are not represented by these groups.  Oh, and the leaders' positions on injunctions raises questions about their democratic credentials if democracy has anything to do with the rule of law.  Yes, I sound like a reactionary, but when Your Rights are more important than my rights because you feel yours intensely, well, that is not good for me or actually even for you.  
  • As I remarked the other day, this impasse is entirely understandable given the politics of the situation.
  • There is an interesting question raised and addressed today: why this battle?  why now?  Charest has often surrendered quite quickly and easily to smaller protests.  Perhaps he read the public well and the students poorly?  That is, the public was/is not willing to pay higher taxes for low tuition, but he misread the staying power of the students.  I am reluctant to draw big lessons from all of this because the protestors themselves are hardly a unified entity.  People are seeing in this effort what they want to see.  If this was a great awakening, then wouldn't the protests continue if the government froze tuition for a few years?  No, the students will go back home, having won their narrow objective even as little progress would have been made on really making the government accountable.  Of course, I could be reading too much in to this.  Perhaps this is a genuine awakening---but again only of 1/3 of the population are "awakened." 
  • I have mixed feelings about Mario Dumont, who used to lead a popular third party that did well in one election by relying on xenophobia.  But he is right here:
“Would you consider the total incapacity to make change in a society an awakening? I'm not so sure,” says Mr. Dumont, who embraces the free-market ideology the protesters are railing against. “It's a bit exaggerated. The basis of this whole thing is the refusal of one group to pay more for a given service. There's nothing more ‘business as usual' than that.”
And that is why I am relieved to be leaving Montreal--the longer I stay in Quebec, the more right-wing I feel: anti-union, pro-law and order, etc.  That makes me very uncomfortable.  I am not sure how things will change when I move to Ontario (as I am aware that province has problems as well), but I am pretty sure that my position on the spectrum will shift back to the middle, more or less, where I am far more at home.

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