Author of Maclean's article dubbed "anti-Quebec" speaks with CTV's Todd van der Heyden
Published Tuesday, September 28, 2010 11:20PM EDT
Last week's cover of Maclean's magazine calls Quebec "the most corrupt province in Canada," with an image showing the jolly Bonhomme Carnaval mascot clutching a briefcase overflowing with cash.
The article has cause a firestorm of opinions from Quebec politicians. The journalist who wrote the piece, Martin Patriquin, sat down with CTV Montreal's Todd van der Heyden Tuesday to discuss the story and the backlash surrounding it.
The transcript is below.
Todd: If the goal is to sell magazines, Maclean's has certainly succeeded in creating a whole lot of buzz. Its latest issue calls Quebec the most corrupt province in Canada. It is causing a firestorm of outrage here. Politicians of all stripes have been howling about it for days; that it is anti-French and anti-Quebec. Is the article bang on?
Joining us is Maclean's Quebec-based journalist who wrote the article, Martin Patriquin.
First off, thanks for being here. You have written about Quebec in the past, are you surprised about the outrage, the firestorm?
Patriquin: Our covers are very controversial and quite hard-hitting. In that sense, no. What has been surprising is the breadth and the length of the outrage and the scandal, the length of time that it's gone on. I can't believe it.
Todd: There has definitely been a circling of the wagons that happened by Quebec politicians much like Andrew Coyne predicted in his accompanying column that came after your article. Do you think this article is anti-French or anti-Quebec?
Patriquin: Absolutely not. In the article itself, I quote people in there that say what is happening in Quebec as far as politics are concerned, corruption hurts us as Quebecers. Just that has resonated with Quebecers. We have gotten hundreds and hundreds of letters of support from Quebecers. Some criticizing as well. But it certainly hasn't been what the politicians are saying, that it's Quebec-bashing, which is the cheapest thing in the world.
Todd: Do you think this perhaps hit a little too close to home?
Patriquin: I think for politicians, the knee-jerk reaction to say it's Quebec-bashing wherever there is any criticism of Quebec is very, very particular to this province. We have done this with British Columbia. We have done this with Saskatchewan and Regina, and while it is close to home and it hits and it hurts, there is never any suggestion that we're anti-British Columbian or whatever the word would be. So it's that aspect of it, that aspect of the criticism has been particular to Quebec.
Todd: Also interesting, this idea that a Toronto-based magazine would dare to raise this issue and would dare to shine a spotlight on Quebec. Has anybody been able to point out any factual errors in what you wrote?
Todd: Not at all?
Todd: La Presse columnists Andre Pratte and Claude Picher yesterday and today came out pretty much in support of what Macleans did. There was a Cyberpresse poll that was done showing 50 per cent, give or take.
Patriquin: Popular numbers.
Todd: Popular numbers seem to show that people were kind of in support of what Macleans was saying, from Quebec-based readers.
Patriquin: Quebec-based French readers, very much so.
Todd: On the other hand The Gazette today is calling this article a journalistic embarrassment.
Patriquin: Yes, a journalistic embarrassment "that might end up doing some good." Thank you Henry (Aubin, Gazette columnist), very nice of you.
Todd: He was saying there is no way to quantify or compare if you call it the "most" corrupt. How do you decide what, you know, what is the most? Did you guys actually go and look at the number of scandals or the depth in other provinces?
Patriquin: What we did was we found a continuing – something in Quebec that is continual that keeps happening within Quebec politics is that there is corruption. There has been corruption and we're dealing with the same problems we have been dealing with for 50 years. You know, everybody says, well, what about B.C., that had three premiers that left after short order?
Well, first of all I mention those in the article. Second of all, that's three premiers in 10 years. I'm talking 50 or 60 years' worth of history here, and so I stand by what I wrote.
Quebec has problems within its governmental systems and its political culture, I guess.
Todd: We are looking at shots of Maurice Duplessis from way back in the day. You are from Quebec, you're from the Eastern townships. I want to know if there's a backlash against you, as a journalist over writing this. You're somehow the "other," you're not one of us.
Patriquin: There has been. It has been muted. Look, I live and work in French – je suis assimilé, on peut même dire – I work pretty much 80 per cent in French. I understand the culture, I know what is going on in the province, so the criticism that has been coming at me has been muted. It's very little you can actually say. I'm not anti-Quebec. I'm a Quebecer, like you, like everybody else in this room.
Todd: The covers of magazines are meant to sell magazines. Certainly the coverage has become torqued up in the last year or so, trying to make it edgier, a little more controversial.
Patriquin: I would go farther than that. Say, for the last four years, we have been doing hard-hitting provocative covers. There is definitely – I'm not saying there is not an argument to be made against that type of treatment on our covers. Of course we can have that discussion, whether or not you agree with it. What it isn't is where we're singling people out and bashing them. We are doing it to everyone.
Todd: I want to thank you for coming in.