The words of the week: Polar Vortex.

Many of our American friends got a real taste of the Great White North this week.

In Quebec, we know all about vortexes. After all, we constantly live under a PQ vortex where sometimes the air is so frigid that the only thing to be thankful for is heated arguments.

Speaking of cold, a news report from France not long ago made me smile.

It pulled out just about every cliché about Quebec winters in what it called "the land of the caribou where we all get around by dogsled."

Snow job? Sure. But funny? Well it is from a country where Jerry Lewis is a superstar.

Charter hearings will be a snow job

On a more serious note the Charter hearings begin next week.

Like the Bill 14 language hearings last year, the fix is in.

A lot of people have spent a lot of time and money preparing briefs.

They will travel to Quebec City to present their arguments on why this Charter proposal is wrong in so many ways.

At the end of the day, what will it all mean? Not much.

The Charter was only designed to be an electoral wedge issue.

The government has succeeded in dividing people and the wedge will only be driven in deeper with this side show that starts at the National Assembly on Tuesday.

2014 will in all likelihood be a watershed moment for Quebec.

An election will likely take place in the spring and the choice will be clear: to vote for an inward-looking vision based on tribal nationalism or a vision of Quebec open to the world and its diversity.

It will be the most important election in a generation.

More and more people are leaving Quebec, tens of thousands in 2013 that voted with their feet.

I worry that more will follow unless they are given a reason to feel they have a future here for themselves and their children.

Stephen Harper: time to retire

On the federal side, maybe 2014 will be the year Stephen Harper takes his walk in the snow and decides to call it a day.

My sense is that this country is not the same as it was before he was elected.

There is both good and bad.

Yes the conservatives were good stewards in getting us through the worldwide recession, but somehow I feel Canada is not as kind a place as it once was.

A primary responsibility for any government regardless of politics is to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves.

With the dismantling of much of the social safety net, I fear Canada is becoming unrecognizable

Equally troubling is a new study that finds only about a quarter of Canadians believe our democracy is healthy.

Cynicism, corruption, scandal have all taken their tolls.

Perhaps a new year can bring a new beginning in many ways.

But first we have to figure out that vortex.