Postscript: Quebec's thin skin, Nightmare on 13th St. & SAQ signs in English
Ouch. Quebec, it seems, has very thin skin.
If you have been following the saga of Andrew Potter this week, you might think he was a latter-day Lord Durham proposing the assimilation of all French Canadians. Potter was, until this week, the director of McGill University’s Centre for Canadian Studies. Potter’s crime was to write a rather odd and questionable column published by Maclean’s. Potter linked the Highway 13 snowstorm fiasco to a breakdown in Quebec society. Being stranded on the highway was caused by incompetence and bad communication not a ‘malaise eating away at Quebec society.’ Potter was way off base.
But within hours of the article appearing, the lynch mob started to form. The usual suspects in media pulled out the pitchforks, calling this an affront to Quebec. Even the premier ill-advisedly weighed in on what really should have been no more than a tempete dans un verre d’eau. Trust me, there are daily columns in French Quebec newspapers which can be equally as bad.
There are too many sacred cows in Quebec. For example, it’s impossible to have a reasonable conversation with most people about easing up on language laws. Bill 101 is akin to the commandments received by Moses on Mount Sinai.
What was even more stunning was how quickly McGill distanced itself from Potter. A university which is supposed to be a marketplace of ideas shunned Potter as if he wrote that the earth was flat and a zombie apocalypse was coming. Academic freedom is one of the hallmarks of universities. Not the finest moment for one of our finest universities – and you have to wonder if and how any external pressure was applied.
Potter had the good sense to write an honorable apology for words which were clearly not that well thought out and he resigned. The pound of flesh delivered.
Which brings us back to the snowstorm and the real culprits for the Nightmare on 13th Street.
Transport Quebec is a total mess and the auditor general told us so this week. It’s a dysfunctional ministry rife with incompetence. Almost unbelievably, it has a 64-step process to go through to determine whether a situation constitutes an emergency. We have all seen the results of the stupidity of Transport Quebec from crumbling roads and bridges, to highway off-ramps to nowhere, to highway closures when clearly no one is working. It’s a department with three different ministers in one year. It is time to clean house and rebuild this travesty from the ground up.
Finally, the SAQ is finally realizing that many of its customers are English-speaking Quebecers.
So it’s quietly, almost hush-hush, beginning to use English in printed materials and signs in many of its outlets where numbers warrant. Long overdue but we’ll take it.
Of course, the PQ reacted in a typical ethnocentric manner, denouncing the change as unacceptable and condemning the special privileges being afforded les anglos. The thing is, when the PQ makes overtures to the English community, they are never genuine. Words, just words
But no wonder the SAQ wants to talk to us more. We are very good customers because sometimes in this province, drinking sometimes is not an option.