A mini museum (and souvenir shop) to Gilles Villeneuve on Crescent St. during Grand Prix weekend
During the Grand Prix weekend, I noticed that this bar on Crescent St. had been converted into a museum honouring Gilles Villeneuve, the guy from whom the circuit the race takes place on gets its name.
There were photos of Gilles, videos of Gilles, and some original items in a section roped off lest anyone consider actually touching them. They were brought in from the Gilles Villeneuve Museum in Berthierville for the occasion.
Oh, and there was the souvenir stand. In fact, it seemed the entire point of it was to sell memorabilia related to Gilles Villeneuve. But I’ll give them some slack. It’s not like I paid anything to get in.
Quebec culture minister Christine St-Pierre announced at the FPJQ conference that she has ordered a study be done on the future of media in Quebec. Dominique Payette, a professor at Université Laval and former journalist for Radio-Canada, has been put in charge of this study.
The scope seems to be pretty large, and could touch on everything from whether newspapers should be subsidized to whether the government should fund a news department at Télé-Québec. (My knee-jerk reaction to both would be “no”.)
Although the situation in Quebec media is different from the rest of the world (some would say we’re behind the times, which is a plus for newspapers and television networks), I don’t know if it’s so different that a study like this will bring any new insight into this debate that has already been over-analyzed by self-proclaimed experts all over the world.
Changes to contracts must come with 60 days’ notice and the consumer has the ability to cancel the contract without penalty if the changes involve “an increase in the consumer’s obligations or a reduction in the merchant’s obligations”
Such changes can’t affect “an essential element of the contract” like the nature of the service offered
Fixed-term service contracts can’t be unilaterally cancelled by the provider
Consumers can’t be required to pay penalty fees beyond simple interest charges for missed payments
Merchants are required to fully explain existing warranties before asking customers if they would like extended warranties
If you buy an item second-hand that’s still under warranty, manufacturers can’t require that you prove the previous owner abided by the warranty’s conditions
Gift certificates and gift cards cannot have expiry dates, and must come with written explanations of how to check the balance on them. They also cannot be subject to fees
Contracts must come with various things in writing, including the total dollar value of “inducements” (like free cellphones)
Contracts cannot be automatically renewed
You can’t be charged for service while the device you use to access that service (assuming it was provided with the contract) is being repaired
Consumers can unilaterally cancel contracts and pay back the value of any inducements provided at contract signing (or 10% of the remainder of the contract, or $50, depending on the circumstance)
Advertisements must include the full cost of services, less taxes (though it’s hard to see how this would be enforced since cellphones, cable, Internet and other services come with different plans)
In case a company breaks any of these provisions, the government or a recognized consumer advocacy body can seek an injunction forcing the provider to comply
The bill also contains some minor provisions dealing with travel agents
A lot of these are common sense (no one should be allowed to unilaterally change a contract without the other side’s consent, and companies shouldn’t get free money out of gift cards). Others will probably be criticized because they allow loopholes that lead to abuse (for example, if I know Rogers is about to change their contract, can I get a three-year free iPhone deal and then cancel the contract a week later without paying a penalty and get a free iPhone?). Still others are open to interpretation (we could expect arguments about whether a certain change really increases the obligation of a consumer).
Others sound like they could be downright annoying, like being forced to sit down while a Best Buy employee reads out the complete text of a manufacturer’s warranty to you.
But all in all, it’s a good bill, and provides some valuable protections for consumers against abusive contracts. Law-abiding businesses should be able to point out loopholes that might be exploited against them, but let’s hope the lobbyists don’t start torpedoing parts of this bill just because it might cut down on their bottom line.
UPDATE: L’Autre St-Jean seems to have changed its mind again. See below.
As an anglophone Quebecer, it always annoys me when people confuse “Québécois” with “French-Canadian”. Not all Quebecers are francophone, and not all francophones in Canada live in Quebec.
It’s not just the Rest of Canada that does this, it’s also many of the Québécois themselves. Us anglos are really better off living in Toronto, where we belong. And French-speaking Canadians outside Quebec are ignored because they won’t be part of the new sovereign country anyway.
It seems that the Autre St-Jean organizers were getting pressure from Fête Nationale directors (read: SSJB) and others to remove Bloodshot Bill and Lake of Stew from their event, even to the point where protests were threatened if they were allowed to go on. Though both are Quebec bands, their songs are in English, and that’s just not right, they argue. Fête Nationale is about celebrating a French Quebec.
UPDATE (June 15): A short, bilingual message posted on the event’s website says they are “maintaining” their list of invitees, including the two anglo bands:
Montreal, June 15th 2009 – As the producer of L’AUTRE ST-JEAN, we, C4 productions, have been mandated by l’association Louis-Hébert to create an alternative musical event to celebrate our National Holiday. In that sens, we maintain our choices for the line up of the event with Malajube, Vincent Vallières, Les Dales Hawerchuk, Marie-Pierre Arthur, Lake of Stew et Bloodshot Bill which represents forty minutes of anglophone music on a six hour show.
We wish that the event on June 23rd at Park ‘du Pélican’, which is, in our opinion, in the image of Québec and Montreal in 2009, will be peaceful.
Whether or not they’ll actually get to play, I think back to the basic question: What is the Fête Nationale supposed to be about anyway? Is it about language, culture, or about the province of Quebec?
If Wikipedia is to be believed, the Fête Saint-Jean-Baptiste was about language and culture before the Quebec government got its greedy little paws on it. It was about French culture, and by that logic you might consider having only francophone bands perform at such an event.
But the Quebec government turned it into the civic Fête nationale holiday, wrapping it in the fleur de lys, blocking off non-Quebec francophones and making it to Quebec what Canada Day is to Canada.
Perhaps it’s because of their proximity on the calendar, combined with the political Quebec-vs-Canada divide that’s overwhelmed our politics over the past half century that people see an equivalence. Patrick Lagacé suggests if we turned this around – francophones being banned from Canada Day celebrations because of threats of protests from Albertans who want it to be English-only – that the outrage would be much higher.
If we accept that le 24 juin is a civic holiday about celebrating the state, then the comparison has some credence. The only catch is that Quebec wants to be unilingual while Canada does not.
But if it’s about culture, then a more apt comparison would be with St. Patrick’s Day in Quebec (indeed, the holiday has its genesis from those who wanted a celebration of the Québécois on June 24 like that of the Irish on March 17). And anyone who’s been to a St. Paddy’s parade in this town knows they’re very liberal when it comes to who can call themselves Irish. It’s not just Scottish pipe bands that slip by. Ukrainians, Israelis, Chinese are all welcome. Just put a shamrock sticker on your cheek and some green in your beer and you’re accepted into the club. So even then, anglophones (and any other language) should be welcome.
Provincial civic holiday, or francophone cultural celebration? Which is it? And which should it be?
Proposed extensions to Orange, Blue and Yellow lines
This week, La Presse came out with the news that the mayors of Montreal, Laval and Longueuil have joined forces to suggest to the Quebec government that proposed metro extensions in their cities be acted on simultaneously.
Because these projects require such a huge infusion of cash from the provincial government (they cost $150 million per kilometre, and that’s a low estimate), the decision to proceed with them tends to have as much to do with politics as it does with need. The Laval extension, for example, was pushed forward ahead of the extension of the Blue line mostly because of the fact that Laval has swing ridings whereas the east end of Montreal tends to be pretty well PQ blue (when the PQ has a chance of winning elections, anyway).
But why these three? Why not extend the green line in either direction? Why not create a line on Pie-IX, or Park Avenue, or through NDG?
The answer is that Montreal only has one mayor, and because of the way politicians have setup our cities, the mayor of Montreal has no more say than a smaller suburb on either side. So in order to get a much-needed metro extension in the dense neighbourhood of St. Leonard, we have to approve two comparatively useless extensions in underdeveloped off-island areas.
Pauline Marois, apparently desperately looking for something to be outraged about, thought she found something in a report from the Caisse de dépôt et placement. There she discovered that the Caisse had lent money to Gesca Ltée, the company that owns La Presse.
The scandal, she figured, had to do with the fact that the former head of the Caisse, Henri-Paul Rousseau, now works for Power Corporation, the company that owns Gesca. Clearly this presented a conflict of interest.
That revelation doesn’t entirely absolve Rousseau of the appearance of conflict (other loans were issued during his term), but one wonders if Marois would have been so critical if it involved a company that didn’t have such apparent ties to the Liberal Party of Canada.
A friend of mine asked me if this National Assembly romance qualifies as a news story. I think it does, especially because they belong to opposing parties. The opportunities for conflict of interest are simply too large to ignore. It’s not the story of the year or anything (how many of you recognize these people?), but it should be out there for the record.
We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt for now, as Jean Charest is doing. But you know something’s going to happen. Either one of them (probably him) is going to switch parties, one (or both) will leave politics, or they’re going to break up.
I’m getting a bit tired of the language debate in Quebec.
I feel a bit guilty saying it, because the neverending battle has become so central to the province’s identity that it’s almost like I can’t call myself a true Québécois unless I have a spot on the front lines. What does it mean to be a Quebecer if not to constantly argue about French vs. English, federalism vs. sovereignty, Liberal vs. PQ/BQ?
The most popular post on this blog, by far, in terms of comments is a criticism I made in 2007 about anglo rights crusader Howard Galganov. The comment mark on that post just passed 500 (all of which I had to individually approve), and new comments are added every day. Discussion of the statements made in the post or of Galganov himself have long fallen by the wayside. The four participants who keep the thread going just yell at each other, call each other racist and compare each other to Hitler in their discussions of the great divide. I block those comments that go too far, but if I deleted those that I didn’t think advanced the conversation enough, over 90% would disappear immediately. At this point, I’m just watching the counter go up, in awe about how much time people can waste trying to change the mind of someone who is obviously never going to agree with you.
I’m an anglophone. Even though I’ve lived in Quebec my entire life, I’m seen as the enemy. No different than the Rest of Canada. It’s assumed that I’m just waiting for my chance to make it in Toronto or New York, and that I don’t really belong here because I don’t really want to be here. Though I love Quebec as much for its culture (which is inescapably intertwined with its language) as its politics (which is inescapably intertwined with language issues), because I use English more than French in my daily life I’m set aside from real Quebecers.
Once, in a conversation with some young francophone journalists, I was asked about my opinion on Quebec politics in a way that gave me the impression I was introducing these people to a culture they’d only read about. I felt like I was giving them a sociology lesson on what it’s like to be an anglo Quebecer.
One of the things that was odd about the conversation is that it came a bit out of nowhere. People don’t stop me in the street to debate politics. I’ve never been refused service at a commercial establishment on account of my language. Francophone bloggers link to me, and I link to them, with little regard to the fact that our posts are in different languages, unless the thing were talking about is language politics. Quebecers are more concerned with daily life, gossiping or getting laid than they are convincing others of their point of view on separation.
I got dragged into a brief debate about my positions on Bill 101 recently, and though I have serious issues with some of its provisions that seem more anti-English than pro-French (and the psychological factor and selective enforcement only exacerbate the anti-English sentiment), part of me wanted to scream out at one point: “I don’t care!” I can read French signs fine. I can communicate fine in that language (just don’t ask me to write in it for a living). In that sense, Bill 101 doesn’t really affect me. Though I cringe at how much the government is spending on language enforcement rather than language education, I think there are far more pressing issues for it to deal with than reforming our language law.
I bring this up because of a couple of debates going on that really make me wonder where Quebec’s priorities lie.
La Presse’s André Pratte had to apologize on Friday for noting that Michael Sabia, the ex-Bell CEO who has just been named to head the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, is (a) not a Quebecer and (b) doesn’t speak French very well. It seems he was wrong on both counts. Sabia has lived in Quebec for 16 years (“how long do you have to live in Montreal before you become a Quebecer?“) and his French, while accented, is fine. He attributed his first error to “un détestable réflexe québécois” – namely that if you’re anglo, you’re not a Quebecer. Believe me, this is a big problem. It’s not just in Quebec, of course. People, media and PR agencies all over Canada will look at someone with brown skin and assume they’re an immigrant. In the U.S., if you’re latino, it’s assumed you’re an illegal immigrant or the descendant of one.
Now we know why there are rules against political interference in the Caisse’s affairs. If something as petty as province of birth is a political issue (and deemed more important than making money for Quebec pensioners) then who knows how many ways 125 MNAs could figure out to screw with the system and doom our finances in order to maintain political correctness.
As Martin Patriquin points out, “Quebec must be the only place in the world where it actually matters what language money speaks.”
Not just money, but pucks.
Jeu de puissance
The other debate, which has just started, is over who will fill Guy Carbonneau’s shoes as head coach of the Canadiens. For any of the other 29 NHL teams, the only criterion would be the ability to coach a team of players to a Stanley Cup victory. (Well, that and not being a child molester, hockey gambling addict or 9/11 terrorist, I guess.) But in Montreal, they want to add another: the ability to speak French. And because former Hamilton Bulldogs coach Don Lever is a prime candidate (he was promoted to Habs assistant coach when Carbonneau was fired), there’s already discussion that, no matter how good a hockey coach he might be, he can’t get the job because he won’t be able to speak properly to the media and to fans. Even Bob Gainey, who speaks French fine but with a strong accent, isn’t good enough for the people at RDS.
This debate should come as no surprise. The same debate has been going on ever since Saku Koivu was promoted to be the Canadiens’ captain. Patrick Lagacé complained about it when he was at the Journal (though he’s softened his stance at La Presse – Lagacé the old softy disputes this in a comment below) in a column more notable in media circles for its hilarious follow-up. Of course, there are plenty of NHL players who don’t speak a word of English, but nobody complains about that. After all, their job is to play hockey, not to give speeches. But, in defence of this particular point, there aren’t any NHL captains who can’t at least carry on a conversation in the language of Gary Bettman.
And then there’s debate any time you see a trade, a call-up, a healthy scratch, or even a line-change which alters the makeup of the team to make it less francophone. It doesn’t matter what Guillaume Latendresse, Maxim Lapierre or Mathieu Dandenault’s skills are. What matters is that they can be interviewed in French on RDS during intermission, and therefore they must be on the team and in the lineup. For these people, a Patrice Brisebois is more valuable than an Andrei Markov, and certainly more than a Mike Komisarek.
Fans can demand these things. It’s their right. And Canadiens fans aren’t exactly known for their logic or cool-headedness anyway. And it’s the government’s right to demand that the head of the Caisse is a Quebec-born francophone who watches Star Académie.
But when you say that language and nationality is more important than skill, you can’t complain when you don’t get results compared to others. You can’t complain that the Caisse is losing more money than other pension funds when you passed over a qualified anglophone for a less qualified francophone for the job. You can’t complain that the Canadiens failed to bring home their expected 25th Stanley Cup when you cut the field of head coach candidates to less than half of what it was so that RDS viewers don’t feel uncomfortable.
In the United States, the military is mocked because it fires gay Arabic translators even when it’s in desperate need of them. We make fun of the Americans because they put what you are above what you know, to their own disadvantage.
Sometimes, I wonder if Quebec is any better.
Except, I’m tired of debating the point. So I’m just going to hit “publish” and move on to something more interesting.
TQS announced today (though La Presse had the scoop this morning) that Mario Dumont will be joining the network as a show host starting in September. You’ll recall TQS already has a daily newsish show hosted by a politician in André Arthur (who’s been a bit lacking in his Parliamentary attendance duties lately because of it).
Perhaps more interesting, Dumont is also being brought on as a consultant to the Rémillards, to advise them on the regenesis of their television network.
What do you think Dumont is going to recommend as far as TQS’s regional stations go?
If you’ve never seen Red Bull’s Crashed Ice event, you need an immediate injection of testosterone. Every year, “competitors” in this event gather in Quebec City to “skate” down a 550-metre track whose grade is better suited for tobogganing than anything one would do on skates. (It’s a 56-metre vertical drop, according to this PDF press release).
The point is not important, I guess it’s a race of some sort. The fun is watching everyone crash as the tumble down the ice. And this year, for the first time, they’re opening it up to women.
I think it’s a bit insulting to have an event like this in Quebec City with an English name. I’m sure Red Bull’s marketing people could come up with a bilingual one or a clever French name that would solve this situation easily. (They’ve already done it for Italy’s Toro Rosso F1 team) But this should be a result of grassroots pressure, not government fiat.
Either way, let’s not let the political discussion ruin the fun.
Crashed Ice is being broadcast live at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday in French on TVA and in English on TSN HD.
Three election nights in as many months. I’m starting to get the hang of this.
The biggest surprise of the night was Mario Dumont’s decision to leave his party leadership. The obvious question that comes up now is: Who the heck is going to lead the ADQ? Can you even name another ADQ MNA?
The biggest electoral surprise is clearly Amir Khadir winning the Plateau riding of Mercier for Québec solidaire. Not only did he unseat the PQ’s Daniel Turp, but he surprised a lot of news outlets who hadn’t planned for one of the “autres” to get a seat in this election. (Our front page needed a last-minute redesign to add a fourth box for QS’s seat total.)
In the early stages of returns, the seat seesawed between Khadir and Turp, but another riding way off near Quebec City was also showing a QS lead (with one poll reporting), reminding everyone that these results were still early. That other candidate ended up dead last with 1,000 votes.
But as the night wore on, the lead became more constant, and slowly started to grow. Cynicism that Khadir’s lead would vanish when more conservative mainstream votes came in slowly started to vanish. As the party’s co-leaders (they’re really going to have to get rid of that co-leadership system) gave their news conference, the networks called the seat for Khadir, and another political party officially entered relevance.
Now, does this mean QS will be invited to leaders’ debates?
They almost got it wrong
CTV Montreal is very proud of the fact that they called a majority government first, just after 8:30pm. This means they’re cool and their penis is larger than everyone else’s, I think. The seats certainly looked to be going to a solid majority early on.
But around 9pm, the number of leading and elected Liberal seats started holding steady at 63-64. This was right on the razor’s edge. All it would take is a couple of Liberal-leading seats to shift to another party and Charest loses his majority. Part of me wanted exactly that to happen so that overeager news directors would have to explain why they got it wrong.
In the end, though, the Liberals got 66 seats, pending recounts, and their majority isn’t in doubt. Only a couple of ridings in the Montérégie area were close enough (the lead in votes is significantly less than the number of spoiled ballots) that a recount might change something.
I didn’t watch any of the live TV coverage (beyond glancing at the changing numbers on the screen), so I’ll leave commenting on that to you, or Richard Therrien, or Mike Boone, or Paul Cauchon.
Here’s how the main news sources handled their online results:
CTV had its own custom election system which failed in a very important way: It couldn’t process a win by a candidate outside the three main parties. Seat totals don’t include Québec solidaire, and Amir Khadir is not listed as elected in Mercier, nor is QS or the Green Party listed under “party leaders”. It also doesn’t list incumbents.
Canoe (TVA/Journal) had a very basic, non-Flash elections page. A table of results by party, and individual tables of results for each riding. Québec solidaire was listed under “Autres”.
CBC, which has been at online election results longer than everyone else, had an interactive election map with colour-coded ridings. The map format made it easier to find ridings visually, but it also meant if you wanted a Montreal riding you had to “zoom in” three times. It also had a separate page with results tables by region (and links to tables by riding). No indication of incumbency here either, which surprised me.
Cyberpresse, Le Devoir and The Globe and Mail used a flash widget provided by Canadian Press/Presse Canadienne. The interface was slick, with square tiles representing each riding. When you click on them, they jump out and form a staacked bar graph. But it was also incredibly basic. It didn’t even provide percentage totals for each candidate. The tile system also made it more difficult to find ridings visually, compared to a real map.
The website of the director general of elections (which The Gazette pointed to for results) had the advantages of being official and fast. But around 8:45pm, it stopped updating (while CP and CBC’s feeds kept going), panicking reporters and editors who were using it for results. It came back around 9:15 and stayed reliable for the rest of the night. The table system is simple, which is good, but because it’s an official site it doesn’t declare candidates elected like the news networks do, and it also doesn’t note incumbents or incumbent parties.
Lisette Lapointe, the PQ candidate in Crémazie riding (and Jacques Parizeau's wife), campaigns in the Sauvé metro station last week.
The polls are now open in 75 125 ridings (my civics knowledge sucks) across Quebec, and the voters have 22.5 10.5 hours (my math sucks) to make their choice. Polls close at 8pm tonight.
If you need help, the DGEQ website has information available. If you’re not registered to vote, sorry, but you’re screwed. Unlike in federal elections, Quebec doesn’t allow registration on voting day. The deadline was last Friday. Better luck next time.
Now go vote. I’ll be busy editing election copy tonight, but I’ll see you in the aftermath. Be sure to let your local journalist know of voting-day irregularities.
TV results schedule
For those watching the returns on TV tonight, here’s what the networks are planning:
RDI’s election special starts first at 6:30pm, a full hour and a half before polls close. Rad-Can joins in at 7:30.
CBC and Newsworld have live coverage starting at 8 p.m.
CTV Montreal has local anchors Todd Van der Heyden and Mutsumi Takahashi quarterbacking coverage starting at 8 p.m. CTV Newsnet will be picking up the feed from CTV Montreal, also starting at 8.
TVA and LCN go all-election at 8.
Global Quebec, not wanting to give up Prison Break and Heroes, only goes live at 10pm.
CPAC has no scheduled election coverage
TQS will have wall-to-wall election coverage with live returns throughout the night and reports from hundreds of journalists based in all 125 ridings and … oh just kidding, they’re ignoring it entirely. Maybe André Arthur will mention it tomorrow.
Online, most news outlets will be running data from Canadian Press. I’d recommend CBC or the DGEQ website directly for results.