Thursday, September 30, 2010

Quebec Bashing from MacLean's Magazine

MacLean's Magazine recently ran a front page titled "The Most Corrupt Province in Canada", with the picture of Quebec's Carnaval Snowman mascot carrying a briefcase bulging with cash. At this point I have lived about half my life in Quebec, and half in the province of Ontario, (plus a few years in Sierra Leone), and I would like to share my perspectives on corruption.

There is an article about it in the Globe and Mail here.

I do not subscribe to MacLean's because of all their hate propaganda. I happened to read part of it when I saw it at a coffee shop. Apparently MacLean's is taking time off from bashing Moslems and the Canadian Human Rights Commission to have another go at the bad, bad province of Quebec and French Canadians.

I have never been able to find a reference to confirm this, but I remember many years ago reading an opinion piece by Barbara Amiel in MacLean's, which was then owned by Conrad Black, her husband. In this article, she claimed (I'm paraphrasing) that French Canadians were genetically unsuited to democracy. Of course, Conrad Black is the same one who recently got sent to jail in the USA for fraud worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and obstruction of justice. He no longer owns MacLean's, but I still see Barbara's opinions in there occasionally, along with articles by one of Conrad's supporters, Mark Steyn.

Now getting back to corruption in Quebec, and the inference that it is much much worse than Ontario, and as Andrew Coyne (National Editor MacLean's) has said it has something to do with "political culture rooted in nationalism and state interventionism."

My one and only experience with corruption, growing up in Baie Comeau, an isolated paper mill town in Northern Quebec was this. My father, a French Canadian, had an English speaking boss of Scots background. He hated his boss, let's call the boss MacLeanson, just to avoid any lawsuits against me, and to incidentally reinforce the ethnic stereotype of the magazine. The company would hire outside contractors to perform many functions including cutting wood, and maintaining the logging roads. All contracts were awarded by MacLeanson. All the contractors were independent French Canadian businessmen. My father noticed a few things going wrong in the woods department. One was that the roads were not being maintained, which annoyed him because of the pounding he took driving a pickup truck from camp to camp. Second he noticed Macleanson had a brand new luxury car every year. My father claimed that Mcleanson was totally corrupt and taking bribes to enrich himself, but my mother argued to not make any accusations down at the company offices, because she assumed this was a simple case of my father not liking his boss and inventing this whole conspiracy. After all, he could have been fired, and with a grade four education in northern Quebec, there were no other places to work. I personally heard about these stories as a young teenager, and tended to side with my English mother, as she was by far the most level headed of the two.

About 12 years after, I was back in Baie Comeau, as a teacher at the English high school. At one parent-teacher meeting, I happened to get into a conversation with the father of one of my students. He was telling me how he ended up living in Baie Comeau. The company had sent him up to Baie Comeau to investigate the books. It seems that the head office could hardly believe that the Baie Comeau division was losing money every year, and wanted to send an independent auditor to figure it out. This parent said that he had uncovered a huge amount of corruption in the woods department at Baie Comeau, enough to explain the lack of profits of the entire division. And one man had singlehandedly taken the company into the red. It was Macleanson. Following his "forced retirement", profits picked up again.

I never encountered any other corruption in either Quebec or Ontario that in any way personally affected me. All I know is what I get in the news and from various official inquiries. I assume that there might be a fair amount going on that is not being investigated, and I do not equate amount of corruption being investigated with amount taking place. In fact it might even be the inverse, as far as I know.

I do not want to be bashing other ethnic groups, like MacLean's does, but I have a question. Given that MacLean's is pushing the idea that this is a French Canadian/left wing thing, are they forgetting that the Mafia, even in Quebec, is from a background of Italian and Sicilian immigrants, whether they speak French or not?

Last night on TV I happened to tune in to the Michael Coren show on the Christian channel (another one I don't subscribe to). They were discussing the MacLean's Magazine article, and it was not long before one opinion was put forth that "all French Canadians supporting the Bloc Quebecois party should be hung for treason". As I recall, no one in the panel felt it necessary to belabour the point or to rebut it.

One more issue is the use of the Bonhomme Carnaval, the mascot of the Quebec Carnaval on the cover. Apparently MacLean's was given written permission by the Quebec Caranaval, although obviously MacLean's was negotiating in bad faith. I suppose French Canadians could be forgiven for thinking that any dealings with English Canadians would involve bad faith negotiations. But they don't. They see this as being just one small group of people at one magazine with questionable ethics, that resulted from the negative influence of convicted felon Conrad Black.

1 comment:

  1. The primary objective of the cover of any hard-copy periodical is to grab the potential purchaser's attention (and presumably to prompt them to purchase).

    In this respect, the current issue of MacLeans most likely has succeeded.

    Although Quebec has suffered from a recent rash of corruption scandals, putting the Charest government in an unfavourable position, Quebec certainly does not have the corner on corruption in Canada, and it is not responsible journalism to claim that as fact.

    Interestingly, I wonder how the current backlash would have differed if MacLeans had added a question mark to its cover caption, 'The Most Corrupt Province in Canada?'

    Because the article is lacking in comparative data, MacLean's claim is unsupported and, therefore, open to the criticism it is currently broadly receiving.

    Although Canada (at least on a global basis) is relatively free from corruption, there is no question that it does exist, and that our politicians could do much better in controlling this sort of problem.

    If Macleans had truly intended to address the question of corruption (rather than sell issues), they could have done so in a manner which was less counterproductive.