A single strand has run through the Quebec separatist movement almost from the day in 1967 that Rene Levesque left the Liberal party to establish the Parti Quebecois as the vehicle by which sovereigntists hope to ride to independence. It is their contempt for Canada.
That contempt was well summed up by former leader and Quebec premier Lucien Bouchard, who said “Canada is not a real nation.”
Canada was and is, however, a “real” enough nation to have guaranteed the continuance of the French language, religion, and civil law after the British victory at the Plains of Abraham. It is further “real” enough to have become a bilingual country under that son of Quebec, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, and to engage in a massive tax transfer that since the 1950s has benefited Quebec to the tune of some $146 billion. Without the $4.5 billion the province will receive from equalization this year alone, its deficit would be twice the shortfall announced by Premier Pauline Marois.
But numbers aren’t the real issue.It’s contempt that hurts.
This sentiment sank to a new low over the weekend (of March 9) when Premier Marois announced that Pierre Karl Peladeau, the controlling shareholder of Canada’s biggest newspaper chain — Quebecor Media — would be a candidate for the PQ in the April 7 provincial election. Quebecor’s properties include the Toronto Sun and Sun Media chain, plus the Sun News TV channel.
Peladeau, whose wealth is drawn from a variety of newspaper and TV holdings in a business established by his father, declared “I am a sovereigntist” and said he was running so that his children could live “in their own country.”
While the law would require Peladeau, if elected, to put his shares in trust, he is reported to have said that he would not sell them, even if ordered to do so.
As one wag observed, Peladeau is the first billionaire to join the PQ. Aside from illustrating his contempt for all the Canadians who have done business with his papers and helped to enrich him, this sets up some interesting dichotomies which Quebec separatists are going to have to deal with.
Premier Marois touted Peladeau’s candidacy as evidence that the PQ will have a strong grip on the economy — previously a weak spot in the party’s armour. He’s seen as a “star candidate,” his candidacy hailed as a “game-changer.” It remains to be seen how Peladeau’s well-known pro-business — and anti-union — stance will go down with party supporters. The PQ is a social democratic party, and most of its followers. besides being Quebec nationalists, stand well left of centre.
The Peladeau adventure also has to set off alarm bells in the executive corridors of the National Hockey League. He’s been a prime mover in the scheme to build a $400 million, publicly-financed, hockey arena in Quebec City. The idea was that the NHL would bring a team to the city once the stadium had been built. The steel frame is already up. But the Peladeau connection is sure to be seen as a negative by many NHL owners.
Quebec Liberal leader Philippe Couillard is asking some interesting questions about Peladeau’s influence over Quebec media during the electi0n campaign.
It is too early to make predictions on the outcome of the Quebec vote, although the PQ apparently has an edge in the key francophone vote. Overall, according to a poll by CROP, the Liberals and PQ are tied at 36 per cent.
Premier Marois refuses to commit herself to holding a referendum if the PQ wins a majority. But neither does she rule it out. That could scare off nationalist voters who don’t want to see Quebec plunged into a third, and more divisive then ever, referendum.
But it’s Pierre Karl Peladeau’s contempt for Canadians that will count for most people outside Quebec — and many inside, too. He’s used our freedom of the press to gain control of a vast media empire that has given him power and profits.
Will Canadians be much longer interested in subscribing to or supporting Quebecor Media papers, knowing that profits will conti9nue to accrue to Peladeau through his controlling interest?
We have laws in Canada against foreign ownership of news media. Peladeau should think about this when he campaigns for an independent Quebec.
Like all accidents, the one that sent me to the Emergency ward of Hotel Dieu Hospital on a cold February Saturday should never have happened. I should have known better.
Throughout this worst of all winters, layers of snow, ice, and more snow had built up on the streets of Kingston, Ontario. Despite the good job done by the City to keep streets open and sidewalks clear (yes,. we even have a sidewalk plow come by after every snowfall), walking has been treacherous. I’d put crampons on my hiking boots and ventured out to walk Morag, our lively Wheaton Terrier, on her midday outings. But even those I’d given up after Christmas when no amount of plowing was able to remove the ice from our sidewalks. I stopped the daily walks.
Having done that, I should have been more careful when I went to the front doorstep to pick up the morning paper. I’d put Morag out in the backyard and the patio there seemed clear of any fresh precipitation. Ah, we’ve dodged the latest storm, I thought. I should have checked the front doorstep more carefully before stepping out blindly. I’d hadn’t noticed that a thin layer of fresh ice covered the concrete landing at our front door.
As we all know, these things happen in a flash. One foot on the ice was enough to upend me. In a stark moment of terror, I realized I had done it! Of course, I put out a hand to break my fall. I came down hard on my left hand, and found myself sitting dazed, partway in and partway out of the door. I dragged myself back inside, reached for a chair, and struggled to my feet. I knew I’d done some damage, but I hoped I had nothing more than a sprain.
Two hours later, having wrapped my wrist in ice, Deborah and I decided I would have to go to Emergency. We arrived at the hospital about one o’clock and after a quick clearance by the triage nurse, settled down to wait. There were not many other patients, and in a few minutes I was taken to an examining room. X-rays were the next order of business, and after no more than an hour’s wait, the on-duty doctor came to examine me.
Dr. Reed was brisk, efficient, and pleasant. Bald headed — or perhaps shaven. Yes, I had a fracture — I’d jammed my radius bone into the carpal bones of my hand. There were some splinters. He called in the resident intern, Dr. Litt, who turned out to be a darkly handsome young man. His speciality was radiology, and he was going through the prescribed period of emergency duty before dedicating himself to that discipline.
Next order of business – injection of freezing. That took only a moment, followed by a twenty-minute wait for it to take effect. Then the two doctors went to work to try to unjam the damage I’d done. Dr. Reed held onto my elbow while Dr. Litt, pulling as if the two were in a tug of war, hauled on my hand. Eventually satisfied, Dr. Litt wrapped my arm almost to my elbow and applied plaster to the wrapping. Soon I was encased in a sold — and heavy — cast. All of it had been virtually painless.
Now it was time for more X-rays. Dr. Reed let me see them on the computer screen on my way out. The difference in the before and after X-rays — before the tug of war and after — was easy to see. They’d gotten my wrist bones almost back to their normal sites. You could also see a small piece of bone that had broken off.
It was now about six o’clock. In five hours, I’d been through all the procedures involved in Emergency treatment, and been attended to by helpful nurses and efficient, caring doctors. No unreasonable wait time. No forgotten existence in the limbo of hospital bureaucracy.
Also, thanks to Canada’s public healthcare system, no astronomical bill to pay on the way out. I gave silent thanks to the pioneering spirits like Tommy Douglas who brought public healthcare into Canada fifty years ago — and the principled politicians who have stood by it ever since. No wonder Canadians regard our health system as our single greatest source of pride in our country.
My emergency visit was two weeks ago and I’ve since made two follow-up visits to the orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Mark Harrison. We were not strangers. Three years ago he gave me a new right knee joint to substitute for the one I’d injured in a cottage mishap many years previously. Dr. Harrison warned me it might be necessary to put a pin in my wrist to ensure the bones stay where they belong. And I was not to complain! He reminded me it was not he who had broken my wrist. Happily, as it turned out no such pin was needed.
Day by day, I’m enjoying the small triumphs of making increasing use of my injured hand. I’m even able to use fingers of both hands to type out this blog. The cast will come off in four weeks, Spring will be almost here, and life will look better again!
A trifling experience like a broken wrist — the second in my lifetime — makes one realize how fortunate most of us are. My fall at the front door could easily have been far more serious — like a broken hip or a fractured skull.
To paraphrase a Quebec poet, my country is winter. That said, can Spring be far behind?
We’ve been waiting for Justin Trudeau to make the big moves of which we know he’s capable. This morning (01/29/13) he took an important first step by cutting all Liberal Senators loose from the parliamentary caucus, thereby committing himself to a non-partisan Senate.
For those of us who have regarded the Canadian Senate in its present form as a useless and costly appendage, Trudeau’s decision represents a dramatic break with the past. Not as good as abolishing the Senate entirely, perhaps, but at least it’s a formula to create a more meaningful, respectful, and effective “chamber of sober second thought.”
Under Trudeau’s proposal. future Senate appointments would be made from a process similar to that used now to award the Order of Canada to distinguished Canadians. Gone would be the days of filling the Senate with tired party hacks, bagmen, and assorted creatures obliged to follow the Prime Minister’s orders.
Of course, the Conservatives don’t see it this way. They say they’d like Senators to be elected, but as Trudeau points out, that’s virtually impossible without getting involved in a long, tiresome, and potentially pointless Constitutional negotiation between Ottawa and the provinces. The Supreme Court is now hearing Ottawa’s referral on Senate matters but whatever it decides, it’s unlikely the Court will find any magic formula to shake up the Senate in a painless and effective fashion.
That’s why Justin Trudeau’s proposal is so exciting.
“I have come to believe that the Senate must be non-partisan,” Mr. Trudeau said at his news conference. “Composed merely of thoughtful individuals representing the varied values, perspectives and identities of this great country. Independent from any particular political brand.”
“I challenge the Prime Minister to match this action,” said Mr. Trudeau. “As the majority party in the Senate, immediate and comprehensive change is in Conservative hands. I’m calling on the Prime Minister to do the right thing. To join us in making Senators independent of political parties and end partisanship in the Senate.”
So who could we expect to see in the Senate if Justin Trudeau were to become Prime Minister and have the opportunity to implement his reform plan?
There’s no shortage of excellent candidates. Here I offer up a few suggestions:
- Chris Hadfield, Canada’s thoughtful and smart ex-commander of the International Space Station
- Jack Diamond, the brilliant Toronto architect who understands the connection between city-building and saving the environment
- Margaret Atwood, author and advocate of progressive ideas
- Prem Watsa, the brilliant chief of Fairfax Holdings, a man clued into the need to build world-class Canadian tech companies
- Heather Reisman, who’s running the big Chapters-Indigo book chain
- Marc Carney, ex-governor of the Bank of Canda (now at the Bank of England)
- Kirstine Stewart, ex of the CBC, now head of Twitter in Canada
- Pierre Beaudoin, CEO of Bombardier, the train and plane builder
- Mike Lazaridis, far-seeing co-founder of Blackberry
Imagine what a Senate made up of these personalities and others like them would look and sound like! Freed of the obligation to follow orders of the Prime Minister. Equipped with the long-standing Senate authority to review Parliamentary legislation, and suggest changes where it sees fit.
Perhaps we’d then get serious discussion of important issues — like how to educate Canadians for the 21st century, how to reduce the wastage of lives trapped in our prisons, or how to reclaim Canada’s position in the world as a tolerant, fair-minded, progressive contributor to the family of nations. Ideas on how to renew Canada.
In the short term, it will be instructive to see how the 32 former Liberal Senators conduct themselves in the Red Chamber. More significantly, Justin Trudeau’s proposals represent a break with the traditional tired politics of the old Canada. A first step toward renewing this great country to make it capable of facing the challenges we see ahead.
Trudeau’s new idea should play well with voters. He has put forward an innovative policy in a positive, forthright manner. Just as he has called for the legalization of marijuana, he is breaking new ground while answering critics who have derided him for not putting out policy ideas.
Justin Trudeau’s proposals offer a welcome contrast to the tired, personality-driven dirty politics so cleverly practiced by the Harper government. Perhaps he really has found a way to do politic differently.
A few months after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the U.S. Information Agency produced a commemorative film, Years of Lightning/Day of Drums. The narration concluded with these words:
Some day, there will come a time when the early 1960s will be a very long time ago.”
In 2013 the world will note the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death — November 22, 1963 — and today, the early 1960s are truly a very long time ago.
And people still ask: What would the world be like today if Kennedy has escaped death on that fateful day in Dallas?
Writers of “virtual history” – where the what ifs of history are examined to find alternative outcomes to real events – have produced books envisioning a world where the Nazis won World War II, and an America where the South won the Civil War.
On the wall of my office hangs the papier-mâché matrix from which the front page of The Toronto Telegram was printed the day of the assassination. The headline reads, KENNEDY SHOT, DIES. Each time I glance at this now historic artifact the thought is renewed in my mind: “What if Kennedy had lived?”
The pursuit of this thought led me into the arena of virtual history, and has resulted in my new, short e-book, “Kennedy After Dallas: JFK’s Return to the White House for an Epochal 2nd Term.”
While I am admirer of John F. Kennedy and revere his memory, I have not attempted to portray an idealized version of the man, free of faults and absent of mistakes.
In speculating on what might have transpired had Kennedy not been killed, I have built on the historical record of his administration to project the logical outcome of policies set in motion by JFK before Dallas.
For example. JFK had shown considerable skepticism about the wisdom of U.S. military policy and had expressed his apprehension about the consequences of another Bay of Pigs or Cuban missile crisis.
For example, there was the time when he walked out of a meeting of his National Security Council as it debated the merits of a preemptive first strike on the Soviet Union. “And we call ourselves the human race,” he said later to his Secretary of State, Dean Rusk.
If Kennedy had lived, history would have unfolded differently. Our narrative sets out the alternative reality that would almost assuredly come to pass had fate allowed JFK to return to the White House after Dallas.
Across a range of areas — foreign policy, civil rights, civil liberties, outer space — JFK set in motion attitude and ideas that would after his death come to be accepted as conventional wisdom.
“The fires of frustration and discord are burning in every city.” he says in Years of Lightning/Day of Drums. It was a recognition of an unwelcome truth in a demonstration of realpolitic that has been unmatched by any succeeding president.
Vietnam, of course, was the greatest challenge of the Kennedy years and those that followed. Would he have done things differently if he had lived?
Vietnam was already a divided country when Kennedy took office in 1961. The old French colony of Indochina had been cut in half – communist and non-communist – at the Geneva peace conference of 1954.
In a debate in the Senate that year, young Senator Kennedy set out the view that would guide his future presidency. It would be “dangerously futile and self-destructive,” he declared, “to pour money, materials and men into the jungles of Indochina without at least a remote prospect of victory.”
Less than three months before his death, Kennedy told newscaster Walter Cronkite: “In the final analysis it’s their war. They’re the ones who have to win it or lose it. We can help them, we can give them equipment, we can send our men out there as advisors but they have to win it. The people of Vietnam against the communists … I don’t think the war can be won unless the people support the effort …”
There was a quicker and cheaper way out of Vietnam than that which was finally followed by the United states. I am convinced JFK would have found it, and Kennedy After Dallas describes how it might have come about.
A reviewer of my book has challenged me on what Kennedy would have done to inquire into the attempt on his death. The reviewer suggests he would have gone all out to find out who was behind the actions of Lee Oswald Harvey, and suggests it might have been Lyndon B. Johnson. I do not accept that judgement, not because I think Johnson incapable of leading such a murderous mission, but because I believe Kennedy’s commitment to the sanctity of the American political system would have deterred him from seeking such an earth-shaking explanation.
Kennedy had a strong fatalistic streak. On the day after the settlement of the Cuban missile crisis, he told his brother, “This is the night I should go to the theater.” He left on his desk a slip of paper on which he had written a line from a prayer of Abraham Lincoln: “I know there is a God – and I see a storm coming. If he has a place for me, I believe that I am ready.”