Thursday, September 6, 2012

Sept. 6: It rained yesterday....

...yes, it did. It said so right there on the front page of The Moncton Times and Tribune. It's an up-to-the minute fast-breaking story on p.1 that carries over to p. 2.  And, get a grip on yourselves, folks, there's another huge story on p. 3 with big pictures of the new U de Moncton cafeteria and it has tables and chairs and everythng.

P. 1 has another big story. They're still building the the Mapleton Shopping Centre. And they've got pictures to prove it. Boy. This is a paper that really digs to get at the truth.

There's also a sad story on p. 1. Moncton needs a hospice to provide close to a million dollars a year to help    terminally ill people - some 120 a year - die in care and dignity. Most of it has to be done by charity.  And that's reasonable. Most of our government money is tied up in building an expensive new high school out of town; and the government has to put aside a hundred million for a hockey rink - not to mention the problem of keeping taxes down for our aristocracy, and making sure they get lots of nice, road contracts.

It's a situation a lot like the bus drivers. The bus drivers aren't worth it. The terminally ill aren't worth it, either. Screw'em.

The news reports on Quebec aren't much use because they come from PostMedia which doesn't know a whole lot about Quebec. The election night shooting is  scarcely the first incident of political violence in Quebec.  I can well remember bombs going off in mail boxes that stood in anglo districts. I remember a policeman killed in one of those incidents. I can remember separatist heroes who kidnapped and murdered a cabinet minister.

They were captured - and all got light sentences. One day, not many  years later as I entered a French/English college at which I was to speak. There was a man behind me. I held the door for him. He was the leader of the kidnappers, and almost certainly the one who had strangled cabinet minister Pierre Laporte. He had been invited to the school as a hero to address a school assembly.

Nobody said he was deranged or dangerous or any of that. Somehow, I don't think James Bain will be as lucky.

"The Language Debate" is the great red herring of Quebec polititics. It easily stirs up emotions and hatreds, and that makes it useful for Quebec political leaders (all of them) who don't want to deal with the real issues.

Issue 1 - Quebec society is closer to the seventeenth century than the twenty-first. It is run by a privileged class of francophones, the ones who can afford to send their children to excellent and expensive private schools. Every premier of Quebec but one has come from those private schools (and the one attended such a school but didn't finish.) Almost all cabinet ministers and professionals come out of those schools. And those schools all provide superb training in bilingualism. They are what produced a Trudeau.

Historically, francophone public schools  of Quebec have been for the riff-raff. Until recently, one couldn't even enter university from them. And they still offer appallingly bad instruction in English. That's deliberate. It keeps the wealthier francophones in their positions of power and wealth by condemning the working class to remain forever a working class.

And why is it important for francophones in Quebec to be bilingual? That takes us to the other, ignored reality.

2. Quebec lives by doing business, primarily with Canada and the United States. Its big corporations like Bombardier and SNC-Lavalin do business globally - where the prevailing language is English. A PQ government once warned Bombardier that it must use French in its work. Bombardier said it has to get engineers and other specialists from all over the world - and they speak English. It told the government to get stuffed. And just to rub the point home, it bought a large property just over the border in upstate New York, and threatened to move there. You will have noticed that Mrs. Marois proposed tough laws to make small businesses work in French. She didn't say a word about Lavalin or Bombardier.

It may not be fair. But it's a reality. Quebec, separate or Canadian, has to do business with a largely English world. It has to be broadly bilingual if most French are going to improve their status. Holland has the same problem, though on a much larger scale. When I taught there, I learned that most Dutch could speak French, English, German, and commonly Spanish and Italian. All of them well. Papers written for me in French or English were done so well that they seemed to have been written by native French and English rather than by Dutch students. (and I did not see any loss of Dutch culture.)

But it's not going to happen in Quebec - largely because if it did, the rich francophones who also dominate the political leadership would lose their privileged position. Instead, Marois fought a campaign to fan the hysteria over language, and to spread fear and hatred. It's an old game in Quebec. And it works every time.

For forty years and more, Quebec political leaders have warned about the danger of Quebeckers learning English. And they all have had one thing in common. They all speak excellent English.

The great danger facing Quebec is that it has no political leadership willing to face the realities of what Quebec needs. That will produce at least one of two results in the near future. One is a Parti-Quebecois that will continue to feed on fear and hatred. The other, even more dangerous, is a general population, angry and frustrated without knowing exactly why, will turn loose against government in general. It's going to be a bumpy ride.

But don't expect to get any sense of that from the pages of The Moncton Times and Transcript.

The lead editorial wants to get city buses back on the road. Well, yes. But there's an even bigger problem behind that one. According to Citigroup ( not a fanatical, bomb-throwing group of environmentalists, but an investment house) Saudi Arabia will run out of oil by 2030. That's just eighteen years away. And it's not the only place that's running dry. And, it's happening at a time when world demand is skyrocketing.

There's a reason why oil companies are scrounging for dirty oil as in Alberta, for oil in risky places like the Arctic and the sea bottoms, and for shale gas with all its proven dangers. We are in serious trouble for energy supply. And gas is going to become very, very expensive, very, very, very soon.

So, the editorial writer would like to get those buses going again. So would I. But that is one hell of a short term solution. How are we going to move people and goods ten years from now? Maybe five years. Maybe less. What are our far-sighted city planners doing, (when they aren't doodling pictures of an events centre with a five thousand car parking lot, and putting parking meters on Main St.?

From what I can see, the bus company employees are worth the pay they want. The city planners aren't. Nor is most of the council worth the cost of its janitorial services.

There's also a very scarey column by Gwynne Dyer that planners and councillors might want to think about. I know Moncton is the hub of the universe - but if climate changes as Dyer suggests it is doing, it might have serious implications for the plan of Moncton - and in the very near future.

A quite decent column by Norbert but, oh, Norbert. Our public school systems don't come from England. They come from Scotland. And the Scots were not learning to read and write  100 years ago; it was more like 300. It was Scots, raised in Gaelic, who learned English to teach the English how to read. Got a Bible from 1800 or so lying around the house? It's probably Gaelic. The Presbyterian church insisted on literacy so everybody would read The Bible, and think about it. The English went to Anglican churches because there they weren't required to read or think.

On the op ed page, Jody Dallaire is worth a read. Rod Allen -and this seems to be a characteristic of the staff writers at the TandT - is irrelevant. It there's a story here, I can't find it. If it's an attempt to be funny, it's bloody feeble. How can a man spend so long in Journalism - and have so little to say about anything?

There's a good letter to the editor about Crandall University and how, despite defying the law by discriminating against gays, it gets $150,000 from the city of Moncton. 150 grand a year. That would be a big step to supporting a terminal care centre for the city. But I can't help noticing that city council has been remarkably silent on this issue. It makes you wonder. Who had the muscle to get that 150,000 - and to keep it coming after all the criticism?

If the council won't tell us, perhaps Crandall will. As Baptists, aren't they committed to telling the truth? Or is discriminating against gays the only part of the The Cospel they have to obey? (Actually, it's not in the Gospels).


  1. Quebec shooting POSSIBLY somehow inspired by the racist electioneering of Marois>:>::
    One lunatic is charged with murder...while another is being sworn in as premier (sorry I mean Prime Minister)

  2. Strange thing about those buses (that don't run). It seems they need new bus stops, just like the one recently completed outside NBCC on Mountain road. Does that make ANY sense to you? Right, me neither.