Paul Caron, A.R.C.A. (1874-1941)
(with permission from La Galerie Walter Klinkhoff, Montréal)
- Marché Bonsecours, Montréal, by Paul Caron (1874-1941)
Total “failure” revisited
It seems the human brain works 24/7. At any rate, mine does. So, yesterday morning, when I woke up, I was still tired but Madame Marois’ visit to Switzerland, London and Scotland, in particular, no longer seemed a complete “failure.”
Quebec is open for business
In the short-term, it may seem a failure. She did not receive the support of a higher political figure, but in her London meeting with businessmen, she played down sovereignty. There may not be a referendum during her years as Premier of Quebec, as Québécois and Quebecers will vote when they “are ready,” she says.
Madame Marois holds an MBA (Masters of Business Administration). Consequently, the person who addressed a crowd of businessmen (the term includes women) was credible. In fact, she was a colleague and she speaks English.[i] She could understand the persons she addressed and they could understand her. Quebec was open for business.
Secession: when Quebecers are ready
Madame Marois did not dismiss the Québécois’ “right” to disagree and secede. She said:
‘This, of course, is an internal debate and a decision regarding Quebec independence will be made only when Quebecers are ready.’” (See The Globe and Mail.)
Moreover, our London businessmen were not reading a newspaper. They were hearing a real person and a person with whom one can speak. Not only is Quebec open for business, but business is a subject matter Madame Marois is familiar with. The political party representing Quebec in Ottawa, a party now inactive, is the Bloc Québécois. What if it changed its name? The word “bloc” suggests solidarity, but it also suggests systematic opposition. Such is not the case.
I am certain members of the Bloc Québécois would not like to be compared to American Tea Party naysayers or Republican extremists now in Congress in the United States. Monsieur Gilles Duceppe (born July 22, 1947) having lost the last Federal election in his own riding (circonscription) the Bloc Québécois has a new leader: Daniel Paillé (born April 1, 1950). I am not suggesting that Monsieur Duceppe was a poor leader. I am simply noting that the Bloc has a new leader and that, usually, new leaders bring changes, however small.
Back Courtyard, Cabbies, Montreal, by Paul Caron, c. 1920
Lowering the voting age: maybe one day
As for lowering the voting age, Madame Marois gave the impression that she was postponing such a decision. For one thing, it is unlikely that members of Quebec’s Assemblée nationale (The National Assembly) would vote in favour of this motion. It has already voiced disapproval.
I should think that supporting the students earned Madame Marois many votes. But onlookers who knew that Quebec could not afford free tuition were not impressed. Many sensed that their leader was not respectful of the students and other voters. She, in fact, cultivated “entitlement.” The students are about to learn the truth. How will they react?
It would be my opinion that, in last year’s kerfuffle, Madame Marois hurt herself, her party and the students. For members of her cabinet, Pierre Duchesne especially, the Quebec Government’s Minister of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology,[iii] last summer’s events are an albatross. However, in London,
“[w]hen asked whether she would like to drop the age for a referendum on sovereignty, [Madame Marois] replied: “Until now that is not the case, but maybe one day.” (See The Globe and Mail.)
Scotland is not Quebec
Madame Marois also stated that Scotland was not Quebec. It’s not. Yet, First Minister Alex Salmond saw a smiling face and a well-dressed, articulate, flesh and blood Québécoise. If the gift is what I think it is, an Inuit sculpture, Mr Salmond is no doubt very happy. Madame Marois may not have been in his agenda, but Quebec can no longer be an abstraction to him.
Travel broadens the mind
Moreover, “les voyages forment la jeunesse” (Michel de Montaigne [February 28, 1533 – September 13, 1592]).[i] Travel broadens the mind. Madame Marois has now been abroad as the Premier of one of Canada’s ten provinces. This is not trivial. I would like to presume that she has become a more cosmopolitan figure, if only to a modest degree. The image she projected was not one of rigidity.
Michel de Montaigne was of the opinion that minds had to be brushed one against the other (frotter et limer notre cervelle [brain] contre celle d’autrui) and he wrote that the first step in educating children was to take them to neighbouring countries where other languages were spoken.
What I wrote on 30 January 2013 remains valid. Madame Marois was not listed in Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond‘s diary. He saw her between two scheduled events. Everyone knows. But he saw her and spoke with her.
La Symphonie du Marais
In the short-term, Madame Marois’ visit to Edinburgh may seem a failure. She would like to lower the voting age, but failed to enlist support from a greater leader. However, in the long-term, her traveling to Davos, London and Edinburgh may prove a beneficial endeavour. The leader of Québec’s Parti Québécois, an indépendantiste party, traveled to the United Kingdom.
The manner in which Premier Marois used students during the spring and summer of 2012 leaves to be desired and her wish to lower the voting age reveals fear and is criticized. Yet, in London, she spoke in a conciliatory manner: “but maybe one day.” It could be, therefore, that she has mellowed. Such would be my hope.
However, Marois is facing a moment of truth on Quebec soil. One cannot give what one does not possess and run up a police bill one’s government can ill afford. Will Pierre Duchesne, an accomplished politician and journalist, be able to contain the damage or are we about to face more disorderly demonstrations and/ or another General Election?
In 2012, voters survived seven months of shenanigans, thinking, perhaps, as did the students, that Madame Marois was telling the truth. This time, I doubt very much that Quebec’s National Assembly would allow seven months of disorderly and, as of 11 May 2012, the day Bill 78 was passed, unlawful conduct.
I should also mention that the Clarity Act, passed in 2000, is currently in the news, eliciting memorable phrases: one cannot be “half pregnant,” says Justin Trudeau. The Clarity Act protects Canadian unity and it makes sense. Secession should be negotiated. For instance, one does not simply walk out on a spouse or “conjoint-e.” There exist separation and divorce laws. The same is now true of Confederation. It seems English-speaking Canadians do not want to lose their French-speaking population. How very nice!
In Canada, many high schools (secondary education) and universities have debating societies and enter into debating contests. I have often been a “judge” in debating contests. They are very exciting. A group of people has to support views it opposes as well as views it supports and one has to respect rules of conduct. There are two judges. I remember one debate that started deteriorating. Both judges stood up at the same time and called off the debate. A group of debaters was clearly unruly.
© Micheline Walker
February 1, 2013
[i] See Vigile.net
[ii] Essais, Livre 1, Chapitre XXVI “De l’institution des enfans.”
[iii] Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur, de la Recherche, de la Science et de la Technologie
composer: Michel Richard Delalande (15 December 1657 – 18 June 1726)
pieces: Symphonies pour les Soupers du Roy, 5º Suite, La Grande Pièce Royale
performers: La Symphonie du Marais or La Symphonie du Marais (Facebook).
director: Hugo Reyne FR
artist: Charles Le Brun (1619-1690)
(please click on the picture to enlarge it)
Quebec City, Old Buildings, by Caron