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by Maurin Picard May 29, 2012
The age-old gap between 7.7 million Québécois and the rest of Canada, the English majority, seems to have once again become insurmountable.
Since the beginning of the “Maple Revolution”, reporting in the English media has caused disbelief and outrage across the country. With hyperbole, and sometimes bad faith. The student protest, is denounced by Gary Mason, columnist for the Globe and Mail, as a “temper tantrum” of a child who does not realize that university fees in Quebec are already “ridiculously low” compared to the rest of the country. His colleague Margaret Wente castigates Quebecers, as the “Greeks of Canada”, in reference to the country that rejects austerity measures imposed by Europe. Exasperated by the excesses, Wente summarizes the “mentality” of striking students: “The government owes us everything and if we do not get it, we’ll riot.”
Maclean’s goes even further. With 2010 article titled “The most corrupt province” of Canada, referring to the various scandals that have tarnished the government of Premier Jean Charest (Liberal, Conservative). Premier Charest featured prominently in last weeks “Quebec’s New Ruling Class”, featuring a photo of a protester wearing a red balaclava, accompanied by the scathing comment: “How a group of privileged students went to war and paralyzed an entire province. For $325.” This would be the annual increase in university fees for each of the next five years, if the Premier of Quebec is able to complete his reforms.
From British Columbia to Ontario through the Saskatchewan, English Canadians are outraged by the generosity of the welfare state in Quebec and university registration fees that are two to three times lower on average than elsewhere. Tough medicine to take, because according to the principle of equalization, which aims to address fiscal disparities between provinces, the richest must redistribute their windfall to the poorer provinces. Alberta, wealthy largely due to the exploitation of oil and natural gas, is the largest net contributor to Canada, largely in favor of Quebec which received $ 7.3 billion per year. All the while promoting an economic and social model completely at odds with its western neighbor.
Since the federal election in May 2011, the separation is also evident in the political arena. Anglophone provinces have all contributed to electing a Conservative majority federal government, while the Bloc Quebecois, officially sovereigntist but fundamentally conservative, has been replaced by the New Democratic Party (NDP), with socialist leanings. If early elections were to be held in Quebec, Charest’s Liberal Party, increasingly unpopular because of his erratic management of events might fade to the NDP, which supports unions. The drift of Quebec away from English Canada would then only increase.
Translated from the original French by Translating the printemps érable.
*Translating the printemps érable is a volunteer collective attempting to balance the English media’s extremely poor coverage of the student conflict in Québec by translating media that has been published in French into English. These are amateur translations; we have done our best to translate these pieces fairly and coherently, but the final texts may still leave something to be desired. If you find any important errors in any of these texts, we would be very grateful if you would share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.