Can Democracy Survive in Quebec?
Christopher C. Goodfellow

Mr. Johnson in a lengthy press release on October 6th claims his sign campaign has unmasked the true "fascist" nature of the Bouchard government. Many of us didn't need Mr. Johnson to tell us something we already knew...democracy has been under attack in Quebec for a long time. I beg to differ. I don't think the problem is fascism. The problem is sheer outright incompetence. The most important elements of democracy, fair play and common sense slipped through our fingers some time ago and have been replaced by institutionalized incompetence, rampant featherbedding and a tyranny of stupidity by self-aggrandizing public figures. Fascism? These people couldn't get a train to run on time. The supposed Premier of all Quebeckers has very clearly declared himself the Premier of only some Quebeckers and hopefully will soon be the Premier on his way to California.

This writer carried on a debate in 1989 with Mr. Ryan of the former Liberal government concerning Bill 178. At that time I pointed out to Mr. Ryan that the courts exist for a reason in a democracy and three levels of the courts had ruled the signs provisions as unconsitutional. I posed the following question to Mr. Ryan: why bother having the judiciary at all? If you don't like the ruling, you employ legislative means to circumvent it. This is not fair play, it is legislative anarchy. In the end Bill 86 was passed to mitigate the odious provisions of Bill 178. Will we now have a new Bill XX to reverse a reversal?

Here we are 10 years later still embroiled in the same mess. And to what purpose? I feel as if I am being governed by immature children throwing temper tantrums. We are told that Quebec society has evolved but it would seem at a quick glance that Quebec has suffered enormously. Not only english speaking Quebeckers have left but many talented high income francophones as well. 400,000 contributing people have left. We are the highest taxed jurisdiction in North America. The justification for our high taxes is supposed to be a first class social safety net. We now know that is a lie too. Our health care system falters and 50% of children do not complete high school.

In truth what has been going on here is some very irresponsible chicanery from a governance point of view. An elite echelon of politicians and civil servants have benefitted handsomely from the public purse and left all of us, francophones and anglophones high and dry. It serves their purpose to sew discord and hate amongst the populace. It deflects attention from their game. And it is to their game we must now focus our attention in the looming election. We must not blink and become side-tracked by signs issues. Bigger stakes are at stake here.

Quebec needs tremendous reforms on many fronts but the three main thrusts should be economic, health care and schools.

First economic. Mr. Charest is putting forward a program of tax relief and investment incentives. Let's hope the plan congeals into something concrete we can examine and evaluate. Anything will be better than our current self termed "man of action" Mr. Landry involving himself in every deal and handing out government funds as some sort of modern day Seigneur. All that should cease. Transparent, open-to-all, tax based investment incentives are the way to go. No favoritism. No bureaucrats making subjective and incompetetent decisions. No one can cheat. No one can defraud. If you make money, you'll get a tax break. If you don't make money, the taxpayers sure as hell are not going to give you a dime and bail you out time and time again. The legions of civil servants in the so-called economic development departments should be shown the door. We can no longer afford them. Let a transparent tax system do the job.

Second, we must accept the health care system is done in. It is inefficient and bureaucratic overheads swallow funds that should be going towards new facilities and treatment. The system is simply featherbedded from top to bottom. The solution is a radical privatization as only through privatization will the featherbedding be broken. Each Quebecker should be allocated vouchers to spend at the institutions that provide the best services. Competition will lower costs and increase the quality level of care. If we don't move on this soon, the entire system as we know it will simply bankrupt us as the baby boomers begin to make more demands.

Third. Likewise education should be decentralized and where possible privatized into a voucher system as well. Let competition replace the incredible bureaucratic structure here where in actual fact there are more people involved in administration of the schools than teachers and our children can't even get access to textbooks in some cases. It is a disgraceful state of affairs. My generation was treated to a very good public school system. It was decentralized and it was administratively efficient. It was smaller. It was local.

Yes democracy is under attack in Quebec and has been for a very long time as this small elite group of politicians and bureaucrats has slowly taken the reins of power and milked the system for its own benefit. Corruption is deep and embedded and must be rooted out. The stories of what government is billed for in services in some cases makes one ill to ponder. It was brought to my attention that the former mayor of Arundel who lives in a private nursing home in St. Jovite pays just under $2.00 to use a private bus service to transport him occasionally to Arundel. If he were to live in the public nursing home, it is my understanding the facility would pay the transportation but would be billed $35.00 by the private carrier. This is but one small example of the endemic waste and mismanagement that exists. It is time fellow Quebeckers, french, english and allophone to demand a higher level of responsibility and a higher standard of governance. We are being bled.

Mr. Bouchard has had his chance. All the mandates of the Pequistes have led us deeper and deeper into a bog of socialism and a level of state intervention in our lives where personal responsibility seems to no longer matter. We are sick of government by decree and the appalling absence of public consultation on many issues where a state paternalism becomes the ruling attitude. The dream of independence and sovereignty has led Quebec to its knees financially and emotionally. This is a province that should be brimming over with economic activity and yet we have an unemployment rate and waste of human resources that is shameful. We have broken men and broken families that need healing and these people have the audacity to waste time on grand plans.

Mr. Charest is our alternative but he must be held to the fire to deliver a true alternative that is better. I, for one, am not interested in great public utterances. I'm interested in performance now. I want to see the meat. Stephan Dion and his great debates on intellectual issues can go right back to Ottawa. We need performance on issues that really matter to real people who face the real task of getting up everyday and making a real living to provide for their families.

Quebeckers have had it with their politicians of all stripes. We are tired of being divided. We are tired of being used. Grow up and smarten up. All Quebeckers want a smaller and more efficient government. We want less talk and less personal self aggrandizement. Democracy will survive if the politicians meet the real needs of the people. Otherwise we are a slippery slope to anarchy and violence. The people will decide shortly what they want.

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