Brace for impact!

Budget season is coming. And the Charest government has been preparing the population for the worst. Economic commentators have been writing [Google translation] about Québec's massive debt as early as December.

Even Bouchard has been put to work. Of course, Mr. Bouchard's economic conservative propensity is well documented; he's one of Pour un Québec lucide's signatories. That he's recently summoned sovereigntists about the right priorities is just Charest's good fortune, right?

Now, Raymond Bachand, Québec's Minister of Finance, is proudly displaying the results [Google translation] of an analysis that ranks Québec only below Japan, Italy, Greece and Iceland in terms of public debt as a percentage of GDP (click here for the story by the Canadian Press). Why haven't the Liberals started to address these issues when they took helm in 2003?


Duceppe to discuss sovereignty in Europe

Even if sovereignty isn't currently the talk of the town, Duceppe considers that bonds need to be reinforced abroad. This coming fall, he will be heading to Europe to make speeches and demystify sovereignty. The aim is to be ready in the event of a positive referendum.

It's a first for the Bloc leader. These types of initiatives have exclusively been taken by the Parti Québécois. "We need to share our point of view to counterbalance the federalists" says Duceppe. A tour of English Canada is in the works and a tour of the USA is also being considered. Obviously, the PQ is delighted.

Click here [Google translation] for the full story.


Bouchard's recent criticism of PQ

In a recent article titled "Bouchard's harsh criticism of PQ is music to Charest's ears" published by The Globe and Mail, Rhéal Séguin writes: "Stung by harsh criticism from former leader Lucien Bouchard, the Parti Québécois became an easy target for Liberal Premier Jean Charest, who capitalized on his political rival's assessment that sovereigntists are fighting a lost cause."

"Ms. Marois' priority is sovereignty, nothing else," Mr. Charest said of PQ Leader Pauline Marois. "The economy isn't her priority. It isn't jobs. It's sovereignty."

In the words of La Presse's Yves Boisvert [Google translation]: "The rebuke to the sovereigntists really conceals another that Mr. Bouchard hasn't spelled out. Although the Liberal government doesn't carry the independence obsession, it is incapable of addressing Québec's problems with courage."


From Saigon to Granby

The years that followed the Fall of Saigon in 1975 saw over 1,000,000 Vietnamese flee the city. Many left with minimal means, swarming boats and rafts the size of a nutshell, compared to the waves of the ocean they confronted. This ordeal gave the term "boat people" the meaning it still bears today.

Among these boat people, were 10 year-old Kim Thúy and her family. Sustenance on the boat was limited to fish. Confronted with food allergies, young Kim was forced to choose between hunger and potentially fatal anaphylactic shock. The family landed in a Malaysian refugee camp where children would play next to open sky septic tanks. The situation genuinely touched the Western world.

Member of the first Parti Québécois government elected in 1976, Jacques Couture [Google translation] was Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities. On the heels of the Charter of the French language's coming into force, he implemented Frenchifying measures to support recent immigrants with their integration into their new society.

Upon his return from South-East Asia in 1980, Mr. Couture is profoundly shaken by the tragedy. In reaction, he pushes for family reunification and raises the population's awareness in favor of these ill-fated individuals.

The State is responsible for welcoming refugees. However, hospitality is also the responsibility of citizens through sponsoring programs. Under these programs, sponsors must provide for essential needs during a whole year. They also have the "duty to greet with warmth and dignity people who've experienced subhuman conditions." 518 groups in 215 municipalities scattered through the province sponsor 7,847 refugees until March 1981.

Kim Thúy and her family end up in Granby where they are greeted with such warmth and generosity that the young girl is marked forever. In her own words... "I often felt that there wasn't enough room within us to receive everything that was being offered." She would later mention that having the opportunity to experience small town Québec was the best integration policy the province could think of. She goes on... "I'm a child of Bill 101, a Francophile and a Francophone in my soul. I speak Vietnamese, of course, but it is the Vietnamese of childhood or cooking. The language in which I think and feel most is French."

Kim Thúy recently published a novel about her own experiences. The book is called Ru. Publishing rights have already been sold to France, Italy, Sweden, Germany and Spain. It's a touching tale about the strength of human empathy.

The Indian connection

With the Treaty of Paris in 1763, France gave up Canada and all of its claims to the territory east of the Mississippi River to Britain. France also recovered Puducherry, an important segment of French India.

Jean Charest's recent trip to India saw the premier stop by the former French colony and raise local awareness for the Canadian province. In the words of Lieutenant Governor Iqbal Singh: "I would like to suggest to the Vice-Chancellor to explore the possibility of setting up a chair for Québec Studies at the university. This would facilitate the younger generation to understand Québec's rich and diverse social, historic and political realities."

Click here for the full story on this potential long-term relationship between Québec and the Union Territory of Puducherry.


Modern racism in Canada

In the words of Phil Fontaine from a speech he did in 1998 for the Donald Gow Memorial Lecture at Queen's University: "It always fascinates me that I see the world so differently from many of my non-Aboriginal friends and acquaintances. Obviously, the identity of the person doing any analysis makes a difference." Food for thought... click here for the whole speech.


A day in the life

We're already well into winter. I like it when it snows. It gives the city a different feel, a different sound. When the wind is down and the sky is filled with fluffy snowflakes, everything is quieter. It's relaxing.

Daylight is getting longer, but there are still a few weeks of cold temperature ahead of us. Every time we hit those minus 20s, I think of the first settlers who got here in the 16th century and probably started wondering as early as December when this cold season would be over. I also have a thought for immigrants experiencing their first winter. Watching Haitians getting off the plane on the runway with military blankets and sandals as their only footwear is an enduring image. It's no wonder some can't deal with our climate and simply move to warmer parts of the country.

This winter's been generally mild, but we've had some cold nights. A few weeks back, I was rushing outside the sport complex to get back home for the kids to get a decent night sleep when I bumped into a lady with jumper cables in her hands. "Do you know how to do this?" she asked. "Well... uh... yes." I mumbled begrudgingly. She stood there, looking at me as if she hadn't noticed my lack of enthusiasm. I watched over her shoulder and saw her car with its door open. I went on... "you simply need to clip the two positive poles together and do the same with the negative poles." "Can you do it?..." she asked. "I'm afraid of this stuff." Ok... let's do this quickly, I thought.

While a second lady approached her mini-van, she unlocked the hood of her Volvo. I tried to pop it open, but couldn't find the latch. She called her husband; the latch was in the radiator grill. We found it and opened the hood. I looked at the battery; all I could see was gunk, no plus and minus signs. I asked the second lady to unlock her hood. Now, she's the one getting instructions over the phone. "My husband says you got to clip to the frame for the ground."

This was getting a bit more complicated than I expected... I was standing with a jumper cable clip in each hand, looking at the lady in distress, trying to reconcile advices from people who weren't even there. Both my kids were running around with impatience and I wasn't sure which one of the plus or the minus is the ground... help!

Salman is a sporting fellow; he's from Northern Africa. He saw me, as he got out of the sport center, started running and yelled "I've got a boosting unit in my car... it's the safest way to do this... hold on!" In the meantime, Abdul, with whom I also do sports, walked up to me, grabbed the cables, connected the whole thing and asked the lady to start the car. When Salman returned with his boosting unit, everything was settled. Yep... I was all set to go home and put the kids to sleep.

New-stock Québécois beats Pure Laine 2-0.

Step by step

With his editorial, in today's La Presse, André Pratte summons federalists against the sovereigntists' new step by step approach. He stresses that this year marks the 20th anniversary of Meech's demise. Although he doesn't mention it, polls show support for sovereignty has slowly, but steadily, increased in recent months.

Some dismiss the thought of an independent Québec as a passé idea carried by aging baby-boomers. Yet, the Parti Québécois has been recruiting many young and promising MNAs and candidates for whom you won't find vis-à-vis in other main provincial and federal parties.

Mr. Pratte also outlines the sovereigntists' general diligence and the environmental strategy they've been using to distance themselves from the rest of the country. What are federalists doing? "Not much" he writes... they are under the impression that 1995's scenario can't happen again. "Big mistake" he adds... I agree with him.

Click here [Google translation] to read the editorial.