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Signs of Privilege

By Jeffery Vacante on June 23, 2015

As the venerable Canadian department store The Bay continues the process of rebranding into Hudson’s Bay, which is part of a plan to go upscale and thus to fit a bit more comfortably into the culture of a corporate family that now includes Lord & Taylor and Saks, one wonders how this change will affect the facade of the company’s downtown Montreal store on Ste. Catherine Street. Removing the old yellow “The Bay” lettering and replacing them with the longer “Hudson’s Bay,” or more likely, “La Baie d’Hudson,” won’t be a simple matter since the old signs fit perfectly inside the arched recesses that dominate the facade of that grand old red sandstone building.

Alberta’s Notley is saddling up on a stranger’s horse

By Robert Presser on June 23, 2015

Presser_Robert_new.jpgI write this column as I return from the Global Petroleum Show that took place in Calgary, Alberta.  The trip, as part of a Quebec delegation exhibiting and holding supplier meetings at the show, allowed me to gauge the reaction of a segment of Albertans (read, oil patch executives) to the recent election of the province’s first NDP government, lead by Rachel Notley.  The comments I am going to share with you are a rather pleasant surprise, given the chortling and dismissive amusement displayed by many columnists in the mainstream media in the election’s aftermath.
First, there is no panic.  From a taxpayer’s standpoint, there is general acceptance that the Alberta portion of the income tax will increase for anyone in the upper middle-class and above. 

À la défense de l'enseignement bilingue

By Frédéric Hébert on June 23, 2015

Il existe au Québec depuis bien des années une sorte d'apartheid linguistique au niveau de l'accès à l'éducation primaire publique bilingue. Il demeure anormale que seules les communautés d’expression anglaise du Québec ont accès à ce système d'enseignement, au détriment de la majorité d’expression française du Québec. Lorsque je parle d'écoles publiques bilingues, je fait spécifique référence aux écoles publiques anglaises qui offrent des programmes d'enseignement bilingues où le français occupe un temps de classe variant entre 50% et 90% de l'horaire régulier. L'accès à ces écoles reste évidemment le privilège des communautés d’expression anglaise du Québec.

A NEW LOW FOR THE OQLF "SEGREGATION NOW, SEGREGATION FOREVER?"

By Beryl Wajsman on May 25, 2015

Wajsman_Beryl_bw.jpg"Someone, somewhere in the bowels of the OQLF bureaucracy wants to impose a home-grown version of Alabama Gov. George Wallace's rallying cry in the 1960s of,"Segregation now, segregation forever!" No it is not a stretch to make this parallel. It is actually perhaps time to stop being politically correct about what is "normal" in Quebec. Segregation of people by color is not "normal." Segregation of ideas and words in the press by language is also not "normal." 
Lily Ryan is the publisher of the Pontiac Journal, a free weekly, home delivered to a bilingual community. It is an English newspaper. But in an effort to serve all members of her community,Ryan began publishing articles and ads in French some years ago. The only French community paper, Le Réveil, had closed in the 1980s.

Stop the prohibitions! We have a right to be human!

By Beryl Wajsman on May 15, 2015

Wajsman_Beryl_bw.jpgWell, prohibition season is upon us and in full swing.
What seems to be an at least yearly event, perhaps corresponding to the weather, is in full throttle at provincial and municipal governments. Politicians find it easier to prohibit first, question later, than concentrating on getting the basics right. It is an appeal to the base politics of fear and a perpetuation of the lie that life can be legislated into what David Taylor Jones has called the “zero-risk” state.
This kind of politics is wrong. It infringes on Charter rights and natural justice. And worst of all it treats us all like children. The essence of a free society is just that – freedom -  to speak as we like, to choose as we like…even if they are bad choices.

Suffering seniors - the sham of social security: Living on a pension in the Pointe

By P.A. Sévigny on April 27, 2015

Sevigny_PA_bw.jpgAt 79 years old, Kathleen Brown keeps a neat and orderly apartment with all the usual details that includes lots of pictures of both her children and her grandchildren on the refrigerator along with the local grocery-store’s Christmas holiday calendar on the kitchen wall.

“I don’t get anything done for free like other people do,” she said. “I’ve been paying bills for all of my life and I expect to keep on paying them till I’m dead and gone.”

No rights without responsibilities

By Beryl Wajsman on April 16, 2015

Wajsman_Beryl_bw.jpgThe latest student displays of arrogant self-indulgence, culminating in the UQAM riot, have been nothing other than thuggery. The same kind of criminal activity we witnessed in the “Red Square” period. Destruction of private and public property, intimidation of others trying to exercise their own rights, criminal trespass and a resort to the appropriation of the facades of terror when rioters broke up classes with faces covered.
What is beyond comprehension is why there is yet again a debate as to how these thugs should be treated? If they can be identified, charge them. If they can’t, then UQAM should use the student association fees to make up the damage. Including the destroying soft drink dispensing machine which some of the riot’s leaders would justify as an attack on global capitalism.

Olympic roof funding deserves a big, fat NO! Quebec needs to get priorities straight.

By Beryl Wajsman on April 7, 2015

Wajsman_Beryl_bw.jpgOut of a $15 billion infrastructure envelope in the new budget we are seeing some ridiculous things. Worst among them is $220 million for the Olympic roof. Again.

It's nice to know that all our other problems have been solved. This useless expenditure comes on top of $400 million to the Beaudoin family for a needless cement plant in the Gaspé. And some $300 million for a phosphate strip mine in Sept Isles. Cement and phosphate prices have been plunging.

Quebec electoral commission still fails cities

By Robert Frank on March 23, 2015

Frank_Robert.JPGRural/urban imbalance continues as Montreal stands to lose seat and Laval will not gain.
Although the Liberal government has embarked on an ambitious effort to fix the provinces finances, Quebec City has not yet moved to address the province’s democratic deficit.
According to the Quebec Electoral Commission, Montreal stands to lose a seat in the National Assembly and fast-growing Laval won’t gain any.
That’s because Quebec crams two-thirds more citizens into its urban ridings than the ones in the hinterland. Last week, the Quebec Electoral Commission said in a statement that urban ridings can contain 60,484 voters, while rural ridings need just 36,290 eligible souls to get the same representation in the provincial legislature.

Boycott this! Enough is enough!

By Beryl Wajsman on March 16, 2015

bds.jpgThis past Sunday McGill students rejected a motion by their student society - the SSMU - that would have urged the university to boycott Israel and divest investments in companies with Israeli ties. Their action is to their credit and should be applauded. Particularly in light of the fact that last December, Concordia students voted in favour of such a motion.
It is astonishing that students - heavily subsidized students at that - would even be allowed a say in determining academic and investment relations of the institution they attend supported by our tax dollars. Last week we used this space to say "Ça suffit!" to Hydro's gouging. This week we say "enough is enough" of the BDS - boycott, divestment, sanction - crowd.

Mr. Trudeau have you no shame?

By Beryl Wajsman on March 9, 2015

Wajsman_Beryl_bw.jpgJustin Trudeau has compared Conservative immigration policies and rhetoric as creating an atmosphere akin to the Liberal government of Mackenzie King's "none is too many" policy against European Jews in World War II. This kind of outrageous demagoguery would disqualify Trudeau from being taken seriously for any office in most western countries.
Aside from the fact that the Harper government just yesterday made clear again it's outreach to Muslims in Jason Kenney's address, there have been no restrictions on Muslim immigration into Canada as there were against Jews. No one is killing Muslims just for being Muslims, as Hitler did to Jews, except for other Muslims like ISIS, Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al-Qaeda.

Hydro-Québec: "Ça suffit!"

By Beryl Wajsman on March 9, 2015

Wajsman_Beryl_bw.jpgIt is undignified, insulting and misleading for the Quebec Régie de l'énergie to put a positive spin on it's decision to allow Hydro a 2.9% rate increase instead of the asked for 3.9%. The implication that the Board was somehow protecting the public is nonsense. This Board has allowed almost 13% increases over the last three years. Neither inflation, nor the cost of production, nor our incomes have gone up anywhere near that mark. This is simply a hidden tax with one pocket of the government refilling the other pocket of the government. It is time to paraphrase René Levesque when he finished the nationalization of Hydro, as a member of the Lesage government, and say to the utility monopoly, "Ça suffit!"

Justin Trudeau just doesn't get it

By Beryl Wajsman on February 18, 2015

Wajsman_Beryl_bw.jpgJustin Trudeau said yesterday that Prime Minister Harper's insistence that niqabs - female face coverings - should not be allowed in courts and citizenship ceremonies demonstrates an insensitivity to minority rights. I would say that Mr. Trudeau's continuing failure to comprehend that cultural particularities should never be raised to secular right is an overt threat to the health of a liberal pluralistic democracy and is cause for concern in someone who seeks to become the head of government.

The Mascia judgment: Justice denied

By Beryl Wajsman on February 3, 2015

Wajsman_Beryl_bw.jpgJustice Salvatore Mascia's judgment in the latest challenge to Bill 101 continued the tradition of avoiding the hard truths that would have necessitated condemning the ugly compromise of justice that has been the hallmark of Quebec law since the passage of this notorious legislation. In so doing he failed a generation and blunted hope. Worse still, he denied natural justice.
I do not use the term "natural justice" pejoratively. It is a term of legal art. It refers to those rights inherent to every human being simply by right of birth. And one of those primordial rights is that all people are to be treated - and seen to be treated - equally before the law. The dignity of the individual has been the litmus test of all civilized systems of law. It is a test Quebec fails time and again.

Right in our own backyards

By Beryl Wajsman on December 8, 2014

Wajsman_Beryl_bw.jpgAt the time of the terrorist murders of WO Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, we used this space to remind readers of the need for vigilance on the enemy within. That it was not sufficient just to commemorate the service and sacrifice of others. That all of us in our daily lives must be on guard against extremists hiding behind seemingly normal facades.
Among the reasons I wrote that editorial then was because I had actually been asked by someone, "is there really a threat from these groups in our own backyard?" And I was asked this exactly one day before the Vincent murder. Well there was a threat then, and there is now. Right in our own backyards.

Arrogant authority

By Beryl Wajsman on November 27, 2014

Wajsman_Beryl_bw.jpgTwo stories in the past week brought to light once again the problem of the arrogance of security authority. They are not strictly the types of stories that I have commented upon in the past. Those concerned mistreatment of visible minorities  and the compromise of the basic tenets of due process and the rule of law. No, these stories - in certain aspects - could be termed almost routine, yet they still manifest the maladies that threaten our liberties and our lives. Worse yet, they hinder our progress to be truly just.

The Robillard Report: Courageous common sense

By Beryl Wajsman on November 27, 2014

Wajsman_Beryl_bw.jpgLucienne Robillard's report on cutting government spending and waste is the kind of courageous common sense that comes too rarely yet is so needed. Aside from the specifics, the importance of her work is that it highlights where the Quebec statist model can be cut without affecting the social security programs that we have all paid for during our working lives and which monies were supposed to be treated in trust. Indeed, it demonstrates that dramatic cuts are necessary if we are to keep our social contract viable and our credit worthiness stable.

Memo to Premier Couillard: We elected you to stop this!

By Beryl Wajsman on November 18, 2014

Wajsman_Beryl_bw.jpgWe yearn for investors from outside Quebec to invest here. We know that foreign investment is critical to job creation and to increased bank credits for small business. So forgive our astonishment at last week's news that the websites of international retailers
Williams-Sonoma, Urban Outfitters, and Club Monaco had been blocked in Quebec because...you guessed..they didn't comply with the language laws! After the Marois legacy of Pastagate and all the other little "gates" we expected this government to stop the madness and reign in the OQLF. Apparently it needs another memo.

Trudeau's suspension of MPs shows lack of judgement

By Jordan Turner on November 11, 2014

turner_jordan.jpgLast week, Canadian Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau announced the suspension of two Liberal Members of Parliament (MP), Scott Andrews and Massimo Pacetti, of his party caucus over allegations of harassment made by two other MP’s from the opposing New Democratic Party (NDP).  The accusations of harassment were made in a private conversation with Justin Trudeau and were not meant to go public.  NDP party whip Turmel was aware of the accusations of misconduct and the alleged victims clearly stated that they did not wish to file formal complaints as they did not want to destroy the political careers of the liberal MP’s being accused of harassment.   However, Trudeau in yet another example of his complete lack of judgement publicized the harassment allegations and suspended his MP’s prior to any investigations.

"One language, one culture?" M. Fournier, an explanation is owed.

By Beryl Wajsman on October 30, 2014

Wajsman_Beryl_bw.jpg"The Quebec of the future is already visible. A nation within a federation. With one language, one culture, civil law, and distinct social values."
With those words, the Couillard government's Minister for Intergovernmental affairs and the MNA for St.Laurent - one of Quebec's most multilingual and multicultural ridings. - Jean-Marc Fournier reopened a debate we all thought was closed with the election of a Liberal government. "One language, one culture." Really? M. Fournier, you owe voters an explanation.

Liberty demands responsibility Time to stop excusing the enemies within.

By Beryl Wajsman on October 30, 2014

Wajsman_Beryl_bw.jpg"Liberty demands responsibility. That's why so many dread it." George Bernard Shaw wrote those words at a time when the rising tide of fascism was a clear menace, yet so many in western nations felt compelled to excuse and appease. It was they - free citizens - who were afraid of the responsibility that comes with freedom.
I share these words today, because if there is one living testament that can be made to the ultimate sacrifices of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent  and Corporal Nathan Cirillo it is that we - their fellow Canadians whom they served and protected - must understand that it is our responsibility to fight back in civil society against the purveyors and perpetrators of this era's theocratic fascism. 

A word on the Constitution

By Beryl Wajsman on September 8, 2014

constitution.PNGUrban legends are not relegated to second-rate movies or the twittersphere. Too often even elected officials and members of the fourth estate succumb to the easy story line. Whether it is because some really don't understand an issue or because they are wedded to the notion that a "six second sound bite" is all anyone can absorb, they perpetuate realities that are simply wrong. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan once quipped, "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not to their own facts."
Here in Quebec, every time the word "Constitution" is mentioned it is always around the issue that this province is not a signatory to Canada's central governing piece of legislation. That is simply false. We are in this debate once more since Premier Couillard mentioned several days ago that it would be appropriate if Quebec "signed" on by 2017, the 150th anniversary of Confederation. 

Canadians In Dreamland

By David T. Jones on September 7, 2014

jones_david.jpgWashington, DV - An observer of things Canadians in the Southland looks upon the Trudeau home break-in incident with puzzled, indeed appalled disbelief. Canadian failure to appropriately guard its officials literally begs for tragedy.

Justin Trudeau, Liberal Party leader, is arguably the second most important individual in Canada.  .He is the emergent figure in Canada's political landscape!  but in Quebec “you either love him or hate him” as one Quebecois noted.

Yet his family residence was so unguarded that the front door wasn’t even locked. 

U.S. FOREIGN POLICY: IT PIVOTS—BUT DOES IT STAND?

By David T. Jones on August 20, 2014

jones_david.jpgWashington DC…U.S. foreign policy is (Select one of more of the following:  adrift; unfocused; contradictory; confused; disheartening; disconcerting; wrong-headed).
In a concerted issue to be anti-Bush, President Obama and his Administration have spent almost six years attempting to create a working, understandable, coherent foreign policy.  In so doing, they have:
-- Announced “reset” of policy toward Russia, without really saying what was wrong with the previous policy other than Dubya Bush pursued it.  And then they have found themselves confronting a bear whose aggression annexed Crimea and appears intent on destabilizing the rest of Ukraine;


Taxes surpass housing as main family expense

By Joel Ceausu on August 20, 2014

Ceausu_Joel.jpgIf you are an average Canadian family, you need not worry anymore about government picking your pocket: you now need to be concerned about your pockets.
“If you asked people to name their household’s biggest expense, many would likely say housing,” says Charles Lammam, co-author of the Fraser Institute’s Canadian Consumer Tax Index. “In reality the average Canadian family spends more on taxes than all basic necessities, including housing.”The study found that the average Canadian family earned $77,381 and paid almost 42 percent – $32,369 – in total taxes, compared to 36.1 percent for food, shelter and clothing combined.

OMAR KHADR: THE LUCKIEST MAN IN THE WORLD

By David T. Jones on July 18, 2014

jones_david.jpgWashington, DC - Canadians are now being treated to the latest episode in the long-running Omar Khadr sob story.  An Alberta appeals court has ruled (but the federal government plans to appeal) that Khadr should be transferred from a federal penitentiary to a provincial prison. 
The technical argument is that the eight-year sentence imposed on Khadr after he pleaded guilty in U.S. court to five crimes, including murder, was a youth sentence in Canadian terms.  Of course, nothing of the like was indicated in the U.S. disposition of the sentence. Indeed, his repatriation to Canada was implicitly dependent on Khadr serving his full sentence under conditions equivalent to those in the United States—not in a county court house jail/motel equivalent with early release.  But Canadian disinterest in U.S. juridical practice is legendary.

The fierce urgency for a guaranteed national income

By Beryl Wajsman on June 30, 2014

Wajsman_Beryl_bw.jpgThe Basic Income Canada Network organized a conference over the weekend at McGill advocating for a guaranteed national income plan. The conference showed the practical path to getting it done. We need to, and can, do this.
The broad principles for a Guaranteed Annual Income were first proposed by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, future UN Ambassador and New York Senator, when he served under President Nixon. They  came within a few votes in Congress of getting this done in the early 1970s. A GAI would replace other social security programs such as welfare.

Côté

By Beryl Wajsman on May 26, 2014

Cote.jpgWe had met before, but my first meeting with Marcel Côté during the Mayoralty campaign took place on one of those perfect late summer Montreal afternoons that makes us all forget the city's problems and remember why we stay Montrealers. We sat in the window of the café near his office that looked out onto Place Frère-André. The biggest tree was lush and green, with birds and pigeons swooping around having their way with the branches and with the statue of Frère André. The air was sweet with the perfumed scent of some bud gently blown our way by a soft wind. 

Nobody’s voting the graveyard

By David T. Jones on May 16, 2014

jones_david.jpgWashington DC - There is nothing more vital to a democracy than the legitimacy of the vote.

It doesn’t matter whether your speech is free; whether the press/media publishes without stint; whether political parties organize and demonstrate without restraint—if authorities tamper with your ballot and the vote manipulated, your democracy is a travesty.
Thus the integrity of each individual ballot must be an absolute.  Moreover, voters must believe that the votes of others are legitimate.  We have more than enough sources of political conflict than to add questions regarding the validity of the voting outcomes.  

Canada's National Day of Honour. One of our finest hours

By Beryl Wajsman on May 12, 2014

day_of_honour.JPGLast Friday Canada paid tribute to the veterans and the fallen who served in Afghanistan. It was a unique tribute. It was necessary, and it brought comfort and recognition to the families of our soldiers and pride to all Canadians.
There were those who questioned this memorial. They were petty in their criticisms and were silenced by the result.

How the PQ eviscerated itself

By David T. Jones on April 27, 2014

jones_david.jpgWasington, DC -In another time; in another society, following April 7’s electoral defeat, the leaders of the Parti Quebecois would have given Mme Marois a revolver with one bullet and escorted  her to a closed room.
A Medieval Era response would have been more polite—simply consigned her to a nunnery to live out her days contemplating the errors of her ways.
Media observers have said that Canadian federalism “dodged a bullet” with the PQ defeat in the 7 April election.  To be sure—but only because the bullet it dodged had already been fired by separatists directly into their own hearts.

Herb Gray: The passing of a giant "Baruch dayan emet"

By Beryl Wajsman on April 22, 2014

Gray-Wajsman5.jpgI received the news of the Right Honorable Herb Gray's death Monday night. It was the eve of the last day of Passover. This last day is one of four days in the Jewish calendar when Yizkor prayers - memorial prayers - are recited in memory of departed relatives. And as I reflected on my own late parents, I must admit to pangs of loss for this very special gentleman who was not merely a Parliamentary giant, but perhaps the last of that generation of public servants who always put ideas before identities and principle before partisanship. He was a mentor, guide and most of all a dear friend whose wise counsel I could call upon at all times and in all circumstances even when events and circumstances kept us apart for long periods.

"Ç’est assez! " Le Québec rejette la politique de la peur

By Beryl Wajsman on April 10, 2014

Wajsman_Beryl_bw.jpgLa semaine dernière, nous avons demandé aux Québécois de voter comme si leurs vies en dépendaient et ils l’ont fait.
La semaine dernière, nous avons écrit que « c’est le référendum ». Les Québécois l’ont compris également et ils ont répliqué avec un « non! » retentissant.
La semaine dernière, nous avons exhorté les électeurs à ne pas pénaliser M. Philippe Couillard d’avoir dit la vérité en ce qui concerne la question de la langue. Ils ne l’ont pas fait.

"Ça suffit!" Quebec rejects the politics of fear

By Beryl Wajsman on April 8, 2014

Wajsman_Beryl_bw.jpgLast week we asked Quebecers to vote as if their lives depended on it. And they did.
Last week we wrote that "this is the referendum." Quebecers got that too. And answered with a resounding "NO!"
Last week we urged voters not to penalize Philippe Couillard for speaking truth on the language issue. And they did not.
Perhaps that is the most eloquent legacy of Décision 2014. Quebecers - all Quebecers - rejected the rhetoric of marginalization and the politics of fear. They said "Ça suffit!" to division and discord.

This is the referendum

By Beryl Wajsman on April 6, 2014

Wajsman_Beryl_bw.jpgClearly, this is the most important vote you will cast since 1995. But aside from the fact that both Pierre-Karl Péladeau and Premier Marois have made it clear that there will be a referendum – whether Quebecers be “ready” or not – depending on which one you listen to, vote Couillard and the Quebec Liberal Party because of his courage to speak some much-needed truths and candidates with the competence to tackle the problems that face us with focus on the priorities that really matter.


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