The year 2013 has finally passed! We could not be happier considering the preposterous events that brought Quebec to the forefront of international attention for all the wrong reasons. Montreal (its community, culture and economy), has definitely seen better times. Not only have we yet to recover from a sluggish economy and a deep-seated culture of corruption in the construction industry, but our city’s reputation was tarnished due to lack of common sense from civil servants and proposed government legislation that go against the grain of the city’s identity.

There were more than enough unfortunate and embarrassing events that left Montrealers with a serious distaste for politics in 2013. While it would require more time and bandwidth to highlight all of them here, we decided to pick several that stood out as reasons why Montrealers never want to see or experience some of the year that was.

The Not-So-Mysterious Case of Pastagate

Pastagate give Quebec international attention for wrong reasons

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In February 2013, upscale Italian restaurant Buonanotte made international headlines due to one angry, insecure patron and an overzealous inspector of the Office québécois de la langue française. The restaurant received a letter from the OQLF warning that use of words like “pasta” and “calamari” on its menu violated the language laws of Quebec. The nitpicking over the lack of French-equivalent words on the menu gave Montreal and the province much more attention than it needed. It drew international media attention from 14 countries.

The story certainly didn’t gain as much worldwide attention as the notorious Mayor Rob Ford; however, it was a stain on the reputation of the city of Montreal and a lesson in poor public relations for Quebec. Among the media channels showing us as a laughing stock to the world were the The Economist, The Times of London, Le Figaro, Fox News, and Huffington Post.

After this embarrassing display, stories of more ridiculous language law attacks on other Montreal businesses surfaced in the media. By the following month, the head of the OQLF agency stepped down. There was also talk of reviewing the policies of the government agency. Clearly, the reviewing didn’t happen fast enough for two employees of Hopital Riviere-des-Prairies, who were reprimanded just last December by the OQLF thanks to a complaint about two employees of Haitian descent who spoke Creole to one another at work during non-work hours. By the way, speaking Creole (or any other language other than perfect French) to your colleagues during your break is not an illegal act.

Kill Bill, 14

February was a busy month for the Parti Québécois, as it was not only the month for Pastagate, but also proposed amendments to Bill 101, the Charter of French Language in Quebec. Of course, this met with both opposition and some support from hardliners. There is never a dull moment in Quebec.

Bill 14 proposed things like revoking of bilingual status for municipalities across Quebec, resulting in loss of access to municipal documents in English for citizens that did not identify English as their mother tongue at home. It would have also required that French be mandatory for businesses with 25 employees or more. Additionally, Francophone military families would be blocked from sending their children to English schools.

In November, after little to no support from the Coalition Avenir Québec and Quebec Liberal Party, the PQ decided to drop Bill 14. But, not without emphasizing that their priority would shift to the secularism charter.

How Many Mayors Does It Take To Run A City?

Montreal had four mayors in less than 12 months! If this wasn’t a sign that big changes were desperately needed in the city, we don’t know what was. The people of Quebec were inundated with media images and stories of bribery and collusion that affected various levels of municipal and provincial government, in addition to the private sector. Montrealers saw the resignations of mayors (including interim mayor Michael Applebaum who was shown being taken away in handcuffs), and unbelievable stories of extortion, including one that involved an interim Laval mayor and unpaid escorts.

After many weeks of intense campaigning and debates among candidates in the city, Montrealers finally went to the polls. On Sunday, November 3, 2013, the majority of Montrealers voted for Équipe Denis Coderre, our 44th mayor. Denis Coderre who formed a minority government has a very long road ahead to try and resuscitate what’s left of our city after the considerable damage that was done last year. But, we’re not forgetting that promise he made to seek special status for Montreal. If there was ever a time the city needed it, it’s now!

A Charter of Unshared Values

Charter of Quebec Values

Image Credit: National Post














Nothing rose the fury of Montrealers like the proposed Charter of Quebec Values as introduced by the Parti Québécois. Citing unresolved concerns over reasonable accommodations, the PQ introduced a new values charter that was responsible for dividing rather than uniting people in Quebec. With so much division on this issue, you would think that the PQ would back down and re-evaluate their position. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. Both opponents and supporters took to the streets to show how they felt about the Charter, and once again, this grabbed the attention of international media.

Quebec cabinet ministers Jean-François Lisée and Bernard Drainville penned a published Letter to the Editor in the New York Times to defend the secularism charter, citing:

For the majority of Quebecers who support the legislation, declaring gender equality paramount when considering religious-based requests for accommodations or asking public employees not to wear conspicuous religious symbols on the job are just logical next steps.

These steps are taken at a time of growth of Islam in Quebec, as everywhere else. But the legislation is not specific to any religion. And, in order to make this even clearer, our party, the Parti Québécois, now proposes the removal of the crucifix that hangs in the legislature.

In this and many fields, Quebec’s independent-minded choices occasionally ruffle feathers, especially among multiculturalists, still strong in Canada. But feather-ruffling is what trend-setters do. Don’t ask the Tea Party. Ask Jefferson.

Ironically, PQ leader Premier Pauline Marois spoke on the passing of Nelson Mandela on December 4, 2013, and sent Quebec’s Minister of Culture and Communications Maka Kotto, to South Africa, to represent Quebec. The late former South African president was an international model for fighting injustice, and creating peace and equality for all, regardless of our differences. Marois, Drainville, Lisée and Kotto have successfully managed to do the opposite on home territory. Bravo team!