Quebecers go to the polls on October 1. But no one really seems motivated or particularly interested.
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One witty columnist has already termed this election the Seinfeld election, an election, just like the TV show, about nothing. Québec is doing well, really well: low unemployment, budget surplus, general sense of satisfaction among the voting public … in other words, there isn’t any major issue that moves or motivates voters at this point.
The thing is, an election isn’t really necessary at this time, but one was called under the fixed election date law. While it’s true that things have become somewhat stale, because the Liberals have been in power for a very long time, there really is no reason to turn over the cart and start afresh.
Yes, there are some issues people talk about, such as the lack of workers, both skilled and semiskilled, or how best to integrate newcomers into Québec society. But overall, people are content – as much as anyone can ever be said to be content – and any of the?hot-button issues (though calling them that is a bit of an exaggeration) could just as easily be addressed in the day-to-day humdrum that is politics.
Promises are being made by the party leaders on the campaign trail – public high-speed Internet, more money for this and more money for that, cutting the numbers of immigrants, testing cultural and language skills of newcomers, free dental care for everyone, etc. – and for once, the public finances are sound enough to make, and even implement, some of them. In this respect, Québec is luckier than federal Canada or any of the provinces.
If polls are to be believed, CAQ, a party founded as recently as in 2011, is set to win the election and form a minority or even majority government. And, for the first time, Québec’s independence isn’t up for debate, as the separatist PQ has vowed to leave this issue off the table and reintroduce it only during a second term in office. The Liberals (PLQ) are likely to suffer substantial losses – not because they have done terrible or bad things, but merely because, pollsters say, people feel it’s time for a change. Other contenders include QS, a left-wing alternative that still seeks independence for Québec, and Parti 51, a new start-up that says Québec’s cultural, linguistic and economic interests are best served by leaving Canada and becoming the 51st state of the United States of America.
As an alternative to?regular separation, it is certainly an idea worthwhile thinking about, but the timing may be off. Québec joining the United States, where it would enjoy more independence and sovereignty than in Canada (for example, it could give itself its own constitution), may in fact be where Québec’s future lies, but this particular project is best put off until there’s a better idea of what post-Trump America will look like.
So, there being no other real issues to ponder, let’s just focus on two that are bit more urgent than others: the shortage of workers and the future of the French language.
Businesses in Québec are having a hard time filling vacant positions. Québec’s society has become too old; we don’t enough qualified – and integrated – immigrants to fill the void. These are just some of the gripes aired in the media and by politicians.
Let’s look at the actual truth, going by anecdotal evidence only – which is more accurate than statistical numbers can ever be, because the latter are just projections and conjectures, while the former represents?actual events that did and do happen.
Actual example: a young man working in a restaurant tells his employer he won’t be coming in for work anymore – by text message. Did he find a better job? Did he win the lottery? No, he wanted to spend more time with his girlfriend, according to his text message.
There are plenty more such examples, and they put the blame for the shortage of workers squarely on the shoulders of … millennials! Yes, that group of ne’er-do-well snowflakes, who value having a good time (and getting high, perhaps) more than holding down a job and providing for their future.
For Québec actually has a tremendous potential of human resources. Even in Québec City, where the population tends to be more advanced in years than, say, in Montréal, the place is crawling with millennials. But being the millennials they are, they just can’t be bothered. So, they trek to coffee shops, for example, sitting there for hours and hours on end without consuming anything, or very little, while playing computer games or watching Netflix. Normal people can’t find any table, leave without buying anything, and this is why one such establishment after another is closing shop.
One is tempted to propose a make-work order for all millennials, with government forcing every millennial to work on penalty of fines and imprisonment. And why not? Other countries have mandatory military and/or community service, so creating a mandatory work programme for millennials wouldn’t be unheard of (or outrageous).
What about the future of the French language in Québec? Will there be no more French speakers one or two generations down the road if Québec admits too many immigrants, as CAQ leader Fran?ois Legault has suggested?
No, the only danger to the French language that currently exists is … millennials! Looking at the ways they speak and write, one cannot really say that they’re still capable of speaking and writing proper French. They have a serious deficit where vocabulary is concerned, and grammar and spelling are foreign concepts to them.
Older Quebecers often say that they can’t understand millennials – not because of special slang designed to keep older people from listening in (which is what has been happening in English), but because millennials don’t know the meaning of words and therefore use them incorrectly, making it impossible to be understood. Even the grammar and syntax they employ while speaking is so wrong that most of what they say simply doesn’t make sense (unless you are high).
Immigrants, by contrast, who have taken French language courses (mostly in Parisian French), therefore, often speak and write better French than millennials in Québec. And those immigrants who succeed, and also manage to integrate into Québec society, will often adopt French as the?official language at home as well.
So, in a nutshell, if Québec’s political parties are serious about tackling those two issues – employment and French – all they’ll have to do is focus on millennials and find ways of inculcating a sense of responsibility and discipline, something that 99 percent of millennials sorely lack.