Exception or Quebec miracle? | The Press

On this national holiday weekend, I offer you in this longer than usual text a little reminder of what Mario Polèse, whose book should be required reading, calls the Quebec miracle.


Posted at 1:51 a.m.

Updated at 7:00 a.m.

Like Boucar, scientist Mario Polèse is an immigrant. Child of an Austrian family exiled in the Netherlands during the war, he left Europe for New York before settling in Quebec at the end of the 1960s. He settled here while French speakers were recovering from two centuries of domination by English speakers.

An economist and politician, Polèse was a privileged witness to this metamorphosis, the story of which he masterfully tells two generations later. Read this essay titled The Quebec miracle gave me the keys to a finer understanding of this society for which I fell in love at first sight which still lasts.

Perhaps because he is both from here and elsewhere, Polèse takes a fair, tender, sensitive but without complacency look at the pages which precede the great Quebec revolution. In fact, I am talking about a revolution, but on the path that took Quebec out of economic and intellectual poverty, Polèse identifies two.

The first, so-called quiet, revolution accelerated Quebec’s march towards modernity in the 1960s. It quickly reduced the large economic gap that had persisted between French-speakers and English-speakers since the failure of the Patriots’ revolt and even further.

The second revolution began in 1976 with the election of the Parti Québécois. She could not succeed without the first, specifies the author. With the adoption of Law 101 in 1977, this second revolution addressed the linguistic, cultural and existential anxieties of French speakers.

It is with these two powerful wings that Quebec will take flight, allowing it to proudly hover above the American nations in many areas. We can think here of the rights of women and sexual minorities, but also of the sharing of wealth.

Among the weapons of mass emancipation, courtesy of these two revolutions, we can cite the nationalization of electricity and the construction of large dams which today make Quebec one of the nations with the greenest and least energy. dear to the Western world. There is also the Parent commission of 1961, of which sociologist Guy Rocher, now a hundred years old, was a central actor, the creation of CEGEPs for the democratization of scientific and technical training, the birth of the network of Universities of Quebec in 1968, the creation of the National School of Public Administration (ENAP), the School of Higher Technology (ÉTS) and the National Institute of Scientific Research (INRS).

To these new centers of training, research and excellence, we must add the deconfessionalization of Laval University, the University of Sherbrooke, the University of Montreal and the transformation of Catholic school boards into linguistic school boards.

From this access to knowledge with equal opportunities will be born a powerful creative energy which will quickly make Quebec a center of innovation, research and economic development, precursors to the birth of Quebec inc. We worked to create wealth, but also to combat inequalities. There is something to be proud of!

Quebec is, for example, a champion and a pioneer in the fight against inequalities between men and women. There Pay Equity Act, which already dates from 1996, is a good example. While a third of pregnant workers were not yet eligible for the federal plan, Quebec also adopted its parental insurance plan which strongly encouraged fathers to invest a little more in the socio-emotional development of their young children. . Pay equity, parental insurance and the subsidized daycare network will be powerful levers to enable women to find their rightful place in the job market.

PHOTO PATRICK SANFAÇON, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

Quebec is a champion and a pioneer in the fight against inequalities between men and women.

Even today, statistics remind us that these resolutely feminist inclusion projects differentiate Quebec from the rest of America and beyond. Of all nations, recalled Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin in the pages of the newspaper, only Swedes have an employment rate (83.7%) (slightly) higher than that of Quebec women (83.4%).

In addition, contrary to the norm in the rest of North America, Quebec women do not take their husband’s surname. They are among the freest and most assertive on the planet.

Here, access to abortion and openness to sexual diversity are also among the most advanced in America. In the same text, Maxime gives this remarkable statistic: Quebec accounts for nearly 20% of the country’s population, but is home to almost 50% of Canadian access points to abortion!

The cooperative sector here, an economic model that mixes profitability and sharing, is also one of the most important in America. According to government data, approximately 3,300 cooperatives and mutuals are active in Quebec. This less neoliberal ecosystem brings together 8.8 million producers, consumers and workers. These companies employ more than 46,000 people and have an overall annual turnover of more than 14.5 billion. These cooperatives are found in financial and insurance services, the agri-food industry, food, housing, the forestry industry, funeral services, etc. If the entire Western world had adopted this gentler and somewhat fairer cooperative model, we can bet that capitalism would have been less damaging to the biosphere.

According to the Quebec Network of Autonomous Community Action (RQ-ACA), Quebec has more than 4,500 organizations spread across all regions. They help maintain 54,000 employees who are supported by 425,000 volunteers. All these people put their time and expertise at the service of economic solidarity and social inclusion.

There is something to be proud of.

Quebecers sometimes wonder why they are the most taxed in North America. It hurts the taxpayer’s wallet, but it’s the only way to build a peaceful and happy society.

The welfare state is much more generous in Quebec than in the rest of North America. Let’s think here of social assistance, subsidized daycare programs, parental leave that can be shared between both parents, low-cost university education, free dental services for children under 10 and program recipients. financial aid, etc.

All of these initiatives greatly distinguish Quebec from the rest of North America. A vision that the Canadian government belatedly ended up copying. We can mention here the recovery of the subsidized daycare and medical assistance in dying program by Justin Trudeau’s government.

In the name of this duty of solidarity, even when there is injustice elsewhere on the planet, Quebecers are often those who are most openly outraged in America.

Two examples to give an idea. In 2003, in freezing weather, some 150,000 people took to the streets in Montreal to oppose the war in Iraq. In relation to its population, it was probably one of the largest global demonstrations against this American aggression. For comparison, barely 10,000 people came out in Toronto to demonstrate their opposition.

PHOTO EDOUARD PLANTE-FRÉCHETTE, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

In September 2019, some 500,000 people marched for the climate in Montreal alongside Greta Thunberg.

For climate justice and action, 500,000 people marched in 2019 alongside activist Greta Thunberg. An excess due to a keen environmental sensitivity. The one that explains why Quebec is the first Canadian province to have joined the carbon exchange and to have strongly opposed the exploitation of shale gas. It is also not surprising that its builders focused on hydroelectricity at a time when green energies were not very popular in political and scientific discourse.

While we are talking about dams, let us point out that in the relationship with the First Nations and the Inuit, many things remain to be done. But, as an observer from elsewhere, I happen to think that Quebec has a slightly more sincere and egalitarian relationship with them than the other provinces, except perhaps British Columbia. At least economically. The James Bay and Northern Quebec Convention, the Northeastern Quebec Convention and the Peace of the Brave were thus beneficial for the Inuit, the Naskapis and the Crees.

The signing, on February 18, 2020, of an agreement with the Crees in the amount of 4.2 billion for the next 30 years, in the middle of the Wet’suwet’en rail blockade, is another undeniable proof of this hand. little better stretched from Quebec to the Aboriginal people.

It is from nation to nation, and with a smile, that Prime Minister François Legault and the Grand Chief of the Cree Council Abel Bosum ratified this agreement called the “Grand Alliance”. A way of working that Ian Lafrenière, MP for Vachon and Minister responsible for Relations with First Nations and Inuit, practices brilliantly in the shadows.

Some indigenous decision-makers also welcome and appreciate the approach of the new CEO of Hydro-Québec, Michael Sabia. There is still a lot of work to do, but if we agree to face this reality head-on, however difficult it may be to understand, we can fight against these historical injustices and put Quebec ahead in terms of reconciliation.

Yes, our social model, our health system, our schools and our roads are taking more and more trouble.

We don’t need to be an economist to also realize that this progressive model which makes life pleasant here is starting to crack on all sides and that it is perhaps time to roll up our sleeves and begin the third revolution. which will put him back on track.

But our model of society deserves to be celebrated as high as the unique example it represents in America. Quebec, says Mario Polèse, is the story of a people who fell into an abyss, but who emerged from it grown, without bitterness, without a spirit of revenge. What happened in Quebec over the last two generations is a miracle, he says. For a long time, adds the author, Quebec has been at the top of the international list of people’s happiness. Above the Canadian national average. Quebecers are among the happiest people on the planet. The secret of this national felicity which is beginning to waver is found mainly in the sharing of wealth.

Let us be clear, I am not saying here that Quebec is a nation without reproach. There are many things to correct to improve living together and equal opportunities. We also benefit from avoiding identity thefts when these very real systemic biases which still mark our society are pointed out.

What I am trying to say is that, without being perfect, Quebec is undeniably the nation that has demonstrated the greatest desire to build a just and equitable society in America.

It is an extraordinary achievement that deserves to be celebrated and reminded of young people to give them a certain pride of belonging and the desire to write the next page in these times when our system is failing and showing signs of great vulnerability. . We must save this Quebec exception in America which made Mario Polèse say: “How did this people manage not only to survive in the shadow of the United States, but also to build (and maintain) another “America”, certainly smaller, more egalitarian and, if I may use the expression, more human ? »

For the answer to his question, I advise you to take advantage of the national holiday to buy and read his excellent book. In the meantime, I wish you all a happy National Day!

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