Is Quebec the Future of the U.S.?

I live in Quebec, a province that always seems to be teetering on the verge of separation from Canada and striking off on its own as an independent, majority-French-speaking country. It boasts only two major industries, forestry and electricity generation tied to the American market; relies on transfer payments from the federal government in the usual futile attempt to make up for its annual budgetary shortfall; runs the largest deficit in the country; is burdened by a bloated, parasitic, and non-productive bureaucracy, especially in transportation and education; and is entangled in so much ministerial red tape that business cannot move freely in the market place. As a result, separation would quickly lead to great economic suffering or, at best, a living standard more or less equivalent to Slovakia’s after the velvet divorce.

But even if Quebec remains in the Canadian family, its future looks problematic. It is the highest taxed jurisdiction on the North American continent, and taxes in general, value added or GST surtaxes, and user fees are waistlining out by the year. Indeed, a new user fee will shortly be piled onto our single-payer medicare system, which is already prohibitively costly and seems almost totally dysfunctional. Patients wait inordinately long before being treated, are often released prematurely, and some die on corridor gurneys. For these undoubted benefits Quebec has earmarked approximately 40% of its program spending, which is, admittedly, a Canadian problem as well. (Americans, take heed, and remember, Michael Moore is a sicko liar.) Onerous auto licensing and registration fees, accompanied by hefty gasoline taxes, tend to make domestic and commuter driving more of a luxury than the necessity that it is. This raptorial scourge afflicts the municipal level too, where cities like Montreal are distinguished by outrageous property taxes, indiscriminate ticketing, and various “solidarity” excises.

To add injury to injury, like many Quebecers, I have just been hit by a proleptic revenue grab, that is, a newly mandated advance tax based on an estimate of my next year’s earnings, which must be paid in two installments before the current fiscal year is out. It is, really, a form of legalized extortion. Where else, I wonder, does one pay a portion of next year’s taxes this year? As the province sinks deeper into debt, it has sought to defray its expenses and ballooning interest payments by mortgaging the future, when the debt freight will only have increased and the means to service it correspondingly decreased. Quebec is Charlie Chaplin’s waiter, scampering ever forward to keep the glasses from falling off his tray. Moreover, the fact that approximately half the population does not pay taxes and is effectively grubstaked by the other, productive half only exacerbates the situation.

Sound familiar?

In the political/cultural sphere, the situation is no less gloomy. Bill 101, titled the Charter of the French Language and passed in 1977, proclaimed French as the official language of Quebec. At first specifying the exclusive use of French in the managerial operations of certain business firms and French only on signs and notices, later modified to require the prominent placement of French in upper-case letters with small-letter English writing inconspicuously below, it applied to all sectors of provincial life. Government agencies, the judiciary, advertising, the workplace, primary school education (with very few loopholes) came under the authority of these draconian instruments, which spawned a pettifogging outfit called the Office québécois de la langue française, popularly known as the “language police” (apparently after the phrase was used on 60 Minutes), that snuck about eavesdropping on shopfloor and office conversations and even fined pub owners for providing English-language beer coasters. The passage of the bill into law led to a mass exodus from the Anglo community, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, and to the relocation of most of the head offices of major corporations, to Toronto and Calgary. Quebec has never quite recovered from the economic impact caused by the flight of business and of many of its most dynamic, tax-paying citizens.

The depletion of the census, however, is being compensated by a constantly burgeoning Islamic presence in which an ever greater role is being played by the Muslim Brotherhood. The problem is not, clearly, the peaceable community of ordinary Muslims but the threat of advancing radicalization. Through its various branch plants, like the Muslim Association of Canada, the Canadian Islamic Congress, and the Présence Musulmane Montréal (which recently hosted Islamic propagandist Tariq Ramadan), the Brotherhood is subtly advocating for the introduction of shariah law, little by little extracting concessions from our institutional apparatus, infiltrating our political parties, cozying up to the media, practicing the tactic of lawfare, and gradually proliferating in a network of mosques and prayer venues, of which there are 69 in the Montreal area alone. The city is now home to 200,000 Muslims. This is about one fifth the number currently residing in Canada which amounts to approximately 4% of the country’s population and growing.

Sound familiar?

It gets even more interesting. Quebec has a history of electoral malversation — I recall as a child, during the blatantly crooked administration of Premier Maurice Duplessis, coming across heaps of destroyed ballots in the gully behind the public school. When we look at the electoral procedures during the second Quebec referendum of 1995 on the issue of secession, or what was euphemistically called “sovereignty-association” in the first 1980 referendum and “sovereignty” tout court in the 1995 question, we are back in the Duplessis era. The No side won by around 1 percent of the vote, but the actual result was not quite as close as it seemed. For the pro-independence, Parti Québécois scrutineers invalidated, by one count, 86,000 No ballots on the flimsiest of pretexts, for example, the kern of the X trailed slightly outside the index box, or was smudged, or inked rather than pencilled. I suspect the number was higher than that. In the mainly Anglophone riding of Chomedy, one out of every nine ballots was rejected. The fraud was later covered up by the Quebec Superior Court, which restricted access to the ballots and eventually destroyed them entirely. Subject closed. There were also reports of elderly people from the English community turned away from the voting booths or forced to wait until their patience gave out. Others were simply misdirected to nonexistent or more remote polling locations. Additionally, the separatist Parti Québécois refuses to take No for an answer and has vowed to conduct future referenda until it gets the answer it wants. Perhaps its motto should be: If at first you don’t secede, try and try again.