Montréal, 5 août 2000  /  No 65
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Ralph Maddocks is a retired textile executive and former management consultant. He lives in Cowansville.
by Ralph Maddocks
          The title of that long forgotten old school song came to mind as I was thinking about the general theme of this issue. I pondered the changes which have occurred in Quebec and Canada during the last forty odd years since first I took up residence here; changes which I would never have believed could happen.
First impressions 
          Upon arrival, my first reaction was that the Federal political parties in Canada were similar to those I had left behind in the United Kingdom. The Right-wing Conservatives, (although the word Progressive struck me as oxymoronic), the Liberals in the middle and the NDP (Labour) on the left. It was a few months before I realized that all the parties were on the left and that the major parties were ready, willing and able to abandon any principles they may have once held in order to get elected. Power not political philosophy was uppermost in their minds.  
          In those days the Province of Quebec was in the final throes of the Duplessis government, not that anyone knew it at the time. Everyone to whom I spoke at the time seemed to hate him and his government, yet somehow he kept getting elected, probably for the same reasons that people elect the PQ today. An electoral map which under-represents the major centres and the lack of attractive policies among the other parties. 
          In Quebec, which was the only province of which I had any experience in those days, bribery and corruption were then so rampant that perjury was a reserved sin. Reserved that is to the Bishop, only he could absolve you; not your local, and presumably friendly, parish priest. 
          Today, it is hard to recall the influence exercised by the Roman Catholic Church in the Quebec of those times. A time when the churches were full at least six times on Sundays and the unreflective parishioners could be told that the « Sky was blue » and « the nether regions red ». Priestly code for encouraging one to vote for the « right » party; in those days, the Union Nationale. At that time, the church worked hand in glove with Mr. Duplessis and his minions. An arrangement which presumably suited both sides. 
          That a Secessionist Theology would ever be substituted for that of Roman Catholicism would not have been dreamt of either in those long ago days. Who then would have thought that a time would come when, in spite of an alleged 86% of the population claiming adherence to the Roman Catholic faith, churches would be closing and the average age of its priests would be approaching rapidly the age of retirement? Who would have thought of a time when the sacrament of marriage would become more popular among former clergy and religious than among that same 86%?  
          Some time after I came, Canada revised its constitution and added a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If you take the trouble to read the turgid prose in that constitution you will find that the provincial legislatures are to be so called. When I came to Quebec, it, like all the other provinces in accordance with Article 71 of the Constitution Act of 1867, had MLAs, Members of the Legislative Assembly. In fact, Quebec had two Houses, the Legislative Council of Quebec and the Legislative Assembly of Quebec. Presumably not wanting a second chamber to ask awkward questions, the politicians of the Quiet Revolution abolished it. Today, we have only Members of a self described, so-called, National Assembly, or MNAs. In fact, when visiting Quebec City this summer, I discovered several billboards announcing that I was in the National Capital Region. I wondered if all those people we elected to serve us in Ottawa have been going to the wrong place for all these years? Perhaps that is why we have such a mess on our hands! 
After all these years 
          In an earlier article (see BLUE, BLACK & RED, le QL, no 12) I wrote a few words about the Quebec provincial budgets of those times and compared them to those of more recent origin. Those few statistics revealed some stunning differences. Anyone interested in learning more about the economic differences between now and then should read Professor Migué's excellent work « Étatisme et Déclin du Québec ». A book which ought to be required reading in the high schools of this province, and perhaps in other places too; like government. 
     « Slowly over these last forty years, the electorate has been successfully anaesthetized by the siren songs of the collectivists to the point where lethargy and apathy reign and few question either the wisdom or the utility of our federal or provincial government's actions. »  
          The so-called Quiet Revolution in Quebec began when an allegedly liberal government was elected to the plaudits of a multitude shouting slogans like « Maîtres chez nous ». A process which began immediately entrenching those principles of socialism which I had left such a short time before. Collectivist precepts which were followed in short order by the « principles » of Secession. Recalling the euphoria of those times, after what had seemed to many a period of repression, little did we know what was coming. Slowly over these last forty years, the electorate has been successfully anaesthetized by the siren songs of the collectivists to the point where lethargy and apathy reign and few question either the wisdom or the utility of our federal or provincial government's actions.  
          As I was writing this, I recalled that, some time ago, my local hospital was castigated publicly for having committed the sin of displaying bilingual signs. The despised English language was to be banished before it corrupted any more citizens in this community. I was wondering if the Quebec government has now insisted upon those same language restrictions in the Vermont or Maine hospitals to which our unfortunate cancer patients are being sent for treatment. After all, they have to go for weeks at a time to these Cancer Centres (sorry Centers) and live in English language communities and hotels. Just imagine the language pollution that must be going on there. What ever happened to the right to receive treatment in your own language I wonder?  
          Not too many years before I left England for Canada I had witnessed the resignation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer (read Minister of Finance). This was because some details of the Budget had been released inadvertently before the Budget Speech was delivered in the House of Commons. Some thirty odd years later a similar thing occurred in Ottawa when the Budget details were also leaked. The difference this time was that the Minister of Finance somehow did not find it necessary to resign, or even to offer to resign. Obviously, a different era had begun where ministerial responsibility, an essential and fundamental aspect of the Parliamentary form of government, was no longer an issue. The recent appalling shenanigans at the Human Resources Department simply prove the point; should  further proof be needed. If Ministers of the Crown are not to be held responsible for disasters involving gross negligence and the misuse of the taxpayer's money then who is? In today's culture, nobody seems responsible for anything, a change which appears to permeate every walk of life, not excluding politics.  
          Perhaps even more disappointing for this immigrant has been to see so much energy, time and money (your taxes and mine, of course) being wasted on schemes that made little or no economic sense. Redundant industries on life support, friends of the government being helped with unimaginable sums of money, or their debts and loans forgiven. All in the name of some nebulous egalitarian precept. The huge debts incurred in advancing these schemes has so often accomplished the opposite of what had been intended. Many of these job preservation schemes may well have cost the taxpayer less if those workers, whose jobs were to be preserved, had been given lifetime pensions instead. Whatever happened to the individualism that built this country?  
Bankrupted political philosophies 
          With all this socialistic nonsense has come ever-increasing regulation of our economic life, job destroying levels of minimum wages, union manipulation of governments and the public, decreased productivity, an above average level of unemployment compared to those earlier years, declining standards of living, a weaker currency and so on. All the things I thought I was leaving behind in socialist England. We are poorer as a nation, and as individuals, than we were over a quarter of a century ago. Our taxes are among the highest in the world which contributes to a brain drain, which Mr. Chretien tells us, comfortingly, is not happening in this, the best country in the world.  
          Canada, which once seemed to hold so much promise for the future has been ruined by importing so many of these socialist concepts.  
          It is unlikely that a young man in today's Cool Britannia would be attracted to this country even though he may well wish to leave the increasingly repressive state of England. Even if he were to come, he would most likely choose another province, and not only because of the language question. In case someone may think that I am making a case for Anglo-Saxons (as some are pleased to describe all English speakers) let me be perfectly clear. Some political philosophies are bankrupt regardless of the language used to express them. British Columbia, which is perhaps as « English » as one might wish to get, has imposed many, in fact in some areas more, idiotic regulations upon its own economic engine than has Quebec. A licence to renew a tree farm requires a 2,200 page application form, and as recently as two years ago firms in the forestry industry were not even investing their depreciation. So much damage has been inflicted on the BC economy that many businesses are leaving for more welcoming places like Alberta. The old adage comes to mind. « A government that is big enough to give you all you want is also big enough to take all you've got. » 
          Other socialistic governments in other countries have followed the same sequence of events as has Canada, they first wreck the economy and then begin the process of abolishing people's liberties. A process which has already begun here with the passage of the gun registration act. 
          Somewhere I came across a list of the fruits of socialism. It may be salutary to check them out to see which may be applied to our society: Ignorance, spin doctors, discord, jealousy, class hatred, false hopes, broken promises, dishonesty, corruption, hypocrisy, the philosophy of something for nothing, indolence, cronyism, dictators, psychotics, inequality, oppression, despair, anarchy, civil war, disintegration and a multitude of other evils. 
          In conclusion, the title of that song we once sang so lustily at my school's morning assembly makes me hope that it does not take a similar period to reverse the mistakes made during these last forty years. Given the right electoral choices, Canada and Quebec along with it may finally begin to take its rightful place in the world and the prosperity we all once enjoyed will return. 
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