Montréal, le 23 mai 1998
Numéro 12
(page 4) 
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     « Je déteste les victimes quand elles respectent les bourreaux. »
Jean-Paul Sartre
 by Ralph Maddocks
          The other evening while watching a blue movie on my television set — it was blue because something went wrong with the set —  I got to thinking how much this province has changed since my arrival here, nearly forty years ago.  
          In the late fifties there were no blue movies on TV in Quebec; in fact we had only just got the black and white kind. To be sure there were a few girlie shows in Montreal (a term which my computer says is no longer allowed), but explicit they were not; they required a very vivid imagination. Modesty was the watchword in the Quebec of those times. All this came as something of a surprise, since this immigrant had expected to find the nightlife at least comparable to that he had experienced as a young adult in Montmartre or on the Left Bank a decade or so earlier. The language might be French but the lifestyle and morality most certainly was not. 
             In those long ago days, just as in Spain, Ireland and Rome, the dominant colour was black; one could see literally hundreds of black clad figures scurrying around in public. Nowadays, priests and religious dress just as badly as we do. Looking back at those times, it is hard to believe the magnitude of the changes that have occurred in this society, changes which began with the so-called Quiet Revolution of the early nineteen sixties. That revolution which today has become so much noisier, the chattering classes never ceasing to repeat their myths and distortions in the same way that once they repeated their catechism. In just over thirty years, Quebec has passed from religious to secular hegemony. 
          Can anyone today imagine a major Quebec town, possessed of a very large swimming pool, installing a heavy chain to divide it into two parts: one for the boys and one for the girls? This actually occurred in the fifties, and it also meant that neither man and wife nor father and daughter could swim together. A Quebec Rip Van Winkle (or should it be D.C. Bigorneau?) who fell asleep in the fifties, and who woke up today would not believe his ears or his eyes and would probably faint away in stunned surprise.  
          Forty odd years ago, in that period known as la Grande Noirceur, we didn't have a Liberal Democracy, such as we have today. In those terrible days you could start a business and post a sign outside it, written in any language you chose and in letters as large or small as you wished. There probably weren't many tape measures around and certainly no OLF inspectors. As I recall, there were few grants and subsidies being given to pressure groups or to « corporate welfare bums » to use Ed Broadbent's felicitous phrase.  
          Today's state even intrudes into what is surely about as private a matter as could be imagined. Calling your child Lucifer, C'est-un-Ange, Stormy or even the common Spanish name Tomás is not allowed by the Quebec Registrar of Civil Status. Although the latter piece of idiocy was overturned by a judge. 
The Times They Are A-Changin' 
          In that black period we didn't have to pour money into repairing that perpetually crumbling monument in the east end of Montreal. In 1960, the provincial budget was some $600 million or about $100 for every man, woman and child or $400 per family. The present provincial budget is more than 60 times that amount, being some $6000 per person or $24,000 per family. The Quebec budget amount per family is now higher than the income of the average tax-payer ($21,500) and represents more than 47% of the family income of $51,000. 
          Where does all this money go to? Most of it has been extorted by unions whose support politicians seem to think they need to achieve social peace. A couple of examples may suffice. Many teachers are paid $60,000 a year including fringe benefits for about 1000 hours work a year. Montreal firemen are paid about $70,000 including fringe benefits, for an unknown number of hours. The average citizen is being paid $21,500 for 2000 hours of work, which works out to $10 an hour; not sixty or seventy.  
          In the 1970's, Quebec's Ministry of Education employed 2000 bureaucrats. Denmark's Ministry of Education, with a similar population at the time, had just 50 bureaucrats, and a better education system. What is today's ratio of bureaucrats to doctors? To nurses, to farmers or to teachers? The questions are endless. In addition, indexed pensions go with these jobs so the costs never really come to an end, even when the bureaucrat is forcibly retired. 
          The Quebec debt now requires $6 billion a year to be paid out just in interest alone. This is $800 each, or $3200 for a family of four. If voters could just understand what is really happening to the taxes they pay and then find a political party willing to do something about it there might be a slight chance of correcting it. Both the PQ and the Liberals, rarely having had an original idea, just introduce minuscule pay cuts, freezes, buyouts and the like. If such a new party could convince investors that there will be political stability, less regulation and greatly lowered governmental running costs then they might just find themselves leading this province towards a better economic future in the new millennium. 
          On a positive note, the last forty years has produced at least one growth industry; the booming psychotherapy industry of this province. How else can one explain all those names in the Montreal telephone book? Complexe Desjardins (stressed out gardeners?), Complexe Du Fort (claustrophobic fortress dwellers?), Complexe Fleurimont (depressed mountain flower lovers?), Complexe Sportif Longueuil (obsessed sportsmen of that town?), Complexe Santé Beauté Brossard; you get the idea.  
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