I try to stay in a good mood about Quebec. I really do. I try to think fond thoughts about rural Quebec and its picturesque little roads and the charming Montreal restaurants nad bakeries. And, well, Mordecai Richler was from Quebec.
But really I do not like Quebec. I find that I cannot think of Quebec without getting into a stew over bilingualism and Quebec’s unbelievable signage law. I froth at the mouth a little about the fact that almost all the top jobs in Ottawa are held by Quebeckers not because they are more qualified, or even qualified at all, but because of the bilingualism requirement. These are jobs that matter, by the way. These are jobs that set influential public policy. We know about public policy, don’t we? We can run and we can hide, but we cannot get away from crappy public policy. Nobody but people who speak French get to hold these posts, so the majority are held by Quebeckers while the talented bureaucrats from the rest of Canada are held at the gate.
So when PQ Leader Andre Boisclair said today that we can expect something like another referendum, I choked on my morning beverage.
According to the CBC website, he told PQ delegates gathered at a Laval hotel, “(Blah blah blah) to propose (blah blah) a referendum on Quebec’s sovereignty that will lead us to Quebec’s liberty.”
Did you hear that? Quebec’s liberty.
Quebeckers are oppressed, apparently, by all the money we pour into their quaint province and by all those big money, big power jobs in Ottawa, running the entire fricken country. Yah, they are oppressed.
Okay, know what? Separation would be annoying. But I would pay to watch fancy pants Quebec officials in court with First Nations officials haggling over which jurisdiction Indians prefer to attach themselves to. Will they choose to stay in a Quebec sans transfer payments from Alberta? I think not. And, frankly, I would rather that First Nations got all the transfer payments we currently spend on Quebec.
Furthermore, I would be very, very happy indeed if every top official in Ottawa had to speak a First Nation language. That would be an Ottawa I could get behind.
Foreign labour cut a break
Meanwhile, much as I do not care for Canada’s New GovernmentTM, Human Resources Minister Monte Solberg should be congratulated for Friday’s announcement that low-skilled foreign workers will now be allowed to stay in Canada twice as long as before. This is very good news for everybody concerned: the folks who want to work here and the folks who need their help.
In fact, the Alberta boom has been good news for only a very few people in Alberta. Most small businesses cannot get enough help. Farmers and ranchers can barely get their crops off. Some family farms have ceased to operate because everybody except senior citizens has trotted off to the oil patch to get theirs while the getting is good. Some Alberta food processors are down to running four day-time shifts a week in a plant that used to operate 16 out of 24 hours.
These types of operations — businesses that rely on low-skilled labour — have typically used foreign workers to pad their workforce. Now there is nobody but foreign workers to work at all. Processes and procedures, particularly safety and hygiene procedures, have to be taught over and over again to a constantly revolving workforce. Most business operators say that no sooner do workers get up to speed and up to snuff than they have to go home.
So, good. It is about time. At the same time, government must ensure that foreign workers are not left out of the protective loop. Wayne Peppard of the Building and Construction Trades Council reminded the government that exploitation of foreign workers is a very real risk: they cannot quit unless they are willing to go home, they cannot complain freely to their employers for fear of being sent home, and nothing in the official announcement addresses the possibility that many foreign workers may not be aware of their rights under Canadian employment legislation. In a labour-poor environment, some employers might try to stretch the rules, particularly after they have survived the annoying process and considerable expense of recruiting and training a foreign labour force — workers who, in turn, might be more than willing to be exploited.
Enough of Trudeau and Mulroney’s kids
I am not saying that Justin Trudeau should not run for public office, but I do find it kind of premature. His dad did not enter politics until he was well into his 50s, after demonstrating smarts as a laywer. The only thing we know about Justin is that he’s always on the damned television. It’s bad enough we have to look at Mulroney’s kid on TV. If Trudeau’s kid turns out to be a lightweight, I will stop watching Canadian telvision completely. Except for Rick Mercer, of course.