by Eric Duhaime
Every time a political scandal hits La Belle Province, many English-Canadian political commentators wonder whether it is in Quebecers’ genes to be more prone to corruption.
Such an intellectual exercise is as futile as thinking there is a greater scientific risk of being a crack junkie if you live in Toronto as opposed to any other city in Canada.
Before going further with the genetic theory of Quebecers’ pork-barreling disease, let’s remind everyone that Michael Applebaum is not a “pure laine” Quebecois but the first Anglo-Jewish Montreal mayor.
So if there is more political patronage in Quebec, the explanation might lie in our political system itself more than in our blood.
The Quebec Inc. model leaves much more room for the state to intervene.
There are many more public monopolies, more subsidies to distribute, more bureaucrats per capita, more public jobs on public megaprojects, the highest rate of unionized workers, a heavier tax burden, and the list could go on.
Even if the percentage of fraud were the same as elsewhere in the country, since our government is bigger and our politicians consequently have more discretionary powers, there will be more embezzlement. It’s a simple rule of three.
For example, no former minister for family came under fire in English-Canada for granting day nursery permits to his political organizers – as happened in Quebec in 2010 – since there is no other national $7-a-day daycare program completely controlled by the state.
The other rational explanation could be … constitutional!
How dare we talk seriously about something political in Quebec without bringing our fundamental law to the centre of the stage?
Quebec is, to a certain extent, a dysfunctional democracy.
For ages, our politicians have been trying to gain our support by telling us we need to save the country or create a brand new one.
Both federalists and separatists were saying this to buy our votes.
Our governments in Ottawa and Quebec City compete to give us a road, a public program, a subsidy, a public contract or any other government favour to get us to wave the red or blue flag.
Too many people here hold their noses and vote for the one who wants to save the country or break it up without thinking of how much money they will give the government in tax dollars and what kind of public services they will get in return, as everyone does in a normal democracy.
Such a vicious circle is not easy to break.
Whenever you criticize the model, you risk being accused of Quebec bashing if you are an English-Canadian, or branded as a traitor if you are one of “us.”
Exiting the referendum debate war might well be a prerequisite to diminishing the corruption in Quebec.
While we are busy fighting for a YES or for a NO, some politicians are confusing their personal interests with the collective ones and almost no one is protecting our tax dollars.