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Stay out of politics!

A couple of years ago I went to Montreal with my colleague Damir Bersinic to do a presentation at the Montreal IT Professionals Community (www.mitpro.ca).  I was born in Montreal, and when I moved to Ontario in 2007 I found it interesting to see the point of view of the ‘Rest of Canada’.  Nearly five years after my move and shortly before that visit to MITPro I wrote an article (in response to one in the Globe and Mail) called ‘Does Quebec Have a Future In Canada?

If I do say so myself, Damir and I rocked the show.  We were discussing virtualization, specifically Microsoft Hyper-V, in the months prior to the release of Windows Server 2012.  We were a hit, and that was reflected in our evaluation forms that the packed house submitted after the event… all but one.

One of the evaluation forms that was returned to us had a comment ‘you should blog about IT and keep your nose out of Quebec politics.’  It was actually written in French, and included a number of colourful words to go with it.

Now I should mention here that while I was there as support, it was Damir who was running the show; Damir was the speaker, I was only there for support (and we went for a really nice dinner that night).  So why then should he get a negative evaluation from an attendee for something that I had blogged about?

If you enter the search term Quebec into the appropriate box you will find several articles return on my site, but only two have to do with politics – the one I referred to, and one about the Quebec student protests of 2013 (see article).  Having recently spent a lot of time in the province of Quebec it is amazing to discover that any blog anywhere does not focus exclusively on the politics of that province, but there you go.  Two articles in a decade of blogging.

However if you look at the title of this blog it is not IT According to Mitch, nor is it What Some People Think Appropriate According to Mitch.  It is in fact The World According to Mitch, and as such I write not only about computers and IT, but about any number of subjects, from IT and virtualization to airplanes, food, hotel, travel, martial arts, and yes indeed language and politics.  It is not only a professional blog (although it is certainly that) but a place for me to express my opinion about things that I observe during my travels through this world.

Starting tomorrow I have a series of articles that concern the politics of the Province of Quebec, as well as my observations of how the people are coping with the upcoming election.  It will not all be pretty and it will not all be popular, but it is all according to me, and I thank you for your continued readership!

Quebec Students Need to Learn…

The protesters were out in full force Tuesday evening as my friend Peter and I walked through the Plateau Mont Royal to the restaurant. When the radio announcer talked about the Pots and Pans brigade I thought he was being funny, but indeed the student protesters at the corner of Villeneuve and de l’Esplanade were banging pots and pans on all four corners. Peter, who has known me for years, warned me not to engage them. I was amused several minutes later when the skies opened up and their pots and pans got a thorough soaking.

The headlines yesterday read that they were waiting for a ‘clear response’ from the government. I thought this is inaccurate because they had already gotten a clear response to their demands… They just didn’t like what that response was.

Indeed they got that response again yesterday, and today’s article has one of the student leaders quoted saying ‘we are ready to go back to negotiations whenever the other side is ready.’

This is a lie.

Since the strikes began the government has moved a number of times. The students have not. Sure, they have on a number of occasions provided suggestions on who else could pay for their education, but that is all. That is not negotiations, that is sitting at the table insisting the other side give everything and offering nothing in return.

I sat with a university student Wednesday and asked her opinion. While she is not striking, she supported those who did. She was clear that she supported people’s right to protest, and that any attempt to stop them was tantamount to fascism. I was amazed but I shouldn’t be… Students should be idealists.

What I don’t understand is how people got the idea that education – especially higher education – is a right. Moreover not only is it.a right, it is my obligation as a taxpayer to provide it for her and every other student who wants it and is unwilling to pay for it.

This student objected to spending money on campus beautification, claiming that a recent investment of $600,000 in the gardens at McGill (where she studies) was an offensive waste of money. She rejected my claims that McGill is a cornerstone of Montreal, built into the mountain and should look nice. She also objected to the idea that they have to look good to attract foreign students who DO pay for their tuition.

I asked this girl how much her tuition cost, and she said for students raised in the province it was about $1500/year. I corrected her and said it was closer to $15,000, and that the taxpayer already paid most of it.

Her next objection was that she did not like that schools were run as businesses. This I felt sas her most naive position, insofar as any institution that is run otherwise will soon find itself in severe financial problems.

In the end I convinced this idealistic student of nothing, nor did e convince me I i was wrong. It is pointless trying to tell a young person that one day they will leave school and have to live in the real world with real realities… They are all smarter than we are, and know everything. Our experience in the real world doesn’t apply to them. I paid for her coffee and wished her well.

I do not k ow what will become of Quebec student protesters.. I guess time will sort that out. I do know that the realities of the real world can hit the idealistic quite hard, and I hope they do not turn into bitter or angry adults.  You can bang as many pots and pans as you like; the reality is that their DEMANDS (to which I don’t believe they have the right) are unreasonable, and at a certain point, after you have made your point, you are just acting like cry-babies.  The ‘But I want it!’ attitude doesn’t work in the real world… no matter how many tantrums you throw.

My friend Peter pointed out that a strike is supposed to be the denial of a service in protest.  As the students are not service providers but rather consumers, they are not actually striking, but simply skipping class and (again) making a lot of noise.  They have the right to protest, but to disrupt a city and damage property? No, it’s time to go back to school and get an education for which one day you will realize that the extra $1,500 (over a four year degree) that the government wants you to pay is the equivalent of less than one week’s pay – at least at a job you would get if you DID finish school which, at this rate, you won’t.

I wish most of the students well… but understand that before you can lead you must follow… and your organizers have lost sight of that; you may be following the wrong leaders down a very deep and unfriendly path.

Have a great week-end folks… and try to stay dry!

Does Quebec Have a Future in Canada? Whose Call is it?

Last week the National Post (one of two national newspapers in Canada that are actually quite focused on Ontario) published a survey asking Canadians to respond to the question of whether Quebec actually deserved to remain in Canada. “Does Quebec have a future in Canada?”

Of course, if you have lived in Canada or North America you likely know that since 1976, when Quebec elected its first separatist government (the Parti Quebecois, led by Réné Levesque) there have been multiple referendums within Quebec on the issue of whether Quebec should separate from Canada. Each time the separatists lost (despite having rigged the 1995 referendum), but the question continues.

The rest of Canada, for its part, has done so much to appease the Quebec population, as well as the numerous governments of the province. Many Canadians feel that these concessions – most of which are financial, but also include language laws that make it mandatory to label products in French in every province.

As a native-born Quebecer (I was born in Montreal, and lived there for thirty years) I have always looked at the issue from the standpoint of a scared Canadian within the province who might be forced to move should Quebec separate. I have always loved Canada, am proud to be Canadian, and would never renounce that. So when I moved to Ontario in 2007 I was surprised and even offended to hear talk radio hosts talk the way they did about my native province. I was sure that they were the minority, and of course trying to rile people up for ratings. I have since realized that I was the one who was wrong.

I have asked people across the country their thoughts on this over the last five years, and a lot of them feel the same way… they would be just as happy to be rid of Quebec. They of course do not have the divided loyalties that I do, caring so much for both and knowing that the situation could improve with time, especially as the generation of young radicals who kept the separatist movement alive for so many years grew up and began to understand the economic ramifications of independence.

Sadly, I was wrong. A new generation of radical Quebec separatists took their place, and so many of the older ones did not change their feelings when they learned the economics. Separatism in Quebec may well be as strong today as it was in 1980, and that scares me. However if you couple that with the other attitudes of Quebecers – note the Black Bloc, the Student Protests, and Stanley Cup (and other hockey) riots – who seem to have no respect for anyone and have grown up with the entitlement attitude born likely of the fact that Canadian governments dating back to P.E. Trudeau have paid a king’s ransom to appease them and their parents, then you have a problem that Canadians not born in Quebec may not want to put up with for much longer.

When I read the responses to the poll yesterday I was not so shocked by the animosity that so many Canadians feel toward my native province as I once would have been… and I realized that they have a real good point. Quebec has, since my childhood, been the spoiled child of Canada, constantly threatening to take their ball and leave the field if everyone doesn’t do what they want. As a native-born Montrealer I would hate to see Quebec leave Canada, but it is time for Quebecers to realize that they are not the only ones with a say in this matter, and if they don’t work hard to change their attitudes – and the attitudes of the extremely spoiled drivers of the separatist movement – then they will find themselves put out of Canada like Fred Flinstone by his pet sabre-tooth. If Canada were to evict Quebec it would be too late to bang on the door screaming for Wilma to let him back in, it would be a permanent schism that would destroy a country – and likely not simply in two.

If it is time to rewrite Canada, then I do not know if it will be as peaceful and easy a rewrite as some may think – Alberta and British Colombia both have made noises about leaving Confederation, and I’m not sure if it would make sense for the Maritimes and Ontario to be a single country separated by a land mass larger than most of Europe.

I cannot fathom the fallout, but I do know that I think the easiest solution would be for Quebec to come to terms with remaining in Canada, but as an equal… pulling its own weight and paying its own share.  Enough with national laws that force cans of tuna sold in Calgary to be written in French, enough of having to sing the national anthem in two languages at hockey games.  I hope that Quebec learns to play nice, because if they don’t… the sum of the shattered parts of this great land will not nearly add up to the whole.

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