There is currently quite a buzz about climate change, especially in light of the recent COP26 talks.

Protesters outside COP26 demanded climate action, while world leaders primarily negotiated climate goals and funding mechanisms at COP26. In other words, they talked.

What COP26 really was, was an exercise in international goal-setting, not really in policy-making, as we see via COP26’s focus on incentives and goals rather than action. World leaders have now gone home from COP26 to formulate proactive solutions and policies on their own. Although COP26 did seem to bring about an increased honest willingness to save some forests and reduce coal consumption, this is far from enough to curb global warming to COP26’s goal of 1.5 degrees.

Genuine and dedicated protesters of course were right to be there but will do better to keep up their efforts aimed at their respective governments at home, as that is where climate action begins and needs their pressure in order to be implemented.

For the time being, governments will need to take action themselves in order to accomplish COP26’s 1.5 degree goal. Protesters should keep up the pressure to encourage climate change bills to be at least presented in legislatures on an ongoing basis, as likely those that do pass worldwide will be seen as seminal to solving climate issues.

Very recently Trudeau and world leaders have shown they are entirely capable of taking bold action to solve a crisis, as they did to fight the Covid pandemic. They must now become at least as bold working to keep everyone safe from climate change as they were bold working to keep everyone safe from Covid.

Trudeau can begin shifting from talk to action by adopting energy transition strategies that have long been shifting countries such as Germany and Sweden from majority fossil-fuel based energy production to renewable energy production. This will utilize COP26 promises as a basis for directing policies, subsidies and mandates toward building more power generation from hydro, wind and solar.

Canada will need to build better power-sharing infrastructure as well, such as a true east-west power grid in Canada. This way daily peak energy demand on our energy grid can be offset by energy produced geographically where peak demand has passed or not yet arrived. Canada is geographically large enough for this to work.

Action needs to be bold enough to take the form of direct laws, as it has been for a long time with regards to transportation when we mandated catalytic converters on all new cars and improved fuel economy, to reduce pollution and greenhouse gases.

Canada must now do the same for housing as it did transportation: New home construction needs to be mandated to include geothermal heating and cooling systems, solar panels, green roofs and better insulation. This type of mandate upon the construction industry is nothing new as the existence of electric and fire codes prove.

Urban planning and zoning must be focused away from single-detached homes and towards low-rise multiplexes such as townhouses and triplexes. This housing style reduces distances and therefore carbon intensity for everything from transportation to water infrastructure to fire response.

Heat loss is also reduced. Personal front and back yards remain, unlike in high-rise developments which result in anonymity potentially dangerous corridors, and dependence on elevators and building management.

As batteries are currently deemed to be the future solution to transportation, to power electric vehicles, subsidies already provided to automobile manufacturing and high-tech should now require battery innovation, production and safe end-of-life cycle recycling and disposal take place domestically. This will ensure jobs, supply and innovation in Canada.

Products such as paper and cardboard need to be legislated to be made of recycled materials only. This will force use of material municipal recycling programs already collect but then leave unused, while reducing the logging of trees and expenditures of re-planting forests. Plastic packaging needs to be eliminated and replaced with biodegradable paper and material as plastics are not only very polluting as waste products, but are also very carbon intensive to produce.

The farming industry needs to be reformed to be able to produce more food organically, as fertilizers and pesticides are carbon-intensive and cause many other negative environmental externalities such as soil nutrient depletion.

Finally, we will have to begin making oil and gas companies partners in fighting climate change as they currently produce and deliver most of Canada’s energy. These companies will have to acknowledge that the oil and gas products they sell have no long-term future, and their survival depends on their switching to generating and delivering renewable power instead. They must be clearly mandated to do so, and as such, some subsidies to them may be required.

Trudeau and world leaders have a plethora of climate solutions to choose from, and Canada is already far enough behind other countries in many fields. Nevertheless, the media attention and protests generated by COP26 demonstrate a great enthusiasm for climate change initiatives. If such enthusiasm can be focused toward every government at every level, and better yet also at passing individual specific bills that address climate change, climate talks would lead to far more climate action.

Featured Image Via COP26 on Flickr Creative Commons

While dancing may only be officially allowed at indoor venues in Quebec starting on November 15th, last night Valérie Plante got the ball rolling early:

And she had reason to celebrate. Not only did Plante get re-elected Mayor of Montreal with a higher percentage of the vote than she got in 2017, her party Projet Montréal increased its seat count in City Council by three. Projet will now control 11 of the city’s 19 boroughs as well.

“Montrealers confirmed 2017 was not a fluke,” Plante said in her victory speech, “but the beginning of an era … and that you can lead the city of Montreal with a smile.”

Projet’s Incumbent Re-Election Streak Continues

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that when a Projet candidate wins a new council seat or borough mayorship, they generally get re-elected. The only time this doesn’t seem to work is when they switch parties before running in the next election (former leader Richard Bergeron, anyone?). That incumbent re-election streak continued, for the most part, last night, and now we can add Mayor of Montreal to the positions it encompasses.

Projet’s dominance in the Plateau, Rosemont and Sud-Ouest continues for the third (and fourth, in the case of the first two boroughs mentioned) election in a row. And now Verdun is squarely in the Projet column (Antoine Richard, Borough Mayor candidate for Denis Coderre’s Ensemble Montréal, and his recent sketchy real estate dealings may have played some part in that).

Outremont, on the other hand, goes against this incumbency narrative with Projet only retaining one of the two Borough Council seats they won in 2017 and incumbent Borough Mayor Philipe Tomlinson of Projet losing to Ensemble’s Laurent Desbois. It’s by only 23 votes, so there will probably be a recount.

The Montgomery/Plante Saga is Over (Maybe) and CDN/NDG Makes History

Montreal’s most populous borough, Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (CDN-NDG) had become the most controversial and most difficult to call. Sue Montgomery was elected Borough Mayor under the Projet banner in 2017, but after a very public booting from the Projet caucus and subsequent court cases, she formed her own borough-specific party Courage to run to keep the same job.

Projet nominated Gracia Kasoki Katahwa, the first black woman Administration Council of the Ordre des infirmières du Québec, as their candidate to replace her. Meanwhile, former interim opposition leader (when Coderre was in the private sector) Lionel Perez became the Ensemble candidate for the job.

At first, on Election Night, it looked like Perez had won. Several networks and other media outlets even called the race for him. But then on Monday morning, as the final votes were being counted, his lead started to shrink and just before noon, Kasoki Katahwa was declared the winner by just 83 votes, making history as the first Black woman elected to a mayorship in Montreal.

Projet had re-won the control it got in the borough in 2017. Peter McQueen was handily re-elected to his fourth consecutive mandate as City Councilor for NDG and Magda Popeanu to her third in CDN. Despina Sourias won her first mandate in Loyola, but the party’s second in that district (Christian Arseneault had won Loyola as the Projet candidate in 2013 before leaving the party and withdrawing from the election).

With Borough Mayor, Projet continued its incumbent re-election streak. Plante found out about Kasoki Katahwa’s win during a press conference, delcaring “CDN-NDG, we’re coming home!” and added that the party’s plan for the borough had been “interrupted” last mandate.

As for Montgomery, she finished fourth in the Borough Mayor race behind Kashoki Katahwa, Perez and Matthew Kerr, candidate for Balarama Holness’ Mouvement Montréal party. None of the Courage candidates were elected.

If you add Montgomery’s votes (3087) to Kashoki Katahwa’s (11 940), you get 15 027, which is close to the 14 463 votes Plante got in CDN-NDG for Mayor of Montreal. So most of those who voted Montgomery at the Borough Mayor level probably also voted Plante at the City Mayor level, meaning Montgomery could have been a spoiler for Perez if 84 people had stayed home.

But that didn’t happen. And now CDN-NDG has made history.

Coderre, Montrealers Just Aren’t That Into You

While Plante said this vote proved Projet’s victory four years ago wasn’t a fluke, it also proved that Montreal voters rejecting Denis Coderre in 2017 wasn’t just a momentary case of bad election timing following the disaster of the Formula-e, but rather a rejection of his whole arrogant tenure as Mayor.

The pit bull ban, the fake granite tree stumps, abusing his power as Ville-Marie Borough Mayor to block car sharing (even though people in the borough had resoundingly voted for other people for Mayor and the destruction of nightlife. And that’s just the old 2017 Coderre.

The new 2021 Denis Coderre, who claimed to have learned from his mistakes, made a slew of new ones during the campaign. There was the promise of skyscrapers taller than the Mountain, the pledge to put the John A. MacDonald statue back in Place du Canada and the plan to ban drinking in parks after 8pm…all of which he backtracked on.

And then there was the Verdun Borough Mayor candidate who had been engaging in sketchy, though not technically illeagal, practices as a real estate agent but Coderre kept on his ticket. Plus the revelation that Coderre himself was on the payroll of reno-victing giant Cogir during his four-year break from politics.

Coderre always saw Montreal Mayor as a consolation prize and one he was entitled to. After being a Cabinet Minister and then ceding Federal Liberal leadership to Justin Trudeau, he should at least have this.

Dirty politics and Montreal have always gone hand-in-hand, that wasn’t going to change in the long run. This random chick from Abitibi got lucky, but things would soon be back to normal.

He wasn’t really trying. Not when he was Mayor and not during this campaign. The arrogance and entitlement were palpable. Until it was too late.

If Coderre stays on as Leader of the Opposition this time, I’ll be stunned. If he doesn’t but tries to run again next time, I’ll be less stunned. If he does that and his party accepts him back, well, the loss is really on them.

By now, I hope Denis Coderre realizes that Montreal is not a consolation prize and that Montrealers, or at least Montreal voters, really aren’t that into him. And that the only fluke was when Mélanie Joly split the progressive and anti-establishment vote in 2013 and he won.

Balarama Holness Says He’s Here to Stay

Speaking of Joly and vote-splitting then jumping to Federal politics, that’s exactly what I suspected Balarama Holness might be after. However, now that the dust has settled, I realize that the Mouvement Montréal leader didn’t end up being a spoiler for either Coderre or Plante.

Also, his co-candidate was Idil Issa in Peter-McGill, the same district Joly should have picked for hers if she had wanted to stay in municipal politics. If your co-candidate wins their council seat but you aren’t elected Mayor, you get to take their seat.

While Joly’s candidate in Peter-McGill did win, she had placed her co-candidate in NDG against the heavily-favoured McQueen, ensuring there was nothing holding her back from a Federal run if she didn’t get the top job in the city. Holness, on the other hand, chose a running-mate in a district where she had a shot.

Unfortunately, neither Issa nor any other Ensemble candidate won a seat. It wasn’t the best first outing for a new party vote-wise, but they and Holness did impress me by bringing some new ideas to the table such as the City-State and defunding the police. Overall, he helped push Plante and Projet closer to their base (something they probably would have done on their own, but he helped).

Holness says he plans to stay in Montreal and I welcome that decision. His biggest critique of Plante and Projet wasn’t the direction they wanted to head in, but that they weren’t getting there fast enough.

With four years to build his party and critique City Hall from the sidelines of power while growing stronger roots in various communities, he could have a much stronger showing next time. He’s already got the debating chops and the ideas, his party just needs to work on their ground game and get-out-the-vote.

Montreal Wins!

The real winner this year is Montreal. Not only did we dodge the Coderre bullet (that would have been a disaster, and one we already experienced at that), but we decided to make the major political shift of 2017 stick and continue, at least for another four years. We’re not going back to business-as-usual.

Yes, that’s an odd thing to say when we’re talking about a slew of incumbent victories, but the business-as-usual I’m referring to is the way the city operated for decades leading up to 2017. Four years ago we rejected the cronyism, corporatism and paternalism that has governed our city since before I was born. The faces changed, the direction didn’t.

Four years ago we opted for an approach that emphasizes affordable, livable communities, ecologically sustainable development and international participation on our terms, not on our dime. Did Plante and Projet get everything right? No. Especially when it came to diversity and use of the police.

But they have taken steps to improve and fix their mistakes and are still headed on the same path. And Montrealers decided to vote for another four years on that path instead of regressing, And for that reason, Montreal is the real winner of the election.

As Plante said, it wasn’t a fluke, but the beginning of an era.

As Montrealers head to the polls for the second day in a row (and the fourth nonconsecutive day if you count the advanced voting last weekend) to choose their next mayor, city council, borough councils and borough mayors, we’re announcing the results of our poll. FTB readers have, once again, chosen Valérie Plante of Projet Montréal as the next Mayor of Montreal.

The Results

The incumbent mayor handily won the poll with 313 votes, beating former mayor Denis Coderre’s 194 votes, which landed the Ensemble Montréal leader in second place. First-time contender Balarama Holness, who entered both the mayoral race and our poll later than the other two, finished third with 30 votes.

The other candidates for Mayor of Montreal barely registered, if they did at all. None of the Above and Undecided got 24 and 22 votes respectively.

These results are close, proportionally at least, to the most recent actual election polls. Also, FTB readers endorsed Plante in 2017 as well, making it the first time our largely progressive readership aligned with the actual results of an election (federal, provincial or municipal).

Will that be the case again tonight after all the votes have been counted? We’ll have to wait and see.

Why Plante?

While I don’t pretend to know why people responding to our poll voted the way they did, I also voted for Plante and Projet Montréal and personally endorse both her and them. So I can at least offer a few reasons why, which could align with the thinking of FTB readers:

  • With better environmental planning (including newer parks and green spaces which also facilitate walking around town), improved access to public transit and eliminating roadblocks to a happy society like police quotas, Plante and Projet had quite a few positive accomplishments over the past four years.
  • Plante and Projet handled the COVID-19 pandemic response as well as any municipal government in Quebec could. While relief benefits to individuals and lockdowns were in the hands of the Federal and Provincial governments respectively, the city’s public health department’s contract tracing efforts helped curve the third wave and Montreal had lower numbers proportionally than other parts of Quebec. Plante also made a number of major streets pedestrian-only during the summer to help local restaurants and bars attract more local business with terrasses.
  • While her administration had its flaws, which many people, including myself, have pointed out over the past four years, overall, they are headed in a more forward-thinking and progressive direction.
  • Denis Coderre, the principal opponent, was (and would be) a disaster. Just remember the Formula-e, the pit bull ban and all that spending for the 375eme (tree stumps, etc.). Now factor in his work, when not in power, for a reno-viction giant and you know where his priorities will lie. While many have criticized (and rightly so) Plante’s approach to homelessness, a Coderre administration promises to create more homeless through reno-victions.
  • While Balarama Holness has some good progressive ideas and wants to go further than Plante on some of what Projet has done and is proposing (his main criticism of the Mayor isn’t her ideas, but that she hasn’t made them all happen), he doesn’t seem to have the ground game to come close to winning and the prospect of four more years of Coderre is just too great a risk.

Well, that’s how I see it and how the majority of our readers responding to our poll voted, the real choice is up to Montrealers tonight. We’ll announce the winner and provide analysis in the next few days.

Featured Image via ProjetMontreal.org

If you haven’t already voted in the actual 2021 Montreal Municipal Election, you have until 8pm tonight. Find out where on the Elections Montreal website

Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney just watched the English Debate between Valérie Plante, Denis Coderre and Balarama Holness and share their thoughts on it and the 2021 Montreal Municipal Election (November 6th and 7th)

As mentioned in the video –

The Rivière-des-Prairies–Pointe-aux-Trembles Anthem

The fake granite tree stumps

Follow Dawn McSweeney on Twitter & Instagram @mcmoxy

Follow Jason C. McLean on Twitter & Instagram @jasoncmclean

At some point a duck needs to be called a duck: Any reliable source will show that Canada’s real estate market has been inflating proportionately higher than all other economic sectors for the past 20 years or so. If we look at the real cause and real effects of this, we’ll see very easily that no one, including the middle class, have to be left behind, problems such as homelessness can be greatly alleviated, and all that has to change is for government to do a better job of managing the economy.

Simply reading the definition of the term ‘hyperinflation’ on an economics site plainly shows that the real estate sector in Canada qualifies. Canada, like most western democracies, has been increasing its money supply while lowering interest rates since the 2008 financial crisis and even since the dot com boom and bust in 2000.

As is cultural practice and tradition, the middle class has been moving more and more of what is available to them of this new and cheaper money into real estate. This increase in money availability of course increases demand while flow of course raises prices.

The easy money and low interest rates also attract international investors into the sector, who in turn drive up prices even higher and faster. Of note is that a few recent policies, in Vancouver and Toronto for example, have finally begun to target international real estate speculators in Canada.

Where does this new money come from? The Bank of Canada, of course. Like all western democracies, Canadian currency is managed by a central bank with the goals of maintaining a healthy economy and keeping inflation low but still positive.

To do this in the past two decades, the Bank of Canada has had to increase the overall money supply and lower interest rates to such a degree that as a side effect it has substantially contributed to pushing Canada’s real estate sector into hyperinflation mode. Now, the Bank of Canada of course does not choose to or have the goal of facilitating hyperinflation in any sector, and of course not one as important as Canada’s real estate market.

Let’s ask why our central bank, which always acts in the public interest generally, has been increasing the money supply and keeping interest rates historically absurdly low. The reason is the overall poor management of the economy. Who manages the economy? Government, of course. The central bank is only a reactionary institution to overall economic trends and not a policy setter itself, all proactive policy is set by government.

Successive federal, provincial and municipal governments have been serving the needs of investors above and beyond those of the general population. When this happens, investors are put at the helm of the whole economy and any problem with the investor class needs to be solved above all problems.

If the stock market crashes or there is a dot com boom and bust or an international financial crisis, investors are propped up by subsidies and policies by governments with almost no questions asked. Central banks don’t have much choice but to follow suit and prop up investors as it has become their sole means of saving the overall economy.

All three levels of government have been serving investors above all, from federal corporate welfare and industry-specific subsidies at the provincial level, to permits, zoning changes and subsidizing gentrification at the municipal level. This policy direction from governments has itself also contributed to real estate hyperinflation through increasing the availability of investment capital for real estate purchases, increasing pressure for apartments to be converted into condos and for land to be sold to real estate developers.

The middle class acts as a whole with one of their primary or main goals remaining home ownership. They divert more and more of their disposable income into real estate, furthering the upward spiral of real estate prices and rendering much of them ‘house-poor’ and otherwise lowering their consumer purchasing power until their home is finally paid off.

As government funds are diverted to investors, fewer funds proportionately are available for public services. Health care and schools suffer, just for example. People become less healthy and educated negligibly on a yearly basis, but considerably over time.

Advocates and activists for societal causes such as homelessness have fewer resources while the number of homeless increases. The reduced availability of affordable apartments due to gentrification and condoization further causes an increase in homelessness. Hyperinflation in the housing market forces some middle class members to entirely abandon home ownership and choose rental apartments instead, further crowding out those in the rental market and increasing homelessness further.

While it is true that profit and investment gains are ultimately good for everyone, this goodness is allotted extremely unequally, with top investors benefitting greatly and lower income earners benefitting almost negligibly. The middle class can be easily persuaded to feel good about their investment gains while reaping a proportionately low percentage of these gains and having to divert increasingly larger amounts of their budgets toward housing. Government overly pandering to investors therefore causes the economy to be incapable of providing conditions favourable to universally affordable housing.

The simple subsidizing of social housing is often cited as a key solution by activists in response to this situation. This is a band-aid only, at best, as causal problems are not solved. The best long-term solution would be a large-scale shift in political momentum toward long-term investment in everyone’s health, education and well-being, which will create a society of more innovation, able and productive people.

Increasing funding of public services while simultaneously reducing funding of the investor class re-allocates resources from inflationary and already well-off recipients, to include disadvantaged and potentially seminal ones. Creating broad improvements in prosperity and economic conditions rather than simply inflating investment values requires less central bank corrective intervention, which in turn reduces inflationary pressures on the real-estate sector.

With less real estate inflation, the middle class would once again gradually increase its purchasing power, which in itself is a positive driver of economic conditions, and be able to leave more room in the rental real estate market.

Housing-as-a-human-right type policies can come and go as governments do, election-to-election. Correction of general economic conditions generally outlast any single government mandate and provide the economic conditions necessary for universal housing affordability and solve real estate hyperinflation entirely. Only then will central bank policies be able to be normalized and the housing market will correct.

The investor class must realize that investing in the health and education of everyone will provide them with better employees. Governments must realize that directing public funds to the public, rather than investing in investments, reduces drains on public funds and provides for better economic conditions long-term. The middle class must realize that their own governments are the cause of the real estate hyperinflation they suffer through.

Featured Image: Recreation of the UP balloon house from the National Geographic Channel

Jason C. McLean and Special Guest Dawn McSweeney go through some of the week’s top news, roundup-style.

Topics:

The US leaving Afghanistan
The 2021 Canadian Federal Election
OnlyFans dropping explicit content
Forced sterilization of Native women in Saskatchewan
Gatineau boy’s father denied human rights complaint

Follow Dawn McSweeney @mcmoxy on Twitter and Instagram

Follow Jason C. McLean @jasoncmclean on Twitter and Instagram

It’s official. After a quick 36 day campaign, Canadians will head to the polls on September 20th. This morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked Governor General Mary Simon to dissolve the current Minority Parliament in place since October 2019, which she did.

As Trudeau seeks a Majority, his Government’s handling of the pandemic will most likely play a dominant role in the five week campaign. The current pandemic situation will also directly effect the election itself, with all poll workers masked, a fresh pencil for each voter, hourly cleaning and some provinces not allowing schools to be used as polling places. Whether or not voters themselves will have to mask up depends on the current provincial health rules in place where they live.

While Trudeau had hoped to pass legislation allowing for three days of voting, it came off the table when Parliament was dissolved. Voting will be limited to election day, advanced polling days and mail-in ballots, which Elections Canada expects a significantly larger than average number of.

Trudeau argued that this election is necessary to give voters a say in the COVID recovery: “In this pivotal, consequential moment, who wouldn’t want a say? Who wouldn’t want their chance to help decide where our country goes from here?”

While the opposition parties all say they are ready, they are also critical of the decision to call the election. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called it a “selfish” election and argued that Trudeau is calling it “to be able to do less, not more” for Canadians in need, referring to the fact that his party was able to push the Minority Government for more in the COVID support benefits like the CERB and CRB.

All parties now have the shortest amount of time allowed by law to make their case.

Featured Image by Coolcaesar via WikiMedia Commons

Jason C. McLean and Special Guest Samantha Gold discuss the upcoming Montreal Municipal election (with an emphasis on the Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce and Montreal Nord boroughs), the possibility of a fall Federal Election and Quebec’s new vaccine passport.

Follow Samantha Gold on Facebook @samiamart and Instagram @samiamartistmtl

See Samantha’s mural outside of the Union United Church

Follow Jason C. McLean on Twitter and Instagram @jasoncmclean

Gracia Kasoki Katahwa will run for Borough Mayor of Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce under the Projet Montréal banner. Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante made the announcement earlier today at a press conference in the borough alongside Katahwa and seven other first-time candidates whom Plante referred to as the future of her party.

Katahwa joins an arguably crowded field which includes incumbent Borough Mayor Sue Montgomery, originally elected as a Projet candidate and now running with her own borough-specific party Courage – Équipe Sue Montgomery. Longtime City Councilor for the Darlington district Lionel Perez is running for the post as the candidate for Denis Coderre’s Ensemble Montréal, a party of which Perez was recently the Interim Leader.

Matthew Kerr is running under the banner of Mouvement Montréal, the party started and led by Balarama Holness. Meanwhile, Alex Montagano promises a “back to basics” approach as he runs with his borough-specific party Team/Equipe CDN NDG.

Katahwa has a background in healthcare and is the only black woman on the Administration Council of the Ordre des infirmières du Québec. While this is her first foray into politics, she has a long history with the borough.

CDN/NDG is shaping up to be one of the races to pay close attention to this November.

Featured Image via Projet Montréal on Facebook

Jason C. McLean and Special Guest Samantha Gold discuss some of the top news stories of the day (local, national and international):

Quebec’s curfew lifting, Marjorie Taylor Greene stalking AOC, hidden systemic racism in the Federal Government, the Montreal Municipal Election & this summer’s hybrid festivals.

Follow Samantha Gold Artist on Facebook @samiamart and Instagram @samiamartistmtl

Follow Jason C. McLean on Twitter @jasoncmclean

François Legault has shoehorned his foot into his mouth, yet again. Last week it was his claim – in response to the growing affordable housing crisis – that the average rent in metropolitan areas in Quebec was $500-$600 a month. This week, it’s his inflexibility on pay raises for public sector workers.

In Quebec, we have an expression “Au Quebec, on syndique!” in other words, “In Quebec we unionize”. We are also in a pandemic where the gap between rich and poor is clearer than ever, and the definition of who counts as an essential worker is all the more obvious as a result.

It therefore came as a slap in the face to those same workers that Legault told government worker unions there is no money left to pay for pay raises. The Quebec government’s current offer to healthcare workers – called “guardian angels” by Legault – is a five percent pay raise over five years with an option for a further three percent if inflation exceeds the amount they’re offering. Higher pay raises are being offered to patient attendants in long-term care homes and first year teachers in an attempt to lure more people to these professions that are facing severe staffing shortages in Quebec.

The unions have said government offers are too little to accept, and Legault’s response is to cite pandemic-related public spending as grounds for the claim that his government cannot offer them more. In an age where unions are more important than ever in the face of mounting corporate greed, his remarks come as particularly insulting when he himself owns a multimillion dollar home in Outremont.

Since Legault’s callous remarks around residential renting costs, his government and the Coaltion Avenir du Quebec has been engaging in damage control. This can be seen in the Premier’s conspicuous absence from the press conference announcing the expansion of eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Every time Legault goes public on financial matters, his wealth and privilege shine through. This is a man who claims that he will do what the majority of Quebeckers want, yet his responses to issues surrounding poverty and people’s value stinks of the arrogance that comes with extreme wealth.

While I have zero interest in saving the Quebec premier’s reputation, I do have a suggestion of how Francois Legault and his party can save his ass from political blunders that have finally alienated their base:

Francois Legault should take a pay cut.

He should accept a reduction in his salary as premier and that amount should go straight into an offer of increased salaries for essential workers. A simple Google search reveals that Legault’s approximate net worth is about ten million dollars, so he clearly doesn’t need the money.

He wants to be a man of the people? He needs to prove it, and he needs to do it now!

Now I could bring up that since Quebec is already facing teaching shortages, suspending Bill 21 would be a fantastic way to attract more staff, but that’s not what this article is about. It’s about the population of Quebec facing mounting financial strain due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s about nurses, nurses’ aides, and other front line workers fed up with a rich man telling them what they can and cannot afford when they put themselves at risk of contracting the virus while he remains in safety. It’s about the fact that while homelessness is on the rise and buying a home is so far out of reach for most people, he owns a multimillion dollar home.

That said, I believe I speak on behalf of everyone in Quebec when I make this challenge to our illustrious premier:

Are you truly a man of the people? Prove it, Monsieur Legault, take a pay cut.

Special Guest Samantha Gold talks about getting vaccinated against COVID-19 in Quebec, Premier François Legault’s comments on Montreal rental prices and more with host Jason C. McLean

Follow Samantha Gold on Facebook @samiamart & Instagram @samiamartistmtl

Follow Jason C. McLean on Twitter @jasoncmclean

Book your Quebec vaccine appointment through Clic Santé according to the schedule

On April 20, 2021 the Superior Court of Quebec issued a ruling on Bill 21, Quebec’s Secularism law which many Canadians were awaiting with baited breath. It was a victory for some, and a tragedy for others.

In its decision, it upholds the Quebec Secularism law with the exception of English schools in Quebec, and the Coalition Avenir du Quebec government under Premier François Legault has already announced its plans to appeal. This article will give a rundown of the ruling itself, the response by those affected, and what it represents to the people of Quebec and Canada.

I’m not going to go into all the nuances of Quebec’s Secularism Law, hereafter Bill 21. I gave a full and detailed rundown in multiple articles when the law was forced through the National Assembly in 2019.

In a nutshell, it severely limits employment in most of Quebec’s public sector as well as access to certain government services for anyone who wears religious symbols, including crosses, hijabs, headscarves, and kipas/yarmulkes. At the time, the government claimed the law would unite Quebeckers, but it has made us more divided than ever. Hate crimes and harassment of Muslim women are on the rise, something experts tried to warn the government about prior to the law’s passing.

The government knew that the law would never survive a legal challenge based on constitutional rights so they wrote in the Notwithstanding Clause, a clause written into Canada’s constitution to allow discriminatory rules to remain in effect for five years notwithstanding certain articles in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is largely the court’s measure of the effect of the Notwithstanding Clause that decided the outcome of the case.

I knew that no matter WHAT the court’s ruling, someone would appeal the decision. That someone is the Quebec government and it is unfortunate because for the most part, the Quebec government won the case.

Bill 21 is still in effect, and teachers and other people hoping for the stability that comes with public employment have had their hopes dashed, with one exception. The court decided that Bill 21 remains valid due to the province’s use of the Notwithstanding Clause, with the exception of English schools, which are constitutionally protected by a clause in the constitution that isn’t covered by the Notwithstanding Clause, as well as the National Assembly. It is this aspect that the government plans to appeal, claiming that this exception divides Quebec when the province’s society should be united.

William Korbatly, a lawyer, feels the government’s claim that the judge’s ruling split Quebec is erroneous and dishonest.

“[I]t’s the law 21 that did that by making some Quebeckers lesser citizens than those who think of themselves (as) superior or have more privileges just because they are part of the cultural majority. That being said, we cannot deny that a large part of Quebeckers have serious problems and are very allergic to any religious manifestation in public spaces. Thus, politically speaking, that law should be put to the courts’ authorities and they will decide what is constitutional and what is not.”

Unfortunately despite Quebec’s ongoing teacher shortage, English schools in the province will still be subjected to Bill 21 pending appeal.

Carolyn Gehr, an Orthodox Jewish woman and teacher with the Montreal English School Board who wears and headscarf and submitted an affidavit with the other plaintiffs had some choice words about the legal decision keeping the law in force for now.

“I feel horrible for the prospective teachers who enthusiastically applied to the English school boards who desperately need them, only to find out in a day or two that their hopes were dashed yet again, and that this ruling does nothing for them for the foreseeable future. The fact that the government is fighting this so vociferously reinforces in me the idea that I’m not really wanted here, especially in that I’m only allowed in my job as I am because ‘Oncle Francois’ magnanimously grandfathered me in so as not to offend the sensibilities of people who don’t like to see someone fired for no reason.”

M. I. a Muslim teacher working in the private sector who no longer wears her hijab for personal reasons spoke of why she chose to take it off.

“I grew up in a moderately conservative Muslim family and the choice to wear the hijab was mine to make and I chose to wear it until about a year ago. Why I chose to take it off was a completely personal choice because I was no longer wearing it for religious reasons. It just provided me with a sense of comfort and not wearing it felt like going out without my pants on since I had worn it for so many years.”

On Bill 21, she says she and most of her community were very concerned. There was this feeling that this sort of law would never happen in Canada and most members have been directly or indirectly affected.

“I know the law adversely affects all religious communities but as a Muslim woman who used to wear the hijab my feelings are very strong when it comes to the effect the bill has on the women in my community. I find this law to be discriminatory, anti-feminist and anti-human rights. As a woman, I cannot accept that someone can have any say in how I choose to cover myself. I am well-educated and have never been forced by any part of my religion and can say for a fact that his holds true for most women in my community.”

M.I. says the Muslim community is one of the fastest growing minorities in Quebec and that the law, like the hijab ban in France, is just a way of keeping minorities under control. She points out that this open hostility has just led to more anger and extremism among Muslims in France than ever before. Adding, like Carolyn Gehr, that Bill 21 made her feel she didn’t belong.

“I am many things: Iranian, Muslim, Canadian and a Montrealer but a Quebecker I am not. I no longer feel any pride in that.”

Francois Legault and the Coalition Avenir du Quebec and others with clear and open hostility towards visible and religious minorities in Quebec represent the worst elements of Canadian and Quebec society. A society that buys into the narrative of white victimhood and denial of a more honest history that includes everyone who contributed to the great society we have today.

In metropolitan areas like Montreal, more and more people find this attitude dangerous and even laughable and recognize that those who support it can either embrace the diversity that enriches our food and other aspects of our culture, or die with the dinosaurs. That said, let the government know their decision to appeal is a frivolous waste of Quebec tax dollars when there’s a pandemic and a housing shortage to address. The fight’s only over when we the people say it is, so keep fighting.

Featured image of the Palais de Justice in Montreal by Jeangagnon via Wikimedia Commons