Friday, March 02, 2007

Montreal vs ROQ: Homophobia in the Quebec Election

Last week, it was his cocaine use, this week, it's his homosexuality. Sadly, the issue that I predicted would dog André Boisclair on the campaign trail has indeed come up, raised by a shock-jock radio host in the Saguenay, where another openly gay candidate, Sylvain Gaudreault, is running for the PQ in Jonquière.

For a campaign which started off nasty, things just seem to be getting worse and worse, and the main beneficiary of the turmoil appears to be the ADQ, which is making huge gains in Quebec City and the Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean region, if you believe the polls.

My read on this isn't that it's the fact that Boisclair is gay that is the central issue. As Chantal Hébert has pointed out in her new book French Kiss, which I started devouring last night, it's the fact that Boisclair is so emblematic of urban Montreal, and by extension, so appears the PQ. As we saw in the last federal election, Canadian politics appears to increasingly be reflecting a split in political (and social) values along urban-rural lines. In Quebec, this is why we see the issues of multiculturalism (or interculturalism, as it's called there), and sexuality being used as wedge issues.

Progressive Canadians should be very concerned about this trend. Rural and small-town Canada is better represented in the legislatures on a per-capita basis than the cities are, and those discontented voices will be able to flex their muscle if a) we leave the distribution of seats as it currently stands, and b) more effort isn't made to spread progressive values in smaller communities.

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At 9:05 am, Blogger atlanticaparty said...

A hello from from the newest provincial party in Atlantic Canada.

Would be interested in your thoughts on our policies.

Jonathan Dean

At 9:31 am, Anonymous Dan said...

I understand that there is a greater difference in urban rural values. However, when you have Roy Cullen, Derek Lee, Jim Karygiannis, John McKay, Dan McTeague, John Cannis, Alan Tonks and Thomas Wappel all from Toronto taking Conservative side on gay marriage this makes me wonder how progressive the cities are. Most won their ridings very easily and they are safe seats for the Liberals.
I think it is not just a urban rural divide and that we need to spread progressive values into cities as well ad into the rural and small towns.
Also if we don't leave the distribution of seats as it currently stands I fear that the rural and small town ridings will lose their voice in Parliment.

At 9:50 am, Blogger Matt said...


You're certainly right that the cities are not completely on the left - although by and large those are the strongholds for the left-leaning parties, despite some individual members, while the bedrock vote for the Conservatives and ADQ is more rural.

However, I'm much less concerned than you are about the voice of rural and small town ridings, and about the priority that Canada's electoral system places on protecting a rural voice. If we are to stick with a first-past-the-post system (I tend to think some form of proportional representation is better), I would rather have it be more closely tied to representation-by-population. Why should rural votes count more than urban votes? Indeed some (including John Ibbitson) have argued that the current seat distribution also serves to give extra value to the the votes of old-stock Canadians over immigrant votes, which are concentrated in cities.

Either way, I think that the current system is deeply flawed, and that legislatures do not reflect the manner in which voting percentages break down, which speaks to a larger need for wholescale electoral reform.

At 11:03 am, Blogger J. Kelly said...

This may be slightly off subject, but I was somewhat irritated that CP's initial stories on this in English (and thus, every other media outlet's) stated that Boisclair was called a "fag" -- and then the actual word used, "tapette", only appeared later in the article. It's my contention that the word "fag" did not need to appear in any article about this at all.

I have no problem with quoting people who use epithets -- racial, sexual or otherwise -- in news stories, but I think it would have been better to either just print "tapette" and describe it as "a derogatory term for gay men." Why did it need be described as "like fag"?

I guess it could be argued that the reader won't get the full visceral effect of what was said unless given the English equivalent... I don't really buy that, though.

Ah, translation in news stories... Remember the old "chiffon rouge"/"red rag" flap a while back...


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