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Currently, we’re brain dead

This Magazine Staff

Look, I love the CBC. Radio3 on saturday night got me through my first lonely winter in Peterborough a few years ago, and now I even say “shedule”. But sometimes it takes its mandate as the People’s Radio a bit too far, to the exlusion of simple common sense.
Consider the lead item on this morning’s edition of The Current. It was a piece about whether the Canada Pension Plan should or should not invest in tobacco stocks. Apparently Health Minister Ujal Dosanj was ambushed the other day at a meeting of the Canadian Medical Association, where some doctor got up and demanded that the CPP sell its $100 million worth of tobacco shares.
So, The Current played the CMA clip, then interviewed a business prof who basically said no, the CPP shouldn’t be in the business of ethical investing, it should be looking to maximize returns for the plan. It is a position I happen to agree with, which we can debate here or elsewhere if anyone cares to.
But then things got really annoying. The CBC sent someone out into the streets of Montreal to find out what the common Jean or Jeanne thinks about how the government should invest their pension money. They gave the usual mix of responses: some people thought the CPP should pull out of tobacco, some thought not, others weren’t sure where their money should be going.
But here’s the thing: Quebecers don’t pay into the CPP. Quebec has its own, completely separate pension plan, the QPP (which, incidently, is one brick in Stephen Harper’s infamous “firewall” plan for Alberta.)
You can see the thinking at work at The Current: “Well, people always complain about the CBC being too Toronto-centric. Instead of doing the streeter in Toronto, let’s do it somewhere else in Canada, preferably somewhere where there are lots of smokers.”
Bingo, some genius suggests Montreal. It doesn’t occur to anyone that Quebec isn’t part of the CPP, so the thoughts of Montrealers on this are not remotely relevant.
On the other hand, it probably is not surprising that not one of the persons questioned here in Montreal piped up and said “I don’t care what the ROC does with its pension money.” It is part of a longstanding pattern, in which the federal government allows Quebec more leeway for running its own show than the other provinces get, or transfers federal powers directly to the provinces, without getting the slightest political payoff.
There are many conclusions here. I’ll leave their drawing as an exercise for the reader.

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