Progressive politics, ideas & culture



This Magazine Staff

For many Quebecers, the election of Andre Boisclair as leader of the PQ is a sign of the relative maturity of the Quebec electorate compared with people in the ROC. After all, Boisclair is young and handsome, gay, and has admitted to using cocaine while he was a PQ cabinet minister. Attempts by his political opponents to tar him with the cokehead brush went nowhere; in fact, all indications are that his popularity increased after he admitted to it.
Boisclair provides an interesting window into the Quebecois political mind. The distinction between cocaine use being morally unobjectionable but outrageous behaviour for a cabinet minister is not lost on Quebecers, they just don’t care. They have managed to combine Gaullist statism with respect to the economy with a profound counterculturalism in the social and cultural sphere.
And that is why his political opponents would be wise to completely ignore the coke question in the future. For it must be admitted that one of his biggest appeals is that his unapologetic use of cocaine appears to annoy squarehead anglos. I asked my students (in a graduate seminar on constitutionalism) whether it bothered them that Boisclair repeatedly broke the law (not to mention set himself up for blackmail) while in cabinet. They all shrugged. One pointed out that Quebecers were pretty open-minded about drug use. Another suggested that the only people bothered by it were those who lived in Outremont. (For anyone not down with the semiotics of Montreal addresses, “Outremont” is code for federalists, money, and ethnics).
Quebecers fancy that their relationship to the ROC is one of “egal a egal”: As one of the country’s two founding nations, they are not one province among 10, but on equal footing with all other 9 provinces combined. Yet in practice, the relationship is one of adolescent to parent. The blind resentment, the petulance, and the repeated desire to oppose for the sake of opposing, are all signs of the fundamental immaturity of the Quebec/ROC relationship. Andre Boisclair’s victory over a far more qualified opponent is not a sign of Quebec’s political maturity, but its adolescence.
The unfortunate conclusion is that adolescents only grow up once they leave home.
Update: OK, I can see by his comments that John isn’t convinced by my argument. Maybe he’ll take it from the American Gay press. (You know what I mean).
From the Washington Blade, here’s a few choice comments:

Philippe Lucas, a French Canadian from Montreal, who works with the drug policy organization DrugSense said, “Quebequers have a very European attitude about social issues like drug use and sex….
“Although formerly politically dominated by an authoritarian Catholic Church, Puritanism has no place in Quebec culture, and most of us consider the prudish attitude associated with English Canada to be a result of England and America’s conservative social influence.”
In Montreal, cocaine use, although frowned upon, was widespread throughout the ’80s, [AND ’90s and ’00s!!! — ap] he said, and there is a general feeling that if Anglos frown upon certain behavior (i.e. sex and drugs), then it must be OK.

It’s a pretty simple, if bizarre, position: the idea that Cabinet ministers shouldn’t be cokeheads is for uptight Americanised anglos, not liberated Europeanish french canadians.
Trust me. This attitude is extremely widespread. It does, however, suggest an obvious strategy for federalists: embrace separatism.

Show Comments