Ridiculed by cartoonist Aislin in Gazette
Avi kept a close eye on me as his new editor of the Suburban in those early days, but in a helpful way. He was quite accustomed to having employee upheavals at his toy factory in Ville Lasalle and was fearful that the same would befall me, given the hostility of the staff at the newspaper he and his brother now owned.
He was impressed with my story and picture of the lady beside her car with the wheel that had spun off while she was driving. It was just the sort of thing that he wanted to see more of in the paper. He was also impressed with the way I got around the staff's foot-dragging excuses on why we couldn't get a photographer to the accident by having my own 35mm camera tucked in my shirt pocket.
From all of this, he hatched an idea that was to form the basis of the Suburban's modus operandi for the next decade and would create an entirely new staff. I didn't have to fire anyone after I sacked Carmi Levi. In time the others drifted off as it became clear that the guard had irrevocably changed and there was no way of preserving the Suburban of old.
Avi's idea was to hire reporters off the street. Simply advertise for volunteers to be paid $25 per published story. "We believe in advertising," Avi said with a twinkle, reminding me that advertising was the Suburban's sole source of revenue.
I got the applicants listed as they phoned in and set up a meeting after the working day, when the expanse of the advertising sales office would be empty and I could address the multitude.
Avi's idea was to have them try out, and those who were successful would be issued cameras. The plan was to get one correspondent for each district and municipality we covered, except for the West Island, which remained a separate fiefdom.
About 15 arrived on the day and heard my journalism-made-simple lecture, in which I described the inverted pyramid and touched on the snowman story model for feature articles. I also told them to start with a headline, with a verb or a verb implied, as that helped focus the mind.
More than anything, I wanted them to be self-starters. We might give them assignments, but we would prefer they get their own stories. They should keep an eye out for anything that caught their attention and not be afraid to ask anybody and everybody what they thought about whatever it was that aroused their interest—and get their names, first name or first two initials, age and job title. I always thought the age of the source was the crowning cherry on the sundae. And I told them what my father had told me: "If they are moving earth, that's a story." And that stories lead to other stories.
About eight of the 15 who turned up submitted stories, which of course were not satisfactory. Not that this was a reflection on them. Newbies are mostly worse than useless at first, meaning it would be far easier doing the story yourself. Then they graduate to being fully useless, that is, barely worth having. And then finally, they become useful, after about three or four tries. That is, those who do not fall by the wayside along the way.
Five of the eight dropped out after they submitted their articles, and three continued to produce. All but one dropped out within a year, and that one, Joel Goldenberg, continues to work at the Suburban to this day. Joel, a short serious man from St Laurent, wanted to go into journalism and was enrolled in the Concordia University journalism programme. He paid me one of the best professional compliments I have ever received, which was that he had learned more in my 40-minute journalism-made-simple lecture than he had in his whole time at Concordia University's J school.
There were times as reporters quit that I was thrown into reporting myself. This brought me in touch with town councils in Montreal West, Westmount, Côte St Luc and Hampstead. Joel Goldenberg was the first to be brought on staff and became a mainstay of the operation throughout my near decade-long tenure.
Joel, while sympathetic to my Anglo rights passion, was chiefly interested in how things worked, the ins and outs of municipalities and the intricacies of the various disputes besetting them. He was a truly happy camper. Not in any joyous sense, but he had a quiet contentment with his lot and a genuine fascination with his work, with a reputation of being meticulous while producing high volumes. His one outside interest was recording bootleg music, which was freely available on the Internet at the time but would not be for much longer.
One of my reporting jobs was to cover what turned out to be the founding meeting of the Equality Party, one that for a single parliamentary term ended up representing the Anglo community by electing four members of the National Assembly (new name for the provincial legislature). But while election night was a glorious victory, the years these Anglo-Quebec parliamentarians spent in their seats were disappointing, as they fell victim to a successful French charm offensive, causing them to completely forget why they were elected. One, Richard Holden, member for Westmount, even joined the separatist Parti Québécois, while the party leader, Robert Libman, best of the lot, admitted in his book Riding the Rapids to unsavoury deals with the ruling Liberal government.
That first basement meeting took place in a humble house in Montreal West not 10 minutes’ walk from my Côte St Luc office. It was here in April 1989 that Robert Libman broached the idea of forming a party that would oppose the provincial and increasingly federal efforts to erase English influence in Quebec. I remember little of the meeting other than that it was still tentative, and only later did I discover that it had been fully decided to start a party and prepare for the next election in September 1989.
I had no trouble enlisting the Socaczevski brothers behind the effort. There were 19 Equality Party candidates fielded with five or six having a chance of winning. The fact that the leader, 26-year-old architect Robert Libman, was a Jew did the cause no harm. The winners included a well-known CBC sports commentator, Gordon Atkinson, a phony war hero as it later turned out, who was satisfied with a Canadian flag being put up in the legislature, and Neil Cameron, the John Abbot College teacher, who blocked my attempts getting transcripts of parliamentary or committee proceedings so we could have more than his word over drinks about how insightful in parliamentary committees he supposedly was.
All the party rank and file, despised by the elected members, were getting increasingly impatient for some evidence that the parliamentary party was working for the cause they were elected to serve. But all we got was news of how splendidly they were getting on with the foe and how really nice they were. Libman got pumped up with some Hydro-Quebec scandal, which produced the only good press the party got because it did not concern the restoration of civil rights and an end to linguistic cleansing.
Well before this became apparent, Irwin Rapaport entered my life. He was to make an enormous contribution to the fortunes of the Equality Party, and I was, too—simply by saying Yes to Irwin, when everyone else said No. It was an incident which has me reflecting on my current hero, the U of T's Dr Jordan Peterson, who said it only takes the slightest encouragement to have men do great things.
Irwin was a good-hearted, unkempt pigpen of an oaf, completely awkward and universally disliked. To be fair, there was much to dislike. But despite all that, he was smart, well-read in the classics, at least in the Roman period, and knew as much as I did of the late Victorian colonial period including developments in South Africa, about which I had a lifelong interest.
I had long noted the similarity between Montreal and Johannesburg. The population proportions were vastly different, at least in regard to the native peoples, with our Caughnawaga Mohawk reserve numbering a minuscule 9,000 compared to the huge Soweto Bantu population of 1.2 million. These are today's figures, though proportions are much the same as they were in the 20th century. So while the native population sizes differ greatly, the real division and quarrel lay between the British and the Afrikaners, or Boers as they were called. These were analogous to the French and English in Montreal. There were, of course, religious differences between the Boers and the Québécois, the French being Catholic and the Boers being Calvinist Protestants, but they had ceased to matter. They were both on the same side in the 1899-1902 Boer War, in which the Canadian Army did so well. The Montreal newspaper Le Devoir was founded to oppose Canada's participation in that conflict. Liberal Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier reluctantly sent troops lest the pro-war Charles Tupper win the coming 1900 election, as English Canada was so keen to go.
The Afrikaners called the so-called British "Uitlanders" with some justice, as there were so many people from everywhere who had found work in and around the gold fields. In this way, the English were much the same in Montreal. Granted, Toronto and Vancouver were getting an influx of European immigrants through the 1970s, but cosmopolitan Montreal had been the immigrants' choice since the late 18th century.
Despite Boer control of Johannesburg—they had all the government jobs—there were more Gilbert and Sullivan performances there than anywhere else in the country, including the more thoroughly British Cape Town and Durban. The same could be said of Montreal vis-a-vis Toronto, despite Toronto’s overwhelming English-speaking majority. In Johannesburg, there were more Jews, more books sold and, perhaps more relevant, more money. These were the Witwatersrand gold fields, after all.
But also like Montreal, the Afrikaners, who spoke Dutch the way the Québécois spoke French, ruled the roost and held all the government jobs but shared little of the wealth from the mining, except what they could tax. The Boers ended up in this way because they sold land for a song, thinking they were getting good money for third-rate pasturage. In much the same way, the French Canadians sold tracts of what they thought to be useless forested river lands to companies in the 1890s, not appreciating that they could be turned into lucrative hydroelectric dams to be marketed through Montreal Light, Heat & Power and Shawinigan Water & Power.
In the Transvaal, the Uitlanders produced gold, while in Quebec, they produced electricity, and found markets for timber and pulp and paper in Europe and the United States. These hydroelectric dams were later seized legally through a process called "nationalisation" in the 1940s by the state-owned Hydro-Quebec. Neither the Boers nor the French Canadians knew what they were selling at the time of sale, which became a source of resentment, giving birth to Quebec nationalism and eventually to the Parti Québécois, which often formed the provincial government, which sponsored two referenda on independence, the second a closer call than the first.
Now marginalised, sidelined by Anglo-Quebec commercial and industrial dominance, the Québécois felt cheated when their lands became world famous for what the Uitlanders had done. Pierre Vallières, the intellectual apologist for the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) in the '60s wrote a book, "White Niggers of America," setting out the prevailing resentment in his title.
I was pleased when Irwin twigged to what I was talking about in making the Jo’burg comparison. He made a relevant remark to my digression about Lord Milner and his earlier disasters in the Zulu War. Irwin was someone I could talk to in ways that flew over the ears of the journalists I engaged, indeed most of the journalists I have ever known, who had not read a book since Uni, and knew no more than what their professors knew, which was precious little.
More relevant to our there and then, he too was outraged about Alliance Quebec, "the federally funded Anglo rights group that supports Bill 101," as we tirelessly, if tiresomely, introduced that organisation in every story we wrote about them.
What was so frustrating was that while the federal government was promoting French through ostensibly similar agencies in the rest of Canada, urging them to complain vociferously about any injustice they could find, Ottawa had also generously funded this pseudo Anglo rights group in Montreal, Alliance Quebec. Its aim was not to seek out injustice and raise hell about it but to conceal it and, if that were impossible, minimise it and tell all the world that Anglo-Quebecers were well treated. The author of this policy was the Quebec Liberal Party, whose government had enacted Bill 22, the first anti-English law, in 1974. Through its AQ front organisation, it occasionally performed a well-publicised minor mission in some distant obscure Anglo hamlet, such as winning a concession to improve local healthcare, but made no protest over the widespread Frenchification of English-built hospitals.
Now called "Compliance Quebec" by its stifled critics, it became clear that the Quisling AQ was representing the oppressor's interest while pretending to represent the interests of the oppressed. All the while, the Gazette and the local radio and TV stations ignored Anglo complaints or made them seem petty. Instead they continued to stress the complaints of the downtrodden majority, giving a pass to banning English signs and forcing kids into French schools when they wanted to go to English ones that were quite prepared to have them. The editor, Joan Fraser, was eventually rewarded with a seat in the Senate for suppressing news of the evils from Quebec for so long.
If the Gazette doesn't cover these issues and events, then news does not get out on the Canadian Press wire service, so the rest of Canada is kept in ignorance, too. So are American media, which monitor CP's news feeds.
Irwin wanted to be a reporter and I wanted him on staff with Joel, but Avi wouldn't have it. He wanted university people, which I said was a mistake because university people tended to be against capitalism and against the interests of the company. Moreover, Suburban reporters wanted to be Gazette journalists, the very people Avi and his brother loathed. But Avi was adamant. I think because he did not have a university degree, he liked the idea of employing university degree holders. We never resolved that one.
Irwin did a couple of crazy lightweight things like stealing my bike from the Cavendish Mall to show how easily it could be done. He had pictures of himself doing it and got a bit of attention, including a nasty call from the mall managers saying we had victimised the mall. The ad reps were upset, but not for long.
His big contribution came before the 1989 Quebec election. The media had been telling us what we already knew—that the Liberals were going to win—not the news we were all craving. First, the separatist PQ had been disappointing as a government, even to the French. But the pollsters refused to ask the question uppermost on everyone's mind: How would the Anglos vote in the nine ridings where Equality ran candidates? Instead, we got repeated assurances that the Liberals would win overall.Then Irwin came to me and said: "Why don't we do our own poll? Just ask 100 people coming out of the supermarket at the Cavendish Mall. Just ask them who they are going to vote for."
At first, I said No, don't be silly. Polls were scientific things, well beyond our scope. But persistent Irwin argued on, the way he does. "Come on, everyone buys groceries. So a super-rich guy has a housemaid do it. How statistically important is he?"
So I said yes. Others in the office were listening in, and obviously dead keen to know what we could find out. Irwin set off and came back with the result that 65 per cent would vote Equality.
We went with it. What's more, I ordered that we do the same at all the major supermarkets in the English-speaking west end of the island of Montreal. Nothing came as high as the 65 per cent we got in Côte St Luc, but they all were clear majorities for Equality. It is my view that as election day approached, these voters might well have been cajoled into returning to the Liberal fold, as voting Equality was widely regarded as nutty and Anglo-Quebecers are nothing if not politically conventional. And the social elites, the doctors and lawyers, who were to a man Liberal supporters, were powerful if not decisive in after-dinner discussions in a population that is largely devoid of a voting working class—again like Johannesburg.
But when the Anglos saw so many of their number sharing their preference for Equality in Irwin's poll, it was no longer nutty to vote that way, and the Liberal social elites were powerless against the new political mood, despite the influence of the Gazette and the electronic media, principally CJAD, the CBC and CTV, which did their best to marginalise Equality, but this time to no avail.
It was Irwin's poll that won the election of the four MNAs, but after that, it was all downhill as the elected members enjoyed their fame and fortune and started to talk about "losing credibility" whenever the rank and file demanded that they start fighting for civil liberties.
Libman was charmed by the attentions given to him by the Liberal high and mighty. Atkinson was caught up with their acceptance of a Canadian flag in chamber, casting himself in a heroic role as the rescuer of Canada's honour in Quebec. Holden enjoyed greater sympathy with the separatist PQ notables to the point where he joined the party, and Cameron enjoyed prosing on about provincial educational reform in parliamentary committees, where he may have tweaked a law or two.
It was as though the army had focused all its energies on excellence in purchasing, cuisine, ceremonials and sport, and forgot to do what it was their job to do, that is develop itself into the best fighting force it could be. After a while, except for the odd meaningless rhetorical flourish, frequently hailed by myself at the Suburban as a new dawn, there was little to distinguish them from the Liberals the Anglos usually elected.
I had always said that Communists were good at taking their objectives, but no good at administering their holdings. Something of the same nature had occurred here. A Westmount lawyer like Holden tinged with corrupt practices was a familiar and reassuring sight on the hustings in Westmount, just as the blowhard war hero CBC sportscaster was reassuring to NDGers. Libman, the "boy leader," as he was disparaged in the Gazette and media, would be an ideal catch for any JAP in Côte St Luc. And Cameron the verbose college professor struck no discordant notes on the West Island. But having won the ground, they were not the firebrands needed to fight the good fight in the chamber. Instead they luxuriated in the perks of office. It was a job that made no demands. One did not have to turn up for work, one had one's expenses paid for and could dabble in whatever one fancied whenever one liked to whatever extent one liked. They were the elect and thought of themselves that way.
The next fuss came toward the end of the lacklustre run of the parliamentary Equality Party: its disastrous decision to back the Charlottetown Constitutional Accords. To be accurate, Richard Holden, the MNA for Westmount, stood against it, but for the same reasons the separatist PQ did. The PQ was against the Charlottetown deal because Quebec wanted more autonomy than it offered. Of course, if Holden's Westmount's constituents had any anti-Charlottetown view, it was that it offered Quebec too much autonomy, not too little. When asked how he could go against the obvious feelings of this Westmount constituents, he invoked Edmund Burke’s 18th-century argument that he was to elected not to "represent" his constituents, but serve them in a manner he saw fit. Voters were entitled to throw him out at the next election.
NDG's Gordon Atkinson, with all his flag waving, stood for Canada and backed the accords, as that is what Canada's will appeared to be—though it was not, as it turned out after the 1992 referendum. Nonetheless it had the backing of the Conservative government of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney at the time.
Party leader Robert Libman was unhappy and consulted me over lunch. I advised that he delay taking any position until he sought legal advice. This was against a background of disunity in the parliamentary party. I suggested he appoint a panel of lawyers to represent the interests of the English-speaking minority. Make a big fuss of it. With Holden's defection to the PQ, I saw him being able to win a measure of Anglo-Quebec leadership if this were played right. That meant making smoke for the moment and coming back with a grand announcement.
But he was openly fearful. My bosses were collapsing into the Yes camp as the national Charlottetown referendum loomed only three months away. The Sochaczevskis didn't like having their newspaper thought of as the Der Strummer of the piece in the eyes of Quebec nationalists. Libman sympathised, offering condolences to me about a column that had been written against me by Michel David in the Quebec City newspaper Le Soleil under the scornful heading "Le monde selon Christy McCormick." It ridiculed my demand for freedom of choice in education and signage, and an end to linguistic cleansing and the Frenchification of English institutions, etc. I was struck by how fearful Libman was, how he tinted his car windows to avoid recognition.
I was also distressed about how little he listened to my ideas about how he could turn this around. It seemed he was largely interested in getting me to see why he was inclined to cave and getting me to cave in too. I called him later, hoping that he would look into the legal beagle approach. Libman replied he had talked to Tony Kondaks, his executive assistant, or "chef du cabinet" as they are fashioned in Quebec, who said they had already had a legal opinion. I asked if I could have it. He said he would get back to me. Before he did, he caved in publicly for the Yes side.
Neil Cameron was the most disappointing. He pressed me to back Charlottetown and became angry when I wouldn't. His reasoning was based on the notion that we should be loyal to the Conservatives, who had won the last federal election, though our readers voted Liberal as they had always done. Yet the Suburban had supported the Tories and should support them again, to be consistent. Then wife Miriam, no slouch in debate, attended these sessions, causing them to be quite heated when Neil's arguments could not best hers. He ended up stomping off, declaring: "Well, if you do not understand, I cannot teach you," which I thought was quite a confession from a man who prided himself on his teaching ability.
Quite frankly, the Conservatives were as disappointing as the Equality Party had been. Far from introducing true-blue Tories to the front bench and conservative measures, Prime Minister Mulroney honoured his Faustian bargain with the Quebec nationalists. They had delivered enough French votes to put him in power in exchange for disproportionate representation in the cabinet and him taking another stab at Meech Lake accords, an earlier scheme to pacify Quebec with more autonomy.
But Meech Lake failed to win the full provincial ratification needed, with Manitoba and Newfoundland failing to ratify, being unhappy with the concept of giving Quebec more autonomy than it had, though not explicitly saying so. The failed 1987 Meech Lake accords were intended to persuade Quebec to symbolically endorse the 1982 constitutional amendments by providing for decentralisation of the Canadian federation, that is, more Quebec autonomy.
It was all frightfully complicated. Canada's constitution, the British North America Act of 1867, set as its aims to establish a "peaceable kingdom" where "peace, order and good government" would prevail. Nothing like the heroic cry of "life, liberty and happiness" demanded in the turbulent republic to the south. The BNA Act granted Canada internal independence, but Britain would run its foreign affairs. Hence Canada was automatically in World War I the moment the UK was, but in 1939, Canadians declared war independently three days after Britain did in World War II.
What happened in between was the 1931 Statute of Westminster, which granted Canada full legislative independence. But Canadians could still appeal to the Law Lords in London until 1949, after which the Supreme Court of Canada became the court of last resort. Then came the 1982 Constitution Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a product of the Trudeau Liberal government, which involved the patriation of the constitution so it could be amended in Canada. Not that Canadians could agree on an amending formula. That's what Meech Lake and now Charlottetown was supposed to fix.
And there was always Quebec. Their spokesmen went on confusingly then as they did when I first studied the transcriptions of the 1860s Confederation Debates. There was always something terribly wrong with the way the discussion was going, and it should be obvious to all. But invariably it gave rise to the universal Anglo-Canadian cry of exasperation: "What does Quebec want!?"
One sticking point was the federal power of disallowance, under which the provincial lieutenant governor, who gives royal assent to bills, turning them into operative law as the Queen's representative, could refer a bill passed by a provincial legislature to the federal government for assent or refusal. Such would be abolished under the Charlottetown Accords. This would extinguish the federal power to disallow any law that had provincial royal assent.
While the Gazette and the general media gave this a pass, suggesting we be mature enough to accept "asymmetrical federalism" in which one province was more equal than others, the one given to aggressive bureaucratic activism, there was still a vociferous rump against this. It was united in saying No, but sharply divided on why.
The separatist PQ was against it because they wanted even more power than Charlottetown offered, but there was a breakaway faction of the Conservative party that reconstituted itself as the Reform Party in Alberta with much talk of breaking away from Canada as a new entity under the crown called Cascadia, supposedly taking with it British Columbia and Alberta. This was never taken seriously but forwarded as a demand to give western Canada Quebec-like powers.
The Reform Party also said No to Charlottetown. Albertans were also big on having an elected Senate. And for the same reasons as the Equality Party rank and file, they also rejected the Charlottetown designation of Quebec as a "distinct society" as yet another ruse to give the French more autonomy.
Surprisingly, my mother, who rarely sided with me, broke with her lifelong friend Gretta Chambers, a prominent Yes supporter with a weekly column in the Gazette, who went on to become chancellor of McGill University. Said the Old Mum with that sneering Dorothy Parker tone of hers: "I wouldn't buy a fridge on such terms!" There was such pressure put on everyone to vote Yes in the October 26, 1992, referendum. My ward, Derek, who had become quite a star in his new school, MIND (Moving in New Directions), the same high school then wife Miriam had attended, was selected on an all-expenses-paid federal fun youth tour to get thousands of kids to know thousands of other kids in other parts of Canada, all part of the Charlottetown charm offensive. He was billeted in a home in Port Coquitlam, BC, returning with the report that all the "beautiful people are voting Yes, but all the ordinary people are voting No."
I was quite surprised about the pressure put on me. First there was the carrot I was to have with a number of prominent municipal politicians, one of them being the late Vera Danyluk, who was then president of the executive committee of the Montreal Urban Community (MUC), the forerunner of a united City of Montreal, which was then a collection of 28 municipalities. The impetus to form a mega city came from the provincial government. But in the early '90s, the MUC had only managed to merge the separate police and fire departments and the parks departments. Eventually, it would gobble up all the constituent villages and towns into the MUC but made such a hash of it that there were town-by-town referenda to de-merge, and more Anglo towns did it than French ones.
The lunch with Vera Danyluk was pleasant enough. There was even another carrot, a standing invitation to Wednesday Night, a weekly gathering of the good and the great in Westmount—lieutenant governors of the Bank of Canada, mayors, ministers, consular officials, senior bureaucrats—which became a highlight of my weekly routine thereafter.
Then came the sticks, the first of which came on the ride back to the office, when the local politicians, who filled the car, berated me for not voting Yes. And when I got to the office, Avi was there to berate me again, saying I had better be serious about my decision to vote No because it could mean my job. I still refused to budge.
I was then told that control of the editorial page and the op-ed page were being handled without my input. I also lost my weekly column. The Yes editorial was written by a secret outsider, and my column was replaced by Peter Lust, an old Suburban hand, our editor emeritus, a Yes voter who, like many Anglo-Quebecers, wanted to appease Quebec for the good of Canada. While voting against their apparent opposition to Charlottetown, they wanted it to appear that they did not oppose giving Quebec more power than they had, and by voting Yes it would make the French less angry than they would otherwise be. It was like that old joke told by Jews of two men put before a firing squad. One starts hurling abuse at the firing squad, while the other shushes him, saying: "Why make them angry?!"
While it had no impact on the referendum vote, Gazette editor Norman Webster justifiably broke an off-the-record confidence that revealed that former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau had said that guaranteeing Quebec a perpetual French majority, as the accords did, would enable the provincial government to deport Anglo-Quebecers constitutionally should that majority ever be threatened. Shocking as it was, it had no impact on the voting, with many if not most saying it was far-fetched or dismissing it as a partisan Liberal jibe at a Tory measure. So Quebec voted 57-43 per cent No, but the Anglo minority voted Yes so they wouldn't vote with the separatists.
But all the threats and bullying were forgotten on October 26, 1992, when the national referendum results came in and the Charlottetown Constitutional Accords was voted down 54-46 per cent and joined the Meech Lake debacle in the dustbin of history.
While I was denied my column in the week or two before the referendum vote, there was no further talk about my losing my job. The Yes siders, only days before so sure of themselves and so bullying, now wanted to forget about it and to move on to something else—anything else. Even Avi, who was a bit thuggish a few days before, looked at me and in mock-threatening way and said: "Now don't be a sore winner!"
The issue had split the Equality Party, as the party faithful voted No for the same reasons I did. They had seen and suffered from the level of autonomy already accorded to Quebec, which made no bones about reducing if not eliminating the Anglo community within its jurisdiction, at best keeping it cute and small like a bonsai tree.
The parliamentary party had voted Yes, except for Holden, who voted No for the wrong reasons. This might have been done with the connivance of the federal Tories, whose deals with Quebec nationalists might have dictated such a course, perhaps the promise of a PQ sinecure for Holden, or perhaps the intentional destruction of the Equality Party.
The Equality Party was a definite danger to the Canadian national game plan to destroy Anglo Quebec and have Anglo-Quebecers trickle off to the rest of Canada or anywhere else they could find. Anglo-Quebecers who remained were deliberately made to feel like unwelcome guests in a house they largely built.
The French spoke in terms of "re-conquest." Journalists at the Gazette, particularly senior staff, tended to come from elsewhere. I called it the Herald Tribune-ization of the Gazette, so it became marginal in the Quebec debate in the way the Paris Herald Tribune was marginal in the national public debates in France, later becoming fully foreign as an edition of its new owner, the New York Times.
The Equality rank and file did what they could and eventually elected Keith Henderson as party leader, in hopes of reviving the party after the debacle of Holden's defection to the PQ, Atkinson blathering on about the flag, Cameron's erudite reasons why nothing could or should be done, and Libman's timidity, all of which contributed to the demise of the parliamentary party, which came to a complete end with the 1994 election defeat of all four candidates.
The central Canada game plan was to forego cherished Canadian liberal principles of fair and balanced reporting, and freedom of choice in language and education, and instead to encourage francophone forces to Frenchify English institutions in Quebec and enhance the role of bilingual people in the rest of Canada. Not surprisingly, the French had much more use for English than the English had for French, other than to qualify for federally controlled jobs, which demanded French whether it was needed or not. This extended to private companies that rented offices and stores in federally owned commercial real estate.
With French ranked 15th in world languages, behind Portuguese by virtue of Brazil, social engineering measures were undertaken to transform the country into a bilingual nation by making bilingualism a qualification for hiring and promotion. Thus, a French person became more employable because he would naturally learn English on his own. All the best TV shows were in English, and as Marshal McLuhan said: "The language of the world is rock and roll, and rock and roll is in English."
There was no such draw for English speakers or any more than artificial reasons to learn French—except for employment—than there would be to learn calligraphy or judo. The only other reason was to be able to talk to people who in the main don't like you and say you take up too much space.
Had the Equality parliamentary party stayed together and done a modicum of work, pressed the government to restore civil rights and drummed up support internationally to make Quebec Hydro Bonds as socially unacceptable as Krugerrands, then there would have been a good chance of winning two or three more seats in the next election, instead of disintegrating morally before the electorate's very eyes.
As elections between the Liberals and the PQ were usually close, Equality could well have held the balance of power and traded a willingness to vote one way or another on various bills that could be supported or rejected in exchange for concessions on civil rights that had been denied to Anglo-Quebec. In this way, the Irish National Party in Westminster parleyed their way to the Irish Home Rule Bill in 1914.
But such considerations would have to wait until the next election, the Quebec Independence referendum—and our last days of glory in the time of "poison pill partition."
But that's another story.
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