RANTS OF A GRUMPY OLD MAN: Frankie Lego (slowly) Builds a Nation

antique store lamp Antique Store Lamp. Photo Angelique Koumouzelis

Premier François Legault, benign “papa” to all Quebecers and le Bonhomme Carnaval, is playing the long game.

Without ever mentioning the word “separation,” he is slowly worming Quebec out of the Canadian Confederation. It is a carefully wrought plan that hits at the very heart of Quebecers’ emotions, and in the process, he has carefully crafted a mythos that just may stand him in good stead in the years to come.

Step 1: Play to Quebecers’ fear of “les autres”

Let’s start with a little ditty (with apologies to Dr. Seuss):
 The sun did not shine
 It was too wet to play
 So we sat in the National Assembly that day.
 “Who shall we bash?”
 Wondered François Legault.
 “Anglos are old hat,
 And Jews are non, non.
 But, hein, lots of Muslims
 Who have arrived here,
 (They must all be terrorists,
 We’ll have plenty to fear.)
 Let’s go for the women
 (They’re always fair game)
 They’re brown-skinned with covering—
 They look all the same.
 Quebecers have spoken:
 They are in great pain,
 For people who move here
 Are no longer “pur laine”.
 We’ll uncover their heads,
 Make them speak the vernacular,
 And to ward off suspicion
 We’ll say that we’re secular.
 But let’s not stop there,”
 The Premier declaimed.
 “We’ll sway all Quebecers
 Whether healthy or maimed.
 Our party’s name
 May remind you of poo,
 But all we want is
 To be Maîtres Chez Nous.”

By playing to Quebecers suspicions of those “not from here,” he has created two tiers of citoyens, all the while claiming indignantly that Quebecers aren’t racist. He has furthered this through the process of immigration, asserting that Quebec has the exclusive right to choose its immigrants, and preference will be given to those from French speaking countries (subtitle: White, European). Furthermore, any non-French speaking immigrants have six months to gain fluency or face… WHAT? It is a long drawn out, unfinished question, rumbling as a threat.

The CAQ has initiated a francization initiative whereby such immigrants and any one living in Quebec who wants to improve their French can be compensated for doing so or do it for zero cost. The only problem is that when you go to the government website to get help registering, you are directed to another one where only French is spoken. Catch 22, boldly writ.

In fact, I tried this out myself, just for fun. After being initially refused on-line saying that my Canadian SIN was invalid, I phoned the help line, only to be told I was ineligible because MY FRENCH WAS TOO GOOD. And this despite the fact that I peppered my conversation with Magyar invectives.

Step 2: Take Away Access to English Education

By limiting access to English CEGEPS, Frankie has cleverly initiated what the PQ has long threatened: the elimination of all English Colleges. He has slowly brought this about (without consultation with the leaders of these English institutions) by mandating more compulsory French courses at the expense of Humanities courses and electives that (God forbid) teach universal cultural values, rounding out young people and giving them a wider perspective on the world. While learning more French is never bad, in this case it is clearly overkill, at the expense of the structures and values of English institutions and English culture.

With this carefully constructed plan, Lego is ensuring that English colleges will slowly lose students and eventually close shop. One can imagine that only one college, probably Dawson, will remain in the next decade as a showcase of Quebec’s reluctant tolerance of English post-secondary learning. And that only for political show.

Step 3: Double Tuition at English Universities for Foreign Students and for Students from out of Province.

Frankie Lego has long hated Montreal for its carefree bilingualism. He is deeply disturbed (should I stop there?) at having to hear so much English in the downtown (especially Bonjour/Hi popular in all businesses), laying the blame squarely on institutions like McGill and Concordia that attract students from every corner of the world, swelling the downtown population. In order to mitigate this, he wants to make sure there are ever fewer English students coming to study here, secretly hoping that the reputation of world-famous universities like McGill will suffer due to the lack of revenue, all while his government pumps ever more funding into U de M and UQAM.

Finally : Rhetoric

 Language is a powerful tool, and our wise Premier uses it well. When was the last time you heard Quebec and Canadian in the same sentence? If you did not know, he will patiently explain that the term “Quebec Nation”is the phrase we should now be using. It is not unlike the Bloc in Ottawa working for the separation of Quebec from Canada, all the while collecting fat MP salaries and an even fatter pension (in Canadian dollars, no less). Somehow Frankie Lego has figured out the pulse of Quebecers. Despite his government’s disastrous response to Covid where thousands of lives were lost to mismanagement, his disregard of the health care system that is crumbling before our eyes, and his insistence that the economy is all that is important (witness his recent gloating over the deal with Northvolt to have them build their multi-billion dollar battery factory near Montreal), he continues to soar in the polls as he pursues his quest to be remembered as the leader of all Quebecers, a little Napoléon in his own right. History may yet be kind to him.