Monday, December 17, 2007

Snow storm 2007 - part 2

Another foot (33 cm) of snow fell on Montreal yesterday, helping me get my cardio exercise without having to go to the gym.

I got up earlier today to give myself enough time to dig the car out, shower and go to work. I always assume it will take 30 minutes. It always takes 60 minutes or more.

They don't mention the digging-out-your-car thing in the tourist brochures for Quebec.

Anyway, here are some before and after photos from the big dig.

* * *

Misery loves company


* * *

Before

* * *

After



Friday, December 14, 2007

Ménard v. Mulroney

I watched a few minutes the Commons ethics committee hearing into the Airbus settlement on Thursday. The committee called former prime minister Brian Mulroney to answer questions about the cash he received.

I'm trying to find video from the hearing of questions by Bloc MP Serge Ménard, who was a former cabinet minister in Quebec and a successful criminal lawyer before that.

The exchanges were heated. Ménard set traps and Mulroney avoided them. It was like that buffalo versus lion video.

Here's a highlight where Ménard sets a trap that Mulroney has difficulty with:
M. Serge Ménard: J'ai une dernière question, monsieur Mulroney. Savez-vous pourquoi on a éliminé les billets de 1 000 $?
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Oui, absolument. Justement pour éviter des transactions de 1 000 $.
M. Serge Ménard: Non, parce que c'est généralement utilisé à des fins illégales, n'est-ce pas?
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Oui, c'est ce que je vous dis.
Mais, vous ne dites pas ou vous ne suggérez pas qu'il y avait quelque chose d'illégal dans cette transaction?
(1020)
M. Serge Ménard: Je suggère que cela aurait dû vous suggérer, à vous, qu'il y avait quelque chose d'illégal.
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Il n'y avait rien d'illégal, il s'agissait d'une transaction légitime, absolument légitime et légale. Il n'y avait rien d'illégal dans cette transaction. Cela suggère, vous avez raison... Là où vous avez raison, monsieur Ménard, c'est que cela aurait dû me suggérer, à moi, « prudence », un pensez-y bien. Ça, je vous l'avoue.
M. Serge Ménard: Que vous agissiez comme quelqu'un qui est dans une transaction illégale.
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Non, monsieur. Non, monsieur, mais pas du tout, pas du tout. J'agissais comme quelqu'un dans une transaction légale, mais dans des circonstances qui soulevaient des questions. Mais, pas du tout...

I've posted the transcript below, but you need to see the video too.

M. Serge Ménard: Merci, monsieur le président. Monsieur Mulroney, nous allons revenir à l'essentiel, si vous voulez. Vous savez, beaucoup de gens se posent la question comme moi et je suis venu ici avec un esprit ouvert. C'est une question fondamentale. Monsieur Mulroney a-t-il été payé pour des services rendus ou pour des services à rendre? Comprenez que la majorité des citoyens canadiens gagnent entre 30 000 $ et 50 000 $ par année. Pour eux, 150 000 $ dans un coffret de sûreté et 75 000 $ à l'étranger dans un autre coffret de sûreté, c'est beaucoup d'argent. Je voudrais savoir. Vous en étiez un peu conscient parce que vous aviez des hésitations à accepter l'argent comptant au début. Si vous aviez reçu un chèque, monsieur Mulroney, dans quel compte l'auriez-vous déposé? Un compte personnel? Un compte d'affaires? Le compte in trust du barreau? Le compte fidéicommis? Dans quel compte l'auriez-vous déposé?
(1145)
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Dans un compte personnel ou d'affaires. Monsieur Ménard, excusez-moi.
M. Serge Ménard: Oui.
Le très hon. Brian Mulroney: Brièvement. Vous dites que certains peuvent se poser des questions. Si c'était pour services rendus ou à rendre. Monsieur Schreiber a répondu à votre question.
M. Serge Ménard: Monsieur Mulroney, je connais votre réponse. Tout le monde la connaît. C 'était pour des services à rendre et je pars de là. La question fondamentale, c'est de savoir si on doit vous croire. Vous nous convaincrez en nous expliquant que vous avez agi, avec M. Schreiber, comme avec les autres clients qui vous ont donné de l'argent pour des services à rendre. Dans le cas des autres clients, je comprends que toutes les dépenses que vous faisiez pour eux et les honoraires que vous pouviez leur charger passaient par des comptes en banque. Vous retiriez de l'argent qu'ils vous avaient avancé ou encore, vous leur facturiez. N'est-ce pas? On n'enregistre pas vos signes de tête, il faut que vous répondiez oui ou non.
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Oui.
M. Serge Ménard: Oui? Bon. Dans ce cas-ci, cela ne fonctionnait pas de cette façon. Si je comprends bien, monsieur Mulroney, c'est le seul client avec qui vous fonctionniez de cette façon.
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Oui. C'est le seul client, monsieur Ménard, qui a offert et qui a presque insisté de procéder de cette façon, me disant que c'était de cette façon qu'il fonctionnait au niveau international.
M. Serge Ménard: Ce sur quoi il a insisté, c'est la façon de vous payer, ce n'est pas sur la façon d'être facturé.
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: J'ai cru comprendre, de nos conversations, que j'obtenais de lui, à ce moment-là, un genre, qu'on appelle dans le droit, de watching brief pour les intérêts de M. Schreiber à travers le monde, surtout au niveau international, dans la promotion et possiblement la vente de ces véhicules utilisés pour la défense ou le maintien de la paix.
M. Serge Ménard: Oui, mais vous pouviez faire les dépenses. Je comprends que vous pouviez...
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Excusez-moi, monsieur Ménard. Ce n'était pas seulement pour un objectif précis, c'était au niveau international, un genre de watching brief, alors, c'est ce que je faisais à travers le monde.
M. Serge Ménard: Vous nous dites que vous avez quand même fait des dépenses, donc, vous vous êtes servi dans les montants qui étaient dans vos coffrets de sûreté. Quand vous avez décidé que cela avait assez duré et que le mandat devait être terminé, puis-je vous demander combien restait-il dans vos coffrets de sûreté?
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: À peu près 180 000 $.
M. Serge Ménard: D'accord. Donc, vous aviez fait des dépenses pour à peu près 45 000 $.
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Quarante-cinq mille dollars. À peu près 15 000 $ par année.
M. Serge Ménard: Puis-je vous demander, monsieur Mulroney, si vous estimiez que vous aviez fait des dépenses légitimes pour ce client et que, effectivement, l'argent que vous aviez pris était de l'argent qui vous était dû, qui était parfaitement légal, pourquoi avez-vous décidé de déclarer au Ministère du Revenu le montant total de ce qu'il vous avait donné? Je crois que c'est 225 000 $.
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Pour la raison que 225 000 $, après impôt, cela fait à peu près 120 000 $, et divisé par trois ans, cela ferait environ 40 000 $ par année. C'est un peu les frais que je pouvais facturer pour mon temps. Cela pour rencontrer les dirigeants de la France, les dirigeants de la Russie, etc. Alors, ai-je bien servi mon client? Absolument, 40 000 $ par année après impôt pour avoir fait cela, je ne pense pas qu'il y ait un avocat à Montréal, au Québec ou au Canada qui dirait que c'est le moindrement exagéré.
Vous me demandez pourquoi j'ai déclaré le tout? Parce que lorsque M. Schreiber a été arrêté et accusé, je ne le savais pas. Je pensais que c'était le M. Schreiber avec qui je faisais affaire en 1993, l'homme d'affaires averti. Monsieur Ménard, il a été arrêté et accusé de fraude, de corruption, etc. Moi, je regarde cela en me disant immédiatement: « Attention, ce n'est pas le Schreiber que j'ai connu. » Je suis obligé, dans mon intérêt et dans l'intérêt de tout le monde, de nettoyer tout cela, mais en payant, en acceptant pour mon compte, en acceptant pour moi...
M. Serge Ménard (Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, BQ): Merci, monsieur Mulroney. J'espère être plus chanceux que Mme Lavallée avec vous. J'ai préparé des questions simples.
Le premier paiement que vous avez reçu était de combien?
(1010)
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Soixante-quinze milles dollars.
M. Serge Ménard: Comptant?
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Oui.
M. Serge Ménard: Je serais curieux de savoir en quelle dénomination était ce montant? Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: C'était en coupures de mille.
M. Serge Ménard: Qu'avez-vous fait avec ce 75 000 $?
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Je l'ai déposé dans un coffre-fort à la maison.
Comme je vous l'ai mentionné, monsieur Ménard, rien n'a été touché parce que je me suis servi simplement d'une petite partie de ces fonds pour des dépenses encourues dans le mandat international.
M. Serge Ménard: Vous aviez reçu cette somme comme un retainer?
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Oui.
M. Serge Ménard: En argent comptant.
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Oui.
M. Serge Ménard: Pourquoi l'avoir déposé dans un coffret de sûreté, puisque c'était de l'argent que vous estimiez avoir gagné, j'imagine? Alors, pourquoi ne l'avez-vous pas placé?
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Nous étions à l'Estérel, je l'ai placé dans le coffre-fort et lorsqu'on a déménagé à Montréal, j'ai fait exactement la même chose.
M. Serge Ménard: Vous l'avez placé dans un coffre-fort.
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: À la maison à Montréal.
M. Serge Ménard: Vous l'avez pendant combien de temps dans un coffre-fort?
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Jusqu'au moment où cela se réglerait. Comme je l'ai mentionné dans ma déclaration, je devais payer pour des dépenses, ensuite que j'aie conclu que la relation était terminée. Alors, je me suis compensé pour mon travail professionnel, en conséquence.
M. Serge Ménard: Avez-vous pris note de votre travail professionnel?
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Oui, je vous en ai parlé.
M. Serge Ménard: Effectivement, vous nous en avez parlé. Vous teniez donc une comptabilité ou des feuilles de temps?
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Non, je ne tenais pas une comptabilité pour cela, mais comme vous le savez, monsieur Ménard, lorsque l'on voyage au niveau international, par exemple, j'ai rencontré des dirigeants du gouvernement chinois, la haute direction du gouvernement de la Russie, des dirigeants du gouvernement français ainsi que certains dirigeants aux États-Unis. Alors, c'étaient des voyages que j'effectuais dans le même but que celui dont je vous parlais, avec M. Hielson.
M. Serge Ménard: C'est justement cela que je voudrais comprendre.
Vous avez 75 0000 $ comptant dans un coffret de sûreté. Vous voyagiez, mais vous serviez-vous régulièrement dans le coffret de sûreté pour payer vos voyages?
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Pas du tout.
Je payais le tout avec mes cartes de crédit. Cette partie qui n'était pas entière parce que lorsque je voyageais, c'était au niveau international, par exemple, en Chine, en Russie ou ailleurs, comme vous savez, étant avocat à Montréal. Je voyageais pour le compte de plusieurs clients. Alors, je me servais de mes cartes de crédit au complet et, à la fin, j'attribuais une partie, fort modeste d'ailleurs, de cela au dossier de M. Schreiber. Le solde était absorbé soit par mon bureau, soit par des clients, soit par moi-même.
M. Serge Ménard: Preniez-vous des notes de la partie que vous aviez attribué? Où notiez-vous cela?
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: À ce moment-là, dans les dossiers que j'avais avec moi, par exemple, j'avais remis un dossier au président Hielson, qui impliquait pour la question de la vente internationale... M. Serge Ménard: On n'a pas le temps d'aller dans tous ces détails, monsieur Mulroney, qui ont relativement peu d'importance. Vous voyagiez à l'internationale pour d'autres clients. N'est-il pas vrai que pour tous les autres clients, il y avait quand même des notes, une comptabilité qui était tenue, des comptes qui étaient envoyés dans lesquels le client pouvait très bien voir combien vous aviez dépensé ou combien vous aviez alloué de dépenses au cours d'un voyage à ce client?
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Oui.
M. Serge Ménard: Tout cela était fait dans un grand bureau comme celui où vous étiez. En plus, dans les grands bureaux où vous étiez, il y a des comptes en fiducie, n'est-ce-pas?
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Oui.
M. Serge Ménard: Pourquoi dans le cas de ce client vous n'avez pas déposé ce montant à la banque comme avance, justement, comme vous le faisiez pour les autres clients de qui vous receviez des avances? Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Je vous ai dit, monsieur Ménard, qu'il s'agissait d'une erreur de jugement de ma part. Je vous en ai parlé. J'aurais dû le faire d'une autre façon et je viens devant le comité aujourd'hui pour reconnaître qu'il s'agissait d'une erreur de jugement et m'en excuser. M. Serge Ménard: Bon, mais ce qui m'intrigue c'est que cela vous ait pris si longtemps à vous apercevoir d'une telle erreur de jugement. En quelle année vous êtes-vous aperçu qu'il s'agissait d'une erreur de jugement?
(1015)
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Monsieur Ménard, une erreur humaine n'est pas divisible. Lorsqu'il y a une erreur et qu'on le reconnaît, cela englobe toutes les dimensions de cette erreur humaine et c'est ce que j'ai fait.
M. Serge Ménard: Si je comprends bien, l'erreur a été continue, c'est-à-dire que vous avez reçu d'autres paiements comptant, et, plutôt que de les déposer à la banque comme vous le faisiez pour vos autres clients et de tenir une comptabilité de la portion de vos dépenses de voyage que vous aviez pour vos clients, dans ce cas, vous alliez piger dans votre coffret de sûreté chez vous.
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Monsieur Ménard, je vous ai dit qu'il s'agissait, au tout début, d'un genre de watching brief que M. Schreiber m'avait accordé pour le travail international et je vous ai dit, je pense, également qu'il s'agissait du seul client qui m'avait compensé de cette façon. Et la raison, je pense que vous l'ai donnée, c'est que M. Schreiber m'avait dit qu'il transigeait seulement en comptant et je vous ai mentionné, monsieur Ménard, que je n'aurais pas dû l'accepter. J'aurais dû demander une façon plus transparente...
M. Serge Ménard: Alors, je vais plus loin et je vous demande pourquoi vous estimiez que cet argent était légitime, que c'était une transaction comme vos autres transactions. Vous avez même dit que vous auriez préféré recevoir un chèque. Vous aviez donc quand même une inquiétude à manipuler des montants d'argent aussi considérables, n'est-ce pas? Pourquoi ne les avez-vous pas déposés en banque de façon à pouvoir tenir une comptabilité et à justifier la partie des dépenses que vous faisiez pour M. Schreiber par rapport à la partie des dépenses que vous attribuiez à d'autres dossiers?
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: C'était une décision personnelle que je vous ai mentionnée. Il est important, monsieur Ménard, de rappeler que je n'ai réclamé aucune dépense du gouvernement canadien lorsque j'ai fait report.J'ai absorbé pour mon compte toutes les dépenses. Alors, les questions que vous me posez sur telles et telles dépenses, cela n'a jamais été réclamé de ma part auprès du gouvernement canadien. Pas du tout. J'ai déclaré le tout comme...
M. Serge Ménard: Ce n'est pas la question que je vous posais, monsieur Mulroney. On va peut-être passer à autre chose parce que, quand même, je n'ai que 10 minutes.
Vous avez reçu un deuxième paiement, je pense deux mois plus tard. Est-ce en novembre 1993 ou en décembre, je sais que les dossiers révèlent deux dates, encore cette fois-ci en comptant. C'était combien cette fois-ci?
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Soixante-quinze.
M. Serge Ménard: Un autre 75 milles dollars.
Le troisième paiement, à l'Hôtel Pierre, à Québec. Vous l'avez encore reçu en comptant.
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Oui.
M. Serge Ménard: Vous avez rapporté cet argent chez vous?
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Non.
M. Serge Ménard: Qu'avez-vous fait?
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Je l'ai déposé à New York, je l'ai laissé à New York.
M. Serge Ménard: Faisiez-vous des voyages à New York pour aller chercher l'argent que vous utilisiez?
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Pas du tout, pas du tout. Je l'ai laissé à New York jusqu'au moment que j'ai déclaré le tout comme revenu et le montant de mes dépenses absorbées. Cela devenait à ce moment-là mon argent. C'est alors que je me suis permis de m'en servir. Ce n'était pas dans un compte, c'était dans ce qu'on appelle un coffret de sécurité.
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Mais la transaction, monsieur Ménard, était non seulement légitime, elle était parfaitement légale. Je vous avoue que les circonstances donnent lieu à l'appréhension de — le mot anglais est peut-être plus précis — impropriety.
M. Serge Ménard: Oui, mais les circonstances ont duré.
Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Et c'est pour cela, monsieur Ménard, que je l'ai explicité devant vous. J'ai accepté la responsabilité, je me suis excusé.
M. Serge Ménard: J'ai une dernière question, monsieur Mulroney. Savez-vous pourquoi on a éliminé les billets de 1 000 $? Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Oui, absolument. Justement pour éviter des transactions de 1 000 $. M. Serge Ménard: Non, parce que c'est généralement utilisé à des fins illégales, n'est-ce pas? Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Oui, c'est ce que je vous dis. Mais, vous ne dites pas ou vous ne suggérez pas qu'il y avait quelque chose d'illégal dans cette transaction? (1020) M. Serge Ménard: Je suggère que cela aurait dû vous suggérer, à vous, qu'il y avait quelque chose d'illégal. Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Il n'y avait rien d'illégal, il s'agissait d'une transaction légitime, absolument légitime et légale. Il n'y avait rien d'illégal dans cette transaction. Cela suggère, vous avez raison... Là où vous avez raison, monsieur Ménard, c'est que cela aurait dû me suggérer, à moi, « prudence », un pensez-y bien. Ça, je vous l'avoue. M. Serge Ménard: Que vous agissiez comme quelqu'un qui est dans une transaction illégale. Le très honorable Brian Mulroney: Non, monsieur. Non, monsieur, mais pas du tout, pas du tout. J'agissais comme quelqu'un dans une transaction légale, mais dans des circonstances qui soulevaient des questions. Mais, pas du tout...

Monday, December 03, 2007

Winter comes early in 2007-08

It snowed a week or so ago in Montreal, but we woke up today to the first major dump of snow of the season. I was without a shovel or winter tires, so it was difficult to plow through. It's days like today that make one question the wisdom of a major city on this island in north eastern North America.

The weatherman forecasts a cold winter with lots of snow. The first major storm of 2005-06 was December 16. In 2006-07, snow came late and we had a green Christmas.

As is the tradition at New Quebec, here is what a car looks like after the first major snow storm of the year in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Quebec Identity Act or our plan to mess with people even more in Quebec

I don't understand people who are shocked by the offensive nature of the proposed "Quebec Identity Act" of the Parti Québécois (PQ).

Are you really and truly surprised?

This is, upon reflection, the political party that censored non-French words on store signs and violated international treaties by barring kids from certain public schools based on their lineage.

Is limiting one's ability to run for public office (proposed law) really worse that limiting freedom of expression or freedom of education (current laws)? Why the shock and surprise?

For those that missed it, last week the new PQ leader Pauline Marois tabled Bill 195 titled the "Quebec Identity Act" in the Quebec legislature to create something called "Quebec citizenship," which is awesome because it will let you to do stuff like run for elected office and petition the government.

(It's amazing we were ever able to function as a free and democratic society before. Petition the government... yes, why didn't we think of that before!)

There is even a new oath to make. I swear, I don't know anyone who doesn't love a good oath. The prospective "Quebec citizens" would have to swear to be loyal to the "people of Quebec" and observe its constitution (which hasn't yet been written, but trust us, it will be awesome! It won't be crazy, or anything, like all the laws banning stuff and barring people from schools or public office. It will definitely be the kind of thing you'd want to observe, like daylight savings time or proper dental hygiene.)

There is just one catch: if you are an immigrant to Canada, you won't get to be a "Quebec citizen" unless you have a "working knowledge" of French. So, if some highly-qualified Quebec government bureaucrat doesn't judge your French adequate, you can't run for public office, be it mayor, school trustee or member of the Quebec legislature.

This is happening in October 2007, in the context of the roaming public hearings on whether it is reasonable to accommodate some people by censoring language or limiting school... no, wait, that is not the accommodation they are discussing.

Instead, people from across Quebec are now asking the "Reasonable Accommodation" commissioners why there is a Jewish General Hospital or why girls at karate tournaments should be allowed to cover their heads.

So hoping to prove to their base that they'll pass crazier laws than their parliamentary opponents, the PQ tabled the "Quebec Identity Act."

Welcome to Quebec.


Deny Quebec citizenship to new immigrants who don't learn French: PQ
PHILIP AUTHIER
The Gazette
Friday, October 19, 2007

QUEBEC - Newly arrived immigrants will be required to have an "appropriate" working knowledge of French to be sworn in as Quebec citizens - even if the province is still part of Canada - if legislation proposed yesterday by the Parti Québécois is adopted.

Failing to learn French would bar an immigrant from holding public office at any level, raising funds for political parties, or petitioning1 the National Assembly for redress of a grievance.

The new rules would not apply to people already living in Quebec because they have acquired rights, the PQ says. But new arrivals - 40 per cent of immigrants to Quebec do not speak French - would be encouraged and assisted to acquire the language, which the new bill dresses up as a new "right" for citizens.

"It's like a Bill 101, but in the perspective of the identity of Quebecers," PQ leader Pauline Marois said at a news conference explaining the party's proposal, contained in Bill 195, titled the "Quebec Identity Act."

Marois tabled the bill in the National Assembly yesterday, beating the Liberals and the Action démocratique du Québec to the punch in the struggle to control the political-identity issue.

The PQ's bill is unlikely to become law, because it is doubtful the Liberals or the ADQ will support it. But Marois said that under legislature rules, it at least must be discussed, and that will put the PQ in the thick of a debate raging in the province.

The bill recognizes that since Quebec is not a sovereign country, however, it does not have all powers over citizenship. In fact, Article 49.2 of the bill states a person cannot earn the title of "Quebec citizen" if he or she is not also a "Canadian citizen."

New citizens would also be required to pledge - under oath - that they will be loyal to the people of Quebec and observe its constitution, which the PQ proposes the province draft - even before separation.

Marois said the proposal is no worse than any country's citizenship requirements, including Canada's, though the bill describes a three-year moral contract between immigrants and the state to learn French: They have to learn it; the state has to pay for it.

Under the PQ's bill, Marois conceded, a unilingual anglophone immigrant would not be allowed to run in an election to become mayor of Westmount. The person would need French to do the job properly anyway, she said.

Slipped into news conference was a proposal for a new crackdown on the use of English in the workplace. If elected, a PQ government would impose stiff fines on large firms that fail to acquire francization certificates proving they operate in French.

pauthier@thegazette.canwest.com

© The Gazette (Montreal) 2007

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Rising above one's names... for all children

I estimate there are two ways to pronounce the name Elizabeth Fokoefs, who is running for a commissioner's position on the English Montreal School Board at the November 4, 2007 election.

Is it '...koffs' or a '...queefs'? And which is funnier to you, my immature readers? Leave your comments below.

Subliminal message or political message on Girouard Ave. in NDG?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Not just a 'civic nation' but a 'civic cohesive nation'

Whatever else we are, Quebec is the world leader in pained phrases and awkward acronyms. This is , after all, the place that named the organization that represents the greater Montreal area, CUM.

(There wasn't one English-speaking person sitting around that table who thought of raising his hand?)

In matters of constitutional reform, the phrases get even more, well, unique. The proposed Meech Lake constitutional amendments introduced "distinct society" to our lexicon.

And, this weekend, the governing Quebec Liberal Party met in convention and debated a proposal about whether to "designate" Quebec a "civic cohesive nation."

Does Premier Jean Charest really believe that people who think Quebec is a "nation" will be enthusiastic by the new convoluted phrase? Will this trick anyone into believing the the Liberals are more nationalistic than the PQ or ADQ?

The Charest Liberals are like that slightly nerdy friend who grudgingly goes to the strip club, but makes everyone uncomfortable by saying things like, "Yes, indeed, that female certainly has large mammaries."

But this is Quebec, so these phrases will be trotted out every now and again. Imagine how a Quebec pledge of allegiance might sound?

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of Quebec and to the parliamentary government for which it stands, one civic cohesive nation under God or not, indivisible except in the case of a 50 percent plus one vote in a referendum, with liberty and justice for all, provided the collective rights of the majority and the territorial integrity of Quebec are protected."

Anyway, here's what the Gazette wrote:

'Civic nation' doesn't fly
We are federalists, provincial Liberals insist

Kevin Dougherty
Gazette Quebec Bureau

Delegates to a weekend meeting of the Quebec Liberal Party balked today at a proposal to designate Quebec a "civic cohesive nation," saying it was divisive.

"We are a federalist party," said Yun Bun Korn, rejecting the approach.

"I don't see much on federalism," added Donald Cote, a delegate from St. Hyacinthe. "This could be a manifesto of the Parti Quebecois."

The proposal was presented by one of three Liberal Party task forces, which will tour the province in coming weeks to prepare for a full party convention next March.

It calls Quebec a "civil, open and confident" nation where French is the common language but anglophones, allophones and aboriginals would "participate in our society."

Newcomers to the province would have the duty to learn French, the document says.

Quebec would work out bilateral arrangements with the federal government, restoring Quebec's veto over constitutional changes, and changing the constitution to give the province a say in the naming of Supreme Court of Canada judges and senators.

Delegate Gerard Deschenes said the proposed definition of the Quebec nation was "identical to that (former Parti Quebecois leader) Bernard Landry and (president of the Conseil de la souverainete) Gerald Larose."

Deschnes said the Liberals were entering the territory of the PQ and Mario Dumont's Action democratique du Quebec.

"There is nothing to be gained," he said suggesting the Liberals should focus instead on how Quebec can live within Canada's federal system.

"We are playing with fire," he warned.

Marc Tanguay, who chairs the task force, called the debate "lively" and said his intention was to have a debate on the ideas presented.

"We don't agree on everything," Tanguay said. "As a member of the Quebec Liberal Party I am proud."

A recurring theme was that Quebecers not born in the province don't feel quite at home in Quebec.

More than one delegate said they don't like being labelled as immigrants and some said they immigrated to Canada.

Victor-Manuel Hernandez said he has been living in Quebec for 12 years and is still called an immigrant.

"I am a Quebecer," he said, speaking in French.

Yasmine Alloul said she was born in Quebec. Her parents came from Morocco and she in a Muslim.

"What do we mean by a Quebec identity?" she asked. "Which of our values are different from the rest of Canada?"

David Seto, whose roots are Chinese, said: "I was born in Chicoutimi."

Seto said another part of the proposal on identity, calling for the end of duplicated services between Quebec City and Ottawa, might not be such a good idea.

"I think we are lucky to have two (levels of government)," Seto said.

Genevieve Gougeon said the discussion was "a big therapy," that the party may have needed.

"We are not perfect, but we are proactive," Gougeon said.

Denise Dussault, the unsuccessful Liberal candidate in Sainte-Marie-Saint-Jacques in the March election, said the starting point in any discussion on identity is Quebec's human rights charter and its Charter of the French Language.

"Then we can talk about common values," Dussault said. "I have listened to the discussion and it is more divisive than cohesive."

Premier Jean Charest attended some of the sessions yesterday but did not speak.

Party president Marc-Andre Blanchard said the role of the three party task forces on identity, sustainable development and economic development, is to renew the Liberal program, to develop "an extremely clear vision of the future."

Blanchard dismissed polls showing the Liberals running third, saying that in fact Quebec's three parties are tied for public favour, considering the three-per-cent margin of error in the polls.

"The best poll we have had was the last election," he said. "We were slightly ahead. Do we have work to do? Yes, we have work to do.

"I have no doubt that we will be a very strong force whenever the next election comes."

There was no open questioning of Charest's leadership at the weekend meeting.

"There is no leadership crisis," Blanchard said, renewing his confidence in Charest.

"He is very aggressive, he's inspired and he is inspiring."

http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/story.html?id=20eec1f4-3b34-4a51-88bf-0473b9f673ce&k=9620


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

We make the price, and everything nice

If you listen to English-language radio in Montreal, you have likely heard that ad for the Desjardins Ford car dealership. Their jingle, sung in English by French-accented singers, states: "We make the price... and everything nice. Des-jar-din Ford!"

The statement always seemed to me a poor translation of something in French. I might accept someone writing "we make the price lower through economies of scale." But on its own, "we make the price" is very odd.

The uninspired rhyme "and everything nice!" sounds like the work of someone at a car dealership who wanted to be home already and didn't feel the need to consider other rhyming options.

Desjardins Ford hasn't limited its abuse of the English language to radio ads. The Gazette recently published three ads from Desjardins Ford with a string of errors. This is the kind of thing that makes the Grammar Vandal angry. Me too.

Ad #1
Like the jingle slogan, the headline on the first ad ("Cause to excitement...") is obviously something poorly translated from French. I'm not crazy about the exclamation marks nor the fact there is a space before them (which, again, is a French thing thrust onto an English ad). Also need to add commas in the dollar amount and bring the dollar sign closer. And there is a typo ("heated lether seats").


Ad #2
Someone must have called the people at Desjardins Ford to help them with the headline. Because the second ad now states "Cause for excitement". Okay, that's better. But the exclamation marks are still there. And "lether" is still misspelled.

Ad #3
One step forward, nine steps back...

Yikes. The headline has changed to "The response to exictement..." Not only is there a typo, but the meaning is the opposite of what they intended. ("Hey, folks, feeling too excited today and need to relax? Drive a Ford! No excitement here!")

Same problem with the spacing before exclamation marks. The good news is they finally added an "a" to "lether." The bad news is they added it to the incorrect spot. Isn't "lethear" the character in Shakespeare who makes jet planes?


Desjardins Ford, please hire a copywriter to write and/or review your ads. I can help. Heck, I'll even make the price.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Washington, DC

Seeing the monuments, museums and buildings in Washington, DC make one depressingly aware how relatively small is ones own city.

I don't think I'm sticking my neck out when I say that there is no city with more classically beautiful architecture than Washington, DC.

Even more impressive is that beyond the central hub of white stone are very nice, 20-story or so buildings in the style of something you'd see on de Maisonneuve Blvd. or McGill College St. in Montreal.

My impression of Washington before visiting was of a nice city with a nasty outer area where everyone gets murdered eventually. Instead, I found a relatively clean city at its outer limits. And no one was shot when I there.

Perhaps the air-conditioned public buses help calm people's passion. It's difficult to stay angry at your fellow commuter when you're enjoying a cool bus ride. Unlike Montreal, people in suits get to work without feeling the need for another showing. And a sign (and pre-recorded voice) announces the next stop.

(Note the Montreal transit authority: If you want people to ride the bus and leave their cars at home, make the experience pleasurable.

Invest in air-conditioned buses and more people will use them in summer -- if for no other reason that to stay cool on really hot days.)

Apart from the architecture and public transit, Washingtonians appear to be very well-read, if the number of newspapers are an indication.

I will write more about my trip to Washington (and Boston, Philadelphia, and Gettysburg). For the moment, I'll simply say: go. It's worth the trip.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Future Shop celebrates Canada Day in one language

Of course companies market in different ways to different demographics, regions, income earners and so on.

But this Future Shop language selection splash page exposes these crass marketing decisions in plain view.

No mention of Canada on the French side of the page. Only a reference to the July 1 moving day in Quebec. I expect more from a national retailer.

Perhaps on my next visit to Future Shop, I'll pay with money from Game of Life. When I'm asked for Canadian currency, I'll tell them I lost my wallet last week when I moved.


Tell Future Shop what you think of spineless marketing decision:

Phone: 1-800-663-2275
Email: service@futureshop.com
Mail:
Future Shop Canadian Headquarters
Customer Support Dept.
8800 Glenlyon Parkway,
Burnaby, BC V5J 5K3

Monday, July 02, 2007

Justice Scalia defends Jack Bauer

United States Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia defended Jack Bauer last week at a conference in Ottawa where senior judges discussed torture and terrorism law.

A Canadian judge used Jack Bauer as an illustration of the wrong way to deal with terrorists. Justice Scalia defended Bauer: "Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles. ... He saved hundreds of thousands of lives." He added: "Is any jury going to convict Jack Bauer? I don't think so."

The seeming difference in the way Canadian and American authorities deal with these kinds of threats remind me of that scene in The Untouchables at the Canada-US border where street-wise, veteran Irish Chicago cop Sean Connery grabs a recently killed whiskey-running mobster, sits him in a chair and threatens to shoot him in the mouth if he doesn't give him information.

This was for the benefit of the (still alive) mobster watching the scene and unaware that his buddy was already dead. Connery counts to three and then splatters the dead man's brain, which has the effect of loosening the the (living) mobster's lips (and his stool).

The Canadian mountie says in shocked tones: "I don't approve of your methods!" To which US Treasury Officer Kevin Costner says: "You're not from Chicago."

What would Jack Bauer do?
Canadian jurist prompts international justice panel to debate TV drama 24's use of torture
The Globe and Mail
COLIN FREEZE
June 16, 2007

OTTAWA -- Justice Antonin Scalia is one of the most powerful judges on the planet.

The job of the veteran U.S. Supreme Court judge is to ensure that the superpower lives up to its Constitution. But in his free time, he is a fan of 24, the popular TV drama where the maverick federal agent Jack Bauer routinely tortures terrorists to save American lives. This much was made clear at a legal conference in Ottawa this week.

Senior judges from North America and Europe were in the midst of a panel discussion about torture and terrorism law, when a Canadian judge's passing remark - "Thankfully, security agencies in all our countries do not subscribe to the mantra 'What would Jack Bauer do?' " - got the legal bulldog in Judge Scalia barking.

The conservative jurist stuck up for Agent Bauer, arguing that fictional or not, federal agents require latitude in times of great crisis. "Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles. ... He saved hundreds of thousands of lives," Judge Scalia said. Then, recalling Season 2, where the agent's rough interrogation tactics saved California from a terrorist nuke, the Supreme Court judge etched a line in the sand.

"Are you going to convict Jack Bauer?" Judge Scalia challenged his fellow judges. "Say that criminal law is against him? 'You have the right to a jury trial?' Is any jury going to convict Jack Bauer? I don't think so.

"So the question is really whether we believe in these absolutes. And ought we believe in these absolutes."

What happened next was like watching the National Security Judges International All-Star Team set into a high-minded version of a conversation that has raged across countless bars and dinner tables, ever since 24 began broadcasting six seasons ago.

Jack Bauer, played by Canadian Kiefer Sutherland, gets meaner as he lurches from crisis to crisis, acting under few legal constraints. "You are going to tell me what I want to know, it's just a matter of how much you want it to hurt," is one of his catchphrases. Every episode poses an implicit question to its viewers: Does the end justify the means if national security is at stake? On 24, the answer is, invariably, yes.

But sometimes this message proves a little too persuasive. Last November, a U.S. Army brigadier-general, Patrick Finnegan, of West Point, went to California to meet with the show's producers. He asked if the writers would consider reining in Agent Bauer. "The kids see it, and say, 'If torture is wrong, what about 24?" he told The New Yorker in February.

He argued that "they should do a show where torture backfires." It's not just the military that's watching 24. It turns out that the judges who struggle to square the Guantanamo Bay prison camp experiment with the British Habeas Corpus Act of 1679 are watching the show, too. It was Mr. Justice Richard Mosley of the Federal Court of Canada who inadvertently started the debate, with his derogatory drive-by slight against Jack Bauer, the one that so provoked Judge Scalia.

In his day job, the Canadian judge wrestles with the implications of torture. Last winter, for example, Judge Mosley ordered an Osama bin Laden associate freed from seven years prison and into strict house arrest in Toronto.

Judge Mosley told the panel that rights-respecting governments can't take part in torture or encourage it in any way. "The agents of the state, and the agents of the Canadian state, under the Criminal Code, are very much subject to severe criminal sanction if they would engage in torture," he said.

But the U.S. Supreme Court judge choked on that position, saying it would be folly for laws to dictate that counterterrorism agents must wear kid gloves all the time. While Judge Scalia argued that doomsday scenarios may well lead to the reconsideration of rights, in his legal decisions he has also said that catastrophic attacks and intelligence imperatives do not automatically give the U.S. president a blank cheque - the people have to decide. "If civil rights are to be curtailed during wartime, it must be done openly and democratically, as the Constitution requires, rather than by silent erosion through an opinion of this court," he dissented in a 2004 decision. The judicial majority ruled that a presidential order meant that an American "enemy combatant" wasn't entitled to challenge the conditions of his detention, which happened to be aboard a naval brig.

As they discussed torture in Ottawa, the judicial panelists from outside the United States argued that any implicit or explicit sanction of torture is a slippery slope.

Some said that legal systems might do well to enforce anti-torture laws, even if it meant prosecuting rogue agents. "What if the guy is not the guy who's going to blow up Los Angeles? But some kind of innocent?" asked Lord Carlile of Berriew, a Welshman who acts as the independent reviewer of Britain's terrorism laws.

Torture can lead to false confessions, he said. "How do you protect that person's civil rights from the risk of very serious wrongful conviction?" But Lord Carlile, a barrister by training, added that he was also concerned with Jack Bauer's rights. "I'm sure I could get him off," he said.

One panelist deadpanned that saving Los Angeles from a nuke would likely be a mitigating factor during any sentencing of Jack Bauer.

When the panel opened to questions and commentary from the floor, a senior Canadian government lawyer said: "Maybe saving L.A. is an easy question. How many people are we going to torture to save L.A.?" asked Stanley Cohen, a senior counsel for the Justice Department, who specializes in human rights law. "How much certainty do we get to have that we have the right person in front of us?" Then Lorne Waldman, the lawyer for the famously wronged engineer Maher Arar, emerged from the crowd to say that very little of the conversation sounded hypothetical to him.

Mr. Arar was among a series of Canadian Arabs who emerged from lengthy ordeals in Syrian jails to complain of torture. Their common complaint is that Syrian torture - including beatings with electric cables - flowed from a wrongly premised Canadian investigation after 9/11.

A host of security agents, Mr. Waldman argued, acted with utmost urgency against innocents, after wrongly fearing a bomb plot was afoot.

Generally, the jurists in the room agreed that coerced confessions carry little weight, given that they might be false and almost never accepted into evidence. But the U.S. Supreme Court judge stressed that he was not speaking about putting together pristine prosecutions, but rather, about allowing agents the freedom to thwart immediate attacks.

"I don't care about holding people. I really don't," Judge Scalia said.

Even if a real terrorist who suffered mistreatment is released because of complaints of abuse, Judge Scalia said, the interruption to the terrorist's plot would have ensured "in Los Angeles everyone is safe." During a break from the panel, Judge Scalia specifically mentioned the segment in Season 2 when Jack Bauer finally figures out how to break the die-hard terrorist intent on nuking L.A. The real genius, the judge said, is that this is primarily done with mental leverage. "There's a great scene where he told a guy that he was going to have his family killed," Judge Scalia said. "They had it on closed circuit television - and it was all staged. ... They really didn't kill the family."


Gospel according to Jack

"Tell me where the bomb is or I will kill your son."

"I don't want to bypass the Constitution, but these are extraordinary circumstances."

"I need to use every advantage I've got."

"If we want to procure any information from this suspect, we're going to have to do it behind closed doors."

"I'm talking about doing what's necessary to stop this warhead from being used against us."

"When I'm finished with you, you're gonna wish that you felt this good again."

"You don't have any more useful information, do you?"

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Quebec to demolish Turcot interchange

The Quebec government is going to spend $1.5 billion to remove Montreal's biggest set of overlapping, concrete roads -- the Turcot interchange. It will be replace by street level roads.

It's a lot of money. And I expect the real price will be triple as is always the case. But given the overpass collapse in Laval and the tests being done on the elevated Ville Marie Expressway, perhaps we should stick to more simple, land-based road construction in Quebec. The province doesn't do a great job at maintaining our existing infrastructure. So, let's keep new infrastructure as simple as possible.

The Gazette reports that the new construction will go as far east as Greene Ave. I guess that means part of the Ville Marie Expressway will be removed, but most of it will stay. That's too bad. I don't feel too confident driving on that road nor the other major east-west elevated, the Metropolitan Expressway.


The greening of Turcot: $1.2-billion price tag
Key interchange to be rebuilt. But where are the extra lanes for transit, critics ask as highway project unveiled

WILLIAM MARSDEN
The Gazette

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Quebec will spend $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion on a vast project to replace the Turcot Interchange with a new expressway system designed to simplify and beautify one of the city's most important transportation hubs.

"This will mark a new beginning for Montreal," provincial Transport Minister Julie Boulet told a news conference yesterday.

"It will improve traffic flow and free up more commercial and residential land for development." It will also bring the crumbling 12.76-kilometre interchange and its 25 overpasses and ramps down to earth.

With the exception of two elevated ramps, the new road system will be built at ground level.

This will considerably reduce maintenance costs, Boulet said, as well as free more than 100 hectares of land, an area larger than Lafontaine Park.

The idea is to build the new interchange alongside the old one, which will be torn down only after the new one is complete.

Construction is slated to begin in 2009. Demolition of the old Turcot is to begin in 2013.

By August 2015, if all goes as scheduled, the tired Turcot, with its sweeping 20- to 30-metre-high concrete ramps, overpasses and expressways, will have vanished.

Some commercial and residential properties will be expropriated and demolished to make way for the new interchange.

Most of these buildings are located just south of the eastbound entrance to the Ville Marie Expressway, close to the current entrance to de la Verendrye Blvd.

About 20 per cent of the expropriation will be residential. Many of the property owners will be able to relocate to land made available by the new project, Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay said.

Tremblay said he fully supports the plan, saying it will serve as a new gateway into Montreal and will help revive an area that predominantly features vacant land and rundown buildings.

Montreal's chief opposition party, Vision Montreal, was not as enthusiastic, however.

There were not enough reserved lanes for buses, party leader Line Hamel noted.

"When you are completely rebuilding, you have to profit from the opportunity to improve public transit," she said.

Projet Montreal city councillor Richard Bergeron agreed. He said the Turcot project represents a missed opportunity to reduce Montreal traffic.

Noting the project will increase the interchange's road surface by 30 per cent, he said: "Where are the public transit projects? To see Mayor Tremblay congratulate himself for getting billions of dollars invested in roads from the Quebec government is truly exasperating." The Turcot is a crucial interchange not only for Montreal but for the entire province.

It is the main east-west traffic hub joining Highways 10, 15, 20 and 720. It's also a crucial portal to Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, the West Island and the South Shore.

For this reason, the project is designed to minimize traffic disruptions during its almost nine-year span, Boulet said.

During the next two years, land will be decontaminated, expropriation completed and technical studies prepared.

Because the new interchange will be built alongside the existing one, there will be no interruption to traffic during the first four years of construction, officials claim. "Only during the demolition of the old interchange do we predict some disruption to traffic," Boulet said.

The Quebec government has been planning the new Turcot project since 2003, when it paid $17.8 million for the railway yards along Highway 20, north of the Lachine Canal.

Part of the plan is to keep a corridor open for a railway link to Trudeau airport. The government also plans to build bicycle lanes and parkland.

The construction will extend west along Highway 20 to Angrignon Blvd., east along the Ville Marie Expressway to Greene Ave., north along the Decarie Expressway to the Sherbrooke St. ramp and south to the de la Verendrye exit.

New ramps and highways will be built in all these areas.

"We were looking at an interchange that was built 40 years ago and in another 10 years would reach its maturity," Boulet said in an interview.

"So we had to make the choice of repairing it or building a new one. We realized that in the long run it would cost more to repair it and maintain it than to build a new one." In the meantime, the government still must spend millions of dollars just to keep the old Turcot safe. Many areas are crumbling, with chunks of concrete falling from ramps and overpasses, revealing a ugly web of rusting steel bars.

The cost to build the interchange in 1966-67 was $24 million. The province has promised to pay the entire cost of the new project, but hopes to get infrastructure money from the federal government.


Monday, June 25, 2007

It's all about the demographics

David Foote is a Canadian demographer who has written about how demographics affects everything and how societies should plan around this foreseeable phenomenon.

For instance, it should not be surprising that Quebec's aging population will strain the healthcare system while Alberta's younger population will be using less healthcare services and paying more in taxes. The result: Alberta has not budget deficit, nor any debt. (True, the oil revenues help. But it's also about good demographics.)

What about the rest of the world? What kind of demographic facts should we be noticing to plan better?

German sociologist Gunnar Heinsohn argues that the "youth bulge" phenomena (when 30 percent of the population is young men) causes many societies descend into mass murder and revolution. That's why he doesn't have much hope for an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict anytime soon and in worried by the ability of the European welfare state to support the Muslim "youth bulge" in Europe itself.

Heinsohn argues that lasting peace in Europe was possible after the Second World War because Germans put the brakes on the rapid birthrate they had previously.

“In Europe we have just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Rome Treaty and in all the newspapers we could read that this treaty ended war in Europe. This is absolutely wrong. If the Germans after 1945 had reproduced as they did between 1900 and 1914, then we would have had a German nation of almost 500 million citizens, and we would have had about 80 million German men between 15 and 29. In reality we have 7 million. And we may well ask ourselves whether these 80 million would have been as peaceful as the present 7 million, or would have been detonating bombs in Breslau or Danzig.” (These former German cities - now called Wroclaw and Gdansk - were ceded to Poland following Nazi Germany’s defeat in 1945, ed.)
Read the rest.

(Disponible en francais aussi.)

GPS screen currently illegal in Quebec

I was among those who thought an in-car GPS map and voice prompts were gimmicky. But I used one while visiting Toronto two years ago and changed my mind.

Part of the fun of exploring a new city is looking at the buildings, watching people and noticing things that make that city different from your own. But when you are not totally expert in the other city, it can make your driving experience tense. Instead of enjoying the ride and exploring the area, you are instead focused on trying to read street signs to not make any mistakes.

GPS navigation removes the panic and angst from driving and instead, lets you enjoy the ride. Plot an end point and the voice guide will prompt you where to turn. If you make a mistake, it will navigate you make on track. Instead or worrying about watching for signs, you can instead look around. The worry about making a mistake is replaced by the fun of exploring--with a really guide.

Amazingly, we now learn that GPS navigation screens are not legal in Quebec, but will be by 2008. Currently, as far as Quebec is concerned, a GPS screen is like a television screen. It seems Quebec law has not kept up with the latest technology. Perhaps someone should send Premier Charest a subscription to Wired magazine.

It turns out we can thank cabbies for helping nudge the government into the twenty-first century. They struggled for 10 years (yes, 10 years!) to convince the government these navigation systems were a good idea.

The screens will only be legal by next year, so you might want to cover your GPS screen when the police pulls you over.

Quebec expected to finally make GPS in cars legal
Mike King
CanWest News Service
Friday, June 22, 2007

MONTREAL -- It's another quirk that makes Quebec distinct in North America - though that's expected to change by year's end or early 2008.

Quebec is the only jurisdiction on the continent where satellite or other navigation systems using screens are illegal for drivers of non-emergency vehicles.

That will come as a surprise to most, because the devices -- better known as global positioning systems (GPS) -- are a standard feature on a growing number of luxury vehicles.

They're also offered by car-rental agencies and sold through hundreds of retailers across Quebec.

But under a Quebec's highway safety code article, it is prohibited to have a television or other screen displaying information that a motorist can directly or indirectly see while driving.

"According to the law, even OnStar is illegal," said Constable Marc Butz, a spokesman for the Quebec provincial police, referring to the subsidiary of General Motors that has become a world leader in in-vehicle navigation systems.

Butz said the provincial police force has handed out 28 tickets to motorists since 2003 for having such systems with screens.

Montreal police issued 190 tickets during that period, but those figures don't show how many were for navigational systems with screens as opposed to, say, television monitors.

"The law is idiotic," argued Marcel Bouchard, Quebec's only authorized representative for Kansas-based Garmin International Inc., which designs, manufactures and markets GPS equipment for the consumer market.

"A ticket for that is crazy -- I've never heard of anyone getting ticketed for that," Bouchard said.

Even when he was recently stopped by the police for running a red light, Bouchard said, the officer praised his global positioning system rather than give him a ticket for it.

"I'm surprised it's illegal, but it's certainly tolerated," Bouchard added.

OnStar has more than 37,000 subscribers in Quebec alone, Jocelyn Allen, OnStar's vice-president of public affairs and corporate communications, said from Detroit.

The Hertz Corp. introduced the NeverLost on-board navigation system in its rental cars in 1995.

Katura Hudson, public affairs specialist at Hertz headquarters in New Jersey, said NeverLost has been available in Montreal since July 2000. It costs an additional $14 a day in mid-size, full-size and luxury vehicles.

It's also possible to get a GPS-equipped vehicle from Avis Rent A Car System Inc. in Quebec for an extra charge of $11 a day.

The highway code is expected to be modified by year's end, however, thanks to a more than decade-long fight by Quebec's cabbies to make GPS legal for taxis.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Ikea leaves flags in disrepair outside Montreal store

The management of the Ikea store in Montreal (Cavendish/Hwy 40) has been flying the flags of Canada and the United States in an embarrassing state of disrepair for at least three weeks. I cannot believe no one in management at the store has not noticed the state of their flags.

There is no excuse for this. Ikea worldwide sales in 2006 was 17.3 billion euros. It owns and operates 225 stores in 24 countries, including 11 in Canada. This is a huge company.

Flag etiquette suggests they remove the flags rather than leave them hanging in their current state. The photo below was taken on June 24, 2007.

You can contact Ikea here.

UPDATE: Ikea has responded (see messages below) and say the flags do not belong to them but to another commerce nearby. I suppose that explains it. It would have been odd had Ikea not noticed this.

However, I have a vague memory years ago of seeing a yellow Ikea flag on the far left poll followed by a Quebec flag and a Canada flag. At the time, I remember thinking that Ikea had not put the flags in the correct order. Did Ikea once have ownership of those flags and now do not?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Toronto backs away from Stand Right, Walk Left

Bad news from Toronto. The Globe and Mail reports its transit authority has reversed its policy of posting 'Stand Right, Walk Left' signs on the escalators because of some bureaucrats at the Technical Standards & Safety Authority (TSSA) complained walking is unsafe.
The TSSA... recommended the signs' removal because they appeared to condone people walking on the escalators.
The signs are there to remind newbies about a worldwide custom, which makes less bad the riding of a slow-moving escalator in subway setting (hot, sticky, gross, etc.). These do-gooders at the TSSA don't want us to walk on escalators. Better to miss the bus, miss your subway, miss your class or be late for work.

The guy with the improbable name of Dexter Collins is in charge of 'elevating devices' at the Toronto Transit Commission. Dex is cool with removing the signs because he's "never been big on that idea anyway."

Do you get the feeling Dexter doesn't use the subway? If he did, he'd probably feel differently. What does Dex know that people in London, Rotterdam, Edmonton, Tokyo and elsewhere don't know.

Then Dex said something that makes me very irate.
"The intent is for the escalator to carry the people up the escalator. If they are capable of walking, they should be utilizing the stairs."
Wrong, a-hole. First, I hate people who use the word 'utilizing' as much as those who say 'orientated'. Second, Dex, the reason people walk up the left side is to get to their destination faster. But you would know that, Dex, if you used the TTC.

In fact, if Dex was so unlucky as to endure a sweat bath every morning before work, he might learn that many subway stations are quite deep. For instance, the York Mills subway station has 148 steps.

If TTC customers (yes, Dex, they are your customers) want to speed up their hellish subway experience and use the extra time to towel off the sweat from their torso when they arrive at work, why do you want to literally create obstacles for them?

Officials in Toronto acknowledge that walking on the left has become part of the culture and that they are powerless to control those who tempt fate and insist on walking up escalators. No one will be arrested in mid-stride. But both agencies say at the very least, the TTC should not appear to be condoning it.

This is retarded. The signs are needed to help keep out of the way the 10 percent of the population who are clueless about escalator etiquette. The signs ensure all riders are aware of custom to avoid the inevitable arguments as walkers ask standers to move.

By removing the signs, Toronto will end up like Montreal where a couple of genuinely uninformed people will be able to block the path of countless others. This creates a lot of frustration for the customers who use public transit. When you have to rely on a bus or subway to get somewhere, you easily can become worried about having to wait, say, 10 minutes because you missed the bus.

Walking up the escalator gets you to the bus quicker and puts you back in control. It lessens frustration. It makes an otherwise sweaty experience more tolerable.

Imagine if motorists weren't able to use the left lane to pass because people like Dexter said it was dangerous. Imagine the rage on the roads at being stuck behind slow-moving traffic. Allowing people to share the road (or the escalator) reduces rage. It makes the day better. Toronto needs more escalator etiquette signs, not less.

This is a step backward for an otherwise very progressive city.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Anti-war idiots protest against troops

It is shocking how some people in Quebec have chosen to protest the Nato mission in Afghanistan, which seeks stabilize that country to prevent it from again becoming a haven to train radical Islamists.

Instead of protesting on Parliament Hill or some federal building, these useful idiots decided to protest in front of the Quebec-based troops who were invited to the Montreal Alouettes football game this evening.

The troops are about to be shipped to fight a dangerous war and anti-war people think themselves clever to lower the morale of the troops. And then there are the handful of Parti Québécois legislators who didn't join their colleagues in the standing ovation for the delegation of Quebec-based troops who visited the Quebec legislature yesterday. Disgusting.

Anyway, here's a much more eloquent comment about this from a CTV News streeter:


Quebec proposes new regional municipal structure

The Quebec government tabled today a bill to reform the grotesquely-named Montreal agglomeration council -- the regional decision-making body comprised of the (very large) central city and the (relatively less populous) suburbs.

The proposed bill has to be approved by the Quebec legislature this fall. Given the minority status of the government, the bill is by no means certain to pass as-is. The suburbs seem pleased that their recommendations were taken into account. The mayor of Montreal, Gerald Tremblay, is peeved at the Quebec government.

When asked about it, Premier Jean Charest opened a can of political whoop-ass on Mayor Tremblay. Good for Charest on standing his ground.

Watch Charest's comments below.


Monday, June 18, 2007

Quebec cartoonists agree: Jews are devious

Editorial cartoons appeared in three Quebec newspapers last week in reaction to a story in La Presse about a meeting between ADQ leader Mario Dumont and major Quebec Liberal Party fundraisers. The fundraisers are Jewish and include some prominent business leaders and at least one former Canadian senator.

Some background
This was a big story because the Jewish community has long supported the Quebec Liberal Party -- both with dollars and with votes. The fact that such prominent fundraisers were meeting with the leader of the official opposition sends a clear message to Premier Jean Charest and his ruling party: don't continue to take the Jewish community for granted.

Similarly, before the Quebec provincial election this spring, mayors of many English-speaking suburbs of Montreal publicly supported Dumont's ADQ party. This too was big news for exactly the same reason. The English-speaking had long supported the Quebec Liberal Party -- both with dollars and votes.

When the English-speaking mayors supported the ADQ party, it made news. But when the story broke about Dumont's meeting, the editorial cartoonists went into their newspaper archives from the 1930s and (evidently) dug up some vile, anti-Jewish cartoons to use as inspiration.

La Tribune
In the first cartoon from La Tribune newspaper in Sherbrooke, Mario Dumont is shown with his hands outstretched and dollar signs in his eye waiting to get money from two large-nosed, slightly hunch-backed men wearing kippahs and uncut sideburns. One of the Jewish men has creases in his forehead and seems mildly sinister. The text bubble has Dumont welcoming the men, but the "s" letters have been replaced by "$" dollar signs. How clever!


La Tribune (Sherbrooke, Quebec)
June 15, 2007

Le Devoir
The second cartoon features Mario Dumont with t-shirt indicating that he is kosher. The kosher stamp is put on kosher products so that practicing Jews can observe the Jewish dietary rules.

It is offensive to Dumont and Jews to suggest that Dumont has been branded kosher because he met with a few big wigs in Quebec who happen to be Jewish.

But the sub-text is even more offensive: Jewish people met with Dumont and certified him kosher, in the same way as one certifies foods. In other words, Dumont is like meat ready to be eaten by the Jews.

Le Devoir (Montreal, Quebec)
June 15, 2007

La Presse
Quebec's newspaper of record, La Presse, dresses Dumont in the hat worn by a relatively small sect of Quebec Jews and gives him uncut sideburns. For the cartoonist (and presumably) his readers not fully acquainted with the Jewish community, it appears that Dumont is an opportunist who has sold out to these weirdly-dressed Jews.

Dumont's speech bubble says: "...And next week, I will be courted by the nude cyclists of the Plateau. Don't miss that!"

Not only do Jews dress weirdly and have strange eyes, but they are a community as relevant to Quebec and as weird as the ridiculous one he invents.


La Presse (Montreal, Quebec)
June 2007


These three cartoons reveal a profound lack of knowledge about the Jewish community of Quebec. For these cartoonists (and I presume their readers) Jews are either (1) hunch-backed, big-nosed sinister characters with briefcases full of money, (2) people who have weird dietary rules and can figuratively make a political leader kosher, and (3) are weirdly-dressed people whose importance in Quebec is on par with nude cyclists.

None of the cartoonists commented on the fact that the Jewish community was no longer all 'voting the same way' -- which has long been a criticism of Jews, Greeks, English-speakers and other non French-Canadian communities in Quebec. This seemingly positive development is, instead, portrayed in sinister ways.

There is often a debate about whether French Quebec or English Ontario was more anti-Jewish in the past. Whatever the Ontario elite think privately today about the Jewish community, I cannot imagine such ignorant cartoons appearing the Toronto Star or Globe and Mail.

But in 2007, in Quebec, such cartoons barely raise an eyebrow in the French-Canadian community.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Movies: Knocked Up (2007)

There is a scene in Knocked Up (2007) where Ben (chubby, pot-smoking slacker guy with curly hair) is discussing over dinner with Allison (pretty tv host he knocked up) and her sister (pretty, older stay-at-home mom) and her husband (successful, handsome, unhappy) that part of him would get into the DeLorean if Doc Brown showed up to take him to the past to undo the unplanned pregnancy.

The sisters have no idea who Doc Brown is and don't understand what the guys are taking about. The sisters become incredibly peeved that (1) the men (who barely know each other) have this shared guy culture of which the women have no knowledge (or control), and (2) they feel excluded from this part of the men's lives.

A recurring theme in the movie is that women believe that men live in a fantasy world (movies, fantasy baseball, etc.), while women are interested in serious things (sex offender database, pregnancy books, etc.). The men believe the women control their lives and there is no escape. To quote the overused quote from the movie: "Marriage is like an unfunny, tense version of Everybody Loves Raymond, but it doesn't last 22 minutes. It lasts forever."

This prescient dialog illustrates the great writing in Knocked Up--a comedy that could have easily been just a guy movie. Instead it is a guy movie, a chick flick, a relationship film, and a slapstick comedy with lots of cheap jokes and funny sight gags. This film will appeal to a lot of different people and is going to make a truckload of money through positive word-of-mouth reviews.

Knocked Up is written and directed by same guy who did 40 Year Old Virgin. But Knocked Up is the better film. It is both more juvenile and more mature. There are sophomoric and witty scenes that will make the audience erupt in laughter. And there are moments of spot-on commentary about how the lives of women and men and their insecurities, fears, hopes, struggles, blah blah blah.

There are no big special effects, so you might be tempted to watch this one at home. But there are big laughs from start to finish and you'll enjoy watching this in a crowd. This is a really good movie. Very enjoyable and I have no regrets I paid $26 for the tickets.

New Quebec rating: 4.5/5

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The state of journalism today

Another positively Orwellian caption from a Reuters photo.


Palestinians attend a demonstration against violence in Gaza April 23, 2007. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa (GAZA)

Source

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Montreal street signs: five distinct types

I've identified five distinct types of City of Montreal street signs that are still in active use. Most people are familiar with the old black on white signs (all caps) and the new black on white signs (mixed case and city logo). (See the photo below.)

First a word about English on street signs in Montreal. As late as 1867, the population of Montreal was majority English-speaking. This explains why there were English mayors and why a lot of commercial and cultural life in Montreal was English.

By the time the first in the series of signs pictured below was posted (probably in the 1930s or 1940s), Montreal had a French-speaking majority. But there weren't yet any laws to hide English from the public sphere. It would have been inconceivable to cover up with white tape the English on commercial signs or street signs.

If you drive through the City of Montreal today, you'll notice that on the old street signs, French-sounding placenames (like Marcil) have a French street designation (Ave. Marcil). English-sounding placenames (like Old Orchard) have an English street designation (Old Orchard Ave.). A clever way to make bilingual the city's sign.

I mention this history so you understand why the sign below (Fielding Avenue) is in English and not bilingual.

Here are the five distinct signs:
  • All caps, full street designation below street name
  • All caps, abbreviated street designation on side of street name
  • All caps, full street designation above street name, corners more rounded, optional bubble below containing the direction if required, French-only sign introduced for 1976 Olympics
  • Mixed case, full street designation above street name, city logo introduced circa 1985
  • Mixed case, full street designation above street name, city logo modified and introduced in 1987 for new René Levesque sign

By the way, these are the correct relative sizes of the signs.

I didn't include in this the white-on-red signs in Old Montreal or the signs of the various Montreal boroughs. I was only looking at City of Montreal signs.

>> More about Montreal signs here

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Nigerian scammers act out dead parrot sketch

I've read about people in North America who turn the tables on those Nigerian email scammers by getting the scammers to hold up funny sign and do stupid things. The goal is to waste as much of their time as possible. And it's funny.

The anti-scammers have upped the ante. Making them hold photos of David Hasslehoff is no longer enough. Now they are getting the scammers to act out Monty Python sketches.

This is a video created by a Nigerian email scammer who thinks he is producing a video for a scholarship payment from a victim he tried to scam. Unfortunately for this particular scammer, the "victim" fought back and created a fake video production company with promises of cash!

It has to be noted that the two people who appear in this video are probably not scammers themselves. More than likely they are amateur actors paid to do the work on the scammer's behalf. Even though their acting is petty shaky, they do seem to have had previous experience!


Family Guy: behind the scenes

Neat behind-the-scenes look at voice actors in Family Guy.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Montreal street signs

An interesting post from the people at UrbanPhoto about street signs in Montreal, including types of signs, typeface and language rules.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Montreal map circa 1894

Montreal-based urban planning blog UrbanPhoto has a great map of Montreal from 1894. Today Crescent St. was turns into Lucien-L'Allier. Back then Lucien L'Allier was called Aqueduct Street. And Bleury St. went as far north as Pine Ave. before changing to Park Ave. Today Bleury ends at Sherbrooke St.

>> http://www.urbanphoto.net/blog/2007/04/01/finding-your-way-in-1894/

Canadian content, Sopranos style

This will be good.
Canadian content, Sopranos style
MATTHEW HAYS
Globe and Mail

Montreal — When the first episode of the final season of The Sopranos is broadcast on Sunday, Quebec fans will be especially titillated: Two new characters are French-speaking Québécois smugglers who do business with the show's rough-and-tumble protagonist, Tony Soprano.

Denis and Normand are petty thugs who irritate Tony (played by James Gandolfini) because they speak joual (Québécois slang) and he can't understand them. They sell him prescription drugs that have been stolen from the Quebec health-care system, medication that is past its expiry date. This is not a problem, they advise: Just change the best-before date and the drugs are as good as new.

The petty thugs are played by Quebec actors.

Denis is portrayed by Philippe Bergeron and his sidekick Normand by Christian Laurin, and the duo are now reckoned to be something of a first: Quebec's seedy underworld finally making its debut on U.S. TV.
A funny thing happened on the way to New Jersey, as the Montreal-born actor Bergeron tells it. The Los Angeles-based 47-year-old landed his role through a strange and unusual contact: Guylaine Lecours, a fellow L.A. resident and Québécois expat who is a dental hygienist.

She was cleaning the teeth of one of the producers and writers for The Sopranos, Andrew Schneider. "He asked Guylaine if she could help him come up with some dialogue, to make a scene authentic between Tony Soprano and some greasy French Canadians," Bergeron recalls. "She said she didn't think she could do that, but she said she knew an actual greasy French Canadian. She gave him my name and number. Then she told me that someone from The Sopranos would be calling me. I was like, 'Yeah, right.' "

But shortly after Lecours and Bergeron spoke, Schneider called him to ask how petty Québécois Mafioso might bicker. In the following weeks, they had several long phone calls, during which Bergeron would explain how two characters of this type might operate. "Of course, writers for this show needed to know how the Québécois swear. I discussed the obvious: tabernac and calice [swear words derived from the Roman Catholic Church] had to be included."

Bergeron had a request: that the characters go by the names Denis and Normand, two childhood friends of the actor. Bergeron says his old friend Denis knows of the tribute, but Normand, whom he has lost touch with, does not.) Then it struck Bergeron. "I said to Andy, 'You know, I could play this part.' He asked me to send in a head shot to their offices in New York. Then they asked me to send in a DVD to their casting office in Manhattan."

After auditioning in New York, he got the part.

Filming the episode was thrilling, Bergeron says, and he drew on the petty crooks he knew while growing up in Ville St. Laurent, north of Montreal. "There was a dire bar there, where I bought my first beer when I was 14. I would skip school and go there. It was called T.P. and there were always petty hoods around. This Sopranos appearance is my homage to them."

"Doing The Sopranos made me very proud to be a Quebecker. When you're away from Quebec, there's a tendency to dilute your Quebec persona. Some people might not like the way we're represented in the show, but it's entirely authentic."

Temptation

Decarie Hotdog steamie and fries
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