Friday, 24 June 2011

Québec's Fête nationale: No Chasse Galérie This Time, Just Stephen Harper Being Mean

Practically everything is closed in Quebec today, except pharmacies and a few corner stores. St. Jean Baptiste Day, the Fête nationale, is one of the two or three holidays when this province shuts down. There will be parades, open air shows (despite a forecast of rain) and many local parties.

But no MPs from Quebec will be here to join in the festivities because they're all stuck in Ottawa, debating the Harper government's back to work legislation to end the Canada Post lock-out. The bill actually would give less money as a settlement than Canada Post put on the table at the beginning of negotiation.

"Bullies!" was a term heard often last night at a little 5 à 7 reception for people who worked on Thomas Mulcair's very successful re-election campaign. We'd hoped to have the deputy leader of the NDP there to join in the fun, but he, of course, was helping lead the charge against the bill in Ottawa. The whole business is a put-up job on the part of the government--locking out the workers, the provocative back to work terms, the fact that the government refused to suspend the session for the St. Jean, despite the fact that the common practice is to take the holiday into account.

But given the fact that the Cons were nearly wiped out in Quebec in the election, they have nothing to gain by giving a little to win points here. The bill will pass--it is a majority government, after all--but Stephen Harper wants to be as mean as he can....

And, by the way, note that the official poster for this year's celebration features the flying canoe of the Quebec folk tale, the chasse galérie. In it, a bunch of forest workers are stuck at Christmas time in the woods of the Gatineau, and make a pact with the devil to get back to Montreal to celebrate by way of an enchanted canoe. They come to a bad end. Let's hope that doesn't happen this time to the NDP MPs.

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