Saturday, October 25, 2008

Becel Buttery Taste margarine

Last week it was reported that Quebec milk farmers were going with pitchforks and torches to Quebec City to complain about the margarine industry.

This time, their complaint was the new Becel Buttery Taste margarine. They don't like the name.

This being Quebec where the government over-regulates stuff (be it free expression or the colour of margarine), I considered it my civic duty to support the product by buying it and comparing it to regular Becel margarine and posting the results here.

I conducted my test today at breakfast. I toasted whole wheat English muffins and applied regular Becel (the one in the blue container) to one and the new Becel Buttery Taste margarine to the other. I also sampled a bit of both from the end of my butter knife.

Sadly, I didn't notice any buttery flavour from the new Becel Buttery Taste margarine. In fact, it tasted pretty much the same as the regular margarine. I compared the nutritional information and learned that the new margarine has twice the calories and fat as the blue Becel.

I was really hoping that this product would be awesome. But it wasn't any different than my regular Becel margarine. Unlike I Can't Believe It's Not Butter--which has a taste that is very close to real butter--the new Becel product does not.

But the new Becel margarine is yellow, which makes me feel like I'm in America (or Ontario). And that's a nice feeling to have when you live in a province where the government spends tens of thousands of dollars on full-page newspaper ads, radio ads and television ads to suggest that residents start every public interaction with "bonjour" and not (the horror!) "hello."

Banning margarine colours, banning words and wasteful spending. That's what I call good government.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

What were they thinking?

The West Island Chronicle newspaper published on its front page on October 1, 2008 a photograph of cheerleaders throwing into the air one of their colleagues (see below).

The unfortunate spread eagle position of the airborne lady with the headline "Dream come true" makes this the most jaw-dropping newspaper front page in Montreal in 2008. Congratulations West Island Chronicle!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Fall on the island

West island road, October 2008.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Blog Quebecois has a nice reply to Barbra Steisand's memo to Senator John McCain.

John McCain has served this country. No one in this election is denying him that. But his selection of Governor Palin has demonstrated that he is willing to put his desperation to win this election above the welfare of the American people. As someone who has spent over 40 years advocating on behalf of women both politically and philanthropically, as someone who was a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton and as someone who cares deeply about the health and welfare of all women, hear me Senator McCain: "This calculated, cynical ploy to pull away a small percentage of Hillary's women voters from Barack Obama will not work. We are not that stupid!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Dear Barbra,

As your new writing coach, may I offer some advice?

Contrary to popular opinion, decorating your sentences with excessive punctuation does not convey -- some might say it even detracts from -- the cogency of your argument!!!

Furthermore, the intensity of your feelings is best communicated by proper attention to word selection and cadence!!!!! Ending your, um, essay with nineteen (19) exclamation marks (I counted them) just makes you look . . . stupid!!!!!!!

On the positive side, at least she avoided writing all in caps, which is a popular technique for people of her age. If you have a theory, please use the comment form below.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Lost time at Reno Depot

Wal-Mart is still the worst big-store weekend shopping experience yet devised. But Reno-Depot took a giant leap forward (or backward) in my book of stores that piss me off.

I had to buy a door. Thinking of the details make will make me shake with anger, so I'll summarize: I bounced around the store from one person to another to order a pick a door, pay for a door and cut a door.

I experienced lost time--three hours of it--and might as well have been probed by aliens and had my clothes put on backwards.

But the afternoon wasn't without its laughs. A yellow front door panel announced to the world (inappropriately, I thought) that it was HIV (positive, I guess). See photo.

Then there was an animatronic machete-wielding Jason, right in time for impressing your neighbours, if you live in a place where such an item is the object of desire.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

I hate people who are 'tired of elections'

At IGA supermarket last week, I was forced to wait for several minutes in the six items or fewer line because Patron 1 at the front decided to contest the price of her five items. Patron 1 saw the lineup but wasn't dissuaded. After all hope was lost, she left. But the damage was done. People were fuming.

Next up: Patron 2, who asked for four kinds of cigarettes and rolling paper (!), which is difficult to find if you are not a smoker. The cashier was not a smoker. What's worse, the cigarettes are hidden away forcing the cashier to open and close most of the drawers in her attempt to find. Even though Patron 2 experienced the unholy wait caused by Patron 1, she, too, didn't much care.

The only thing I hate more than the behaviour of these two patrons are the people who are now complaining that they are tired of federal elections and don't want one again. What the hell is wrong with people?

I'm not sure what makes these hyper-sensitive people 'tired of elections'. It's not like they have to undergo chemotherapy. It's not like they have to travel the country and shake hands with countless people. They don't even have to read the party platforms or watch the news.

All they have to do is wait until election day, go to a neighbourhood school or hockey arena, wait in line for about 20 minutes, and move a pencil a few inches while applying moderate pressure with their fingers. They even get to leave work early.

I think these people are 'tired of elections' in the same way as they are 'tired of their hair style' or are 'tired of the shows on tv'. It's not a real 'tiredness' like a single-mom waking up at 6am for 18 years to take the bus to the factory in order to make enough to send her child to university. It's a fake 'tiredness'.

If you are tired of democratic elections, clearly life (including life in Canada) is too much for you to handle. Courage, mofo. Courage.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Air conditioned bus service suspended because this is Quebec and things here suck

Il y a en effet une passion mâle et légitime pour l’égalité qui excite les hommes à vouloir être forts et estimés. Cette passion tend à élever les petits au rang des grands ; mais il se rencontre aussi dans le cœur humain un goût dépravé pour l’égalité, qui porte les faibles à vouloir attirer les forts à leur niveau et qui réduit les hommes à préférer l’égalité dans la servitude à l’inégalité dans la liberté.

- Alexis de Tocqueville, De la démocratie en Amérique,
Nolla (éd.), Paris, Vrin, 1990, p. 44.

The Quebec intelligentsia is made up of university professors, union leaders, and goateed Che-t-shirt-wearing university students. They dominate the province as did Premier Maurice Duplessis and the Catholic Church in the 1940s and 1950s.

These folks love equality more than they love anything else. So Quebec spends more on social problems than anywhere else in North America. And it taxes its residents more too.

When an alternate view is presented, it is immediately shelved. For instance, former Premier Bouchard and some non-conformists suggested in October 2005 that maybe we need to rethink our far left model. He said that Quebecers work less than Ontarians. They wrote "Pour un Québec lucide." It was denounced by the usual suspects.

So strong is the equality-before-liberty ideology that the usual suspects are criticizing a plan to bring air conditioning to a few public transit buses. These are new buses on new routes to bring office workers long distances. In one case, the buses will bring Bell employees to their new campus on Nuns' Island.

Instead of praising the fact that Montreal will be joining the twentieth century by introducing air conditioning on city buses--a feature that will likely spread when the transit authority sees how popular it is--labour leader Stéphane Lachance is upset that it will create a "two-tier" system.

C'est pas possible.

Transport minister suspends 'two-tier' commuter bus routes
Local transit authority to run Vaudreuil line
AMY LUFT, The Gazette
Published: 13 hours ago

Two new express bus routes, one scheduled to begin tomorrow, have been suspended.

The service, set to offer luxury coaches to commuters from Vaudreuil and Longueuil, has been called off after complaints that the Metropolitan Transit Agency did not respect Quebec transport ministry procedures, transit minister Julie Boulet said Friday.

The price of fares, Boulet said, had not yet been approved by the Montreal Metropolitain Community, a public group overseeing regional issues such as transit.
Email to a friendEmail to a friendPrinter friendlyPrinter friendly

The announcement came after the MTA awarded a five-year, $2.8 million contract to a private company, Transdev Limocar, to offer bus service on the new lines.

The routes, which were set to start tomorrow in Vaudreuil and Sept. 15 in Longueuil, came under scrutiny last week by critics who said the new fleet of luxury buses created a two-tier system.

The new coach buses would include air conditioning, toilets and wireless Internet access.

The suggested fares for the Vaudreuil to Côte Vertu line are $4.75 per trip or $95.50 a month, while the Longueuil to Nuns' Island route was suggested at $5.25 per trip or $74 per month.

"We need to be vigilant and fight to maintain a public service which is accessible, efficient and most of all fair," said Stéphane Lachance of the Canadian Union of Public Employees' transport workers' division.

Lachance said last week that the new coach-style buses are unfair for taxpayers.

"On the one hand, the MTA is taking its revenues from (fees for) drivers' licences and tax on gasoline and, on the other hand, it's subsidizing a privately run, high-class service that's not available to everyone."

A no-frills service will be offered beginning tomorrow on the Vaudreuil line by the Conseil intermunicipal de transport La Presqu'Île, which provides local transit for the Vaudreuil area.

Can you spot which of these men is
Stéphane Lachance of the Canadian Union of Public Employees?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

New Bell as assholish as the old Bell

A few years ago, my parents were screwed out of a few hundred bucks because of long-distance charges to Tavulu or some miserable place like that. Lots of people were screwed because of a virus that took over people's old-fashioned dial-up modems and made the long distance calls.

Bell said it wasn't there problem, even though newspaper reports say they knew about it but did nothing to, say, block calls to those places. The sudden spike in calls to some place no one ever calls didn't worry Bell. They get paid either way.

Soon after, I looked at my $50 Bell phone bill and decided I would find an alternative. I did. It was VoIP and it cost me just $25 each month. Ha. Screw you, Bell. Later, I jettisoned by DSL Internet connection. Ha, two times! No more Bell. I was free.

When I called to cancel, the agent told me that I would still have to pay an extra 30 days, even though I didn't use the service. I explained nicely that was not going to happen. After a back and forth, I asked to speak to her manager. Pause. Hold on sir, she said. A few moments later, she said that she would not charge me this time.

What a company. They decided not to charge me for a service they were no longer providing. But I would be charged, she said, but then my refund would be pro-rated.

Whatever, I thought. As long as they pay me back, I don't mind waiting a few weeks.

The weeks passed. No refund on my credit card. Hmm. I call. Another agent explains that is normal. It will happen soon. Another few weeks go by. It is now two months after I canceled. Still no refund.

I call again. There is no record of a refund in their system. But he will send the request to the refund department and I will get a cheque. In four to six weeks.

Bell continues to operate like assholes. Which is a huge problem as they face more competition than ever.

A new logo isn't going to save them.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Montreal-style Vermont bagels versus Montreal bagels

The frozen Myer's Bagels: A Taste of Old Montreal caught my eye at the Price Chopper in Burlington, Vermont. Unlike the white-bread-style bagel rolls sold in the United States, these bagels looked like Montreal bagels. The product packaging played up that fact with its name and one of its features: Wood fired bagel.

But how would it compare to a Montreal-made bagel?

The competitors
Myer's Bagel versus Bagel de l'ouest bagel

A closer look
The Myer's Bagel looks like a Montreal bagel with its prune-like bagel skin. But notice that the Myer's Bagel comes pre-cut.

Inside surface
The inside of the Myer's Bagel looks rough, as if it was cut with a weird knife. Montreal bagels are never pre-cut, so the inside is cut by its owners. Will this affect the taste, I wonder.

Following moderate toasting and the application of Becel Light margarine, the bagels are ready for testing.

While it's true that I was testing a poppy seed bagel (black) versus a sesame seed bagel (white), I was still able to make some observations based on my knowledge and extensive experience eating bagels.

1. Density: The Myer's Bagel was a bit less dense than Montreal bagels. It wasn't as light as those disgusting white-bread style bagels. However, in fairness, the average bagel eater might not even notice.

2. Sweetness: Montreal bagels are known for their sweetness. The Myer's Bagel was not as sweet. Again, not as bad as the white-bread style bagels, but not quite a Montreal bagel.

3. Freshness: Part of the experience of Montreal bagels is buying them hot and fresh from the bakery and eating one on the way home. It makes a mess of the car, but it is one of those private common experiences that all Montrealers enjoy. The Myer's Bagel is frozen and bought at a supermarket, so it is unfair to compare it to a hot and fresh bakery-bought Montreal bagel. However, if you are like me and freeze your 10 and a half remaining bagels after buying them from the bakery, this is not a big deal.

4. Overall: If I lived it Vermont and needed a Montreal-bagel fix, the Myer's Bagel would be acceptable if my goal was to toast one.

Myer's Bagel: Not a bad choice if you live in Vermont.

UPDATE: I just learned that Myer's Bagel is also a bakery store in Burlington. Next time, I'll buy a fresh one and post my comments here.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Dog owners are gross

Many (not all) dog owners are disgusting humans who bring their excrement-machines outdoors and soil my neighbourhood sidewalks. But it gets worse. Well, not worse exactly, just equally assholish.

A lady in Westmount Park today (see below) groomed her dog and let the (probably smelly) dog hair fall on the grass beside her and blow in the wind. The light coloured areas in the grass around her is dog hair. That's class!

Seen at the F1 street fest

There seems to be some car race this weekend in Montreal. I went to the street fair downtown to investigate and saw lots of red cars and women in bikinis (see below). In fairness to the ladies--who seemed to be selling something--it was 30 degrees Celsius today so the bikini was a wise clothing choice.

The only time I've ever felt more icky from walking through a crowd is when I happened to walk past a bar on Prince Arthur Street during some television boxing match. Lots of folks I don't normally see at the library.

I don't know who will win the race and I won't watch it. But if this business helps trickle some cash down to me, I have no objections.

Seen in Westmount: Rocky Balboa

This cardboard cutout of Rocky Balboa appeared on Sherbrooke St. W. in Westmount. Not sure who put it there of for what end. But it's cool and I wish I had one on my street.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Seen on the Met

Can you think of any way to make an awesome cool Dodge Caravan even cooler than with a weird mix of bumper stickers?

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Hommage to the Price is Right?

The two yellow danger signs on Décarie Blvd. (northbound, and just south of de Maisonneuve) always reminds me of that Price is Right game where the contestant has to find both halves of a pictogram of a car.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Bloc Québécois party wants to block American television

The Gazette reported today that a private members bill in the federal parliament tabled by the secessionist Bloc Québécois party would transfer jurisdiction over the airwaves to the Quebec government. This would give provincial authorities the power to, say, block foreign television stations that threatened the predominance of the French language in Quebec.

Translation: Say adieu to ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox.

But, you say, the Quebec government wouldn't do something so rash as that!

These same reactions were heard in mid-1970s, when the Quebec Liberal Party and the Parti Québécois enacted a series of laws limiting a "foreign language" (read: English) in schools and on store signs, billboards, ads in public transit areas, and mass mailings to homes (like the Publisac). People protested. Intellectuals signed newspaper ads. But 30 years later, the new intellectuals claim banning English from public view has brought us "social peace", a euphemism for less violence and graffiti by Quebec secessionists who would prefer to go much further in the quest for linguistic purity.

Banning American television would have a profound effect on Quebec. American television is what allows the English-speaking community to escape every night. It also gives the French-speaking Quebecers who watch a place to learn English (given that English classes are also limited in French-language schools). English may be verboten in many public places, but at least we can recharge ourselves with this airlift of English brought to us every evening.

It is unlikely the feds would ever give up control over the airwaves in Quebec. It is a federal power enshrined in the Constitution Act 1867. But if they did, some future Quebec government would eventually extend censorship in Quebec to the airwaves. It is entirely consistent with the Quebec nationalist aim of promoting the French language by hobbling the influence of the English language in Quebec by whatever means necessary.

Of course, by the time Quebec gets around to censoring the airwaves, the some hybrid of the Internet/cable will the means of distributing television shows on demand. Of course, the Quebec government has shown a willingness to legislate the Internet too. What a place.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Vandals deface legion building

There is a special place is hell for vandals who paint FLQ on the buildings of the Royal Canadian Legion as happened, again, this week.
This is the second time in a week vandals have spray-painted a prominent site with nationalist slogans. On Sunday, FLQ slogans were found spray-painted on the mausoleum where the late prime minister Pierre Trudeau is buried in St. Rémi de Napierville, south of Montreal.


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Make a wish superhero commercial

Another sad and joyful commercial...

The 'I love New York' ad and how the Internet is the greatest research tool ever

In October 2001, the New York tourism agency ran a television commercial showing everyday people and celebrities saying the phrase "I love New York". The ad ran only for a short time, but it was very touching. The goal was to remind people that New York was a great city where life was returning to normal after the attacks.

We would always stop whatever we were doing to watch the commercial. Years after it stopped airing on television, I tried to find it online. I wanted to figure out why it had such an effect on me. I remember the guitar sounded a lot like it was performed by The Edge. And I remember the old man outside his shop on the street repeating the line "I love New York" in a heavily-accented English.

Before the Internet, the provenance of the ad would have remained a mystery with no opportunity to watch it again. But now one can find out more about it, with a little research. I was able to find out who directed it (Mark Claywell) and even the name of the commercial (New Day). But the video itself wasn't available anywhere.

I read somewhere how the Internet has allowed people to get in touch with, well... not exactly celebrities, but people of interest (to borrow a phrase from the police). This could be some book author, or professor in India, or the writer of some obscure movie-- that is, everyone who is a purveyor of mass information (to some degree).

So, I e-mailed Mark Claywell, the director, to tell him how much I enjoyed the ad and to ask if it was available online. He wrote back with a link to the commercial. Neat. Case closed. After years of looking, I finally could watch the commercial. And now you can too. Enjoy.

UPDATE: The video doesn't seem to be at the above link. You can view Mark Claywell's "A New Day" here:

Orville Redenbacher's Kettle Korn popcorn

On your next day-tip to the United States of America, make room in your car for Orville Redenbacher's Kettle Korn popcorn. Sadly, this product is not yet available in Canada, which is too bad because it is the best home popcorn I've ever eaten.

There's a touch of sweetness that makes it delicious. The taste is similar to adding honey to popcorn. This is like popcorn 2.0. Delicious. Go forth and buy this product.

Why Maurice Richard was one of the greats

There was a touching story in The Gazette today about how Maurice Richard visited the hospital bed of a kid at St. Mary's Hospital in 1995. He did so without fanfare or publicity. He promised he'd score his next goal for him.

Richard returned to the hospital the next week with his own son and the puck.
Inspired by the Rocket
Hospital visit created Habs fan for life
Alan Hustak
The Gazette
Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Win or lose Game 4, nothing can dampen Robert Vanden Abeele's enthusiasm for the bleu-blanc-rouge.

The retired customs officer has been a loyal Canadiens fan since 1955, when he turned 17 and Habs legend Maurice (Rocket) Richard paid a surprise visit to his bedside at St. Mary's Hospital - not once, but twice.

Vanden Abeele had fallen under a streetcar and both his legs had been cut off.

It was the year of the Richard Riot, and that fall, Vanden Abeele had written the Rocket a fan letter. To Vanden Abeele's astonishment, Richard arrived at the hospital unannounced.

"I was speechless, I couldn't believe it was him. Right there in my room," Vanden Abeele, 69, said Tuesday.

"I didn't know what to say exactly. What do you say to someone like that?"

Vanden Abeele recalls Richard spent about an hour with him.

"He didn't say all that much. He spoke with his eyes. I could tell that what had happened to me really affected him."

It's what happened next that Vanden Abeele will never forget.

"He told me he'd score his next goal for me, and then he left."

There was a small black and white television in Vanden Abeele's room, and that night he watched Richard play against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Richard didn't score.

The next game was on a Saturday and the Habs played the Boston Bruins at the Forum: Jean Béliveau scored all four goals.

On Sunday, Nov. 7, in a game in Boston, The Rocket scored his 429th career goal.

"I thought he had forgotten all about me," Vanden Abeele said, "but the next day he came back to the hospital with son, Normand, and he gave me the puck that scored the goal, and an autographed hockey stick.

"He told me he worked hard to get the puck in the net for me, and that it hadn't been easy."

Hospital authorities had hoped to promote Richard's visit to St. Mary's as part of a fundraising campaign that year to raise money for a new wing. But Richard politely turned them down, saying he didn't want people to think he was seeking public sympathy.

Vanden Abeele said Richard's kindness helped him deal with his rehabilitation.

"From my room in the hospital, I could see kids at Collège Nôtre Dame next door skating," he said.

"I started to feel sorry for myself. For me there would be no more skating, no more skiing, no more bicycling. But the Rocket gave me a boost. He cheered me up, gave me the inspiration and the strength to conquer my fears and to learn to walk again.

"He will always be my champion, my hero."

Vanden Abeele still has the puck and the stick, and Richard's autograph, and said he'll never sell them, no matter what he's offered.

"To me, they are priceless souvenirs. I'll never part with them."

Of Monday's game against Philadelphia, which the Habs lost 3-2, and slipped behind in Eastern Conference semifinals, Vanden Abeele said the Canadiens aren't skating as fast as they were in Richard's day.

"They didn't call him the Rocket for nothing," he said. "Maurice was fast. Then, too, games back then were so different than they are now.

"The Habs aren't as tight as they should be. They lose the puck too often. Kovalev, he's good some times. Price is okay, but he's still too young. If the guys on the ice don't do their job, the goalie's lost."

Still, in spite of the setback, Vanden Abeele remains an optimist.

"I'm still a believer! No matter how bad it seems, you've got to believe."

© The Gazette 2008

Monday, April 28, 2008

Spring tree, giant Hab

Spring tree, giant Hab

De la Gauchtière / De la Cathèdrale

Springtime at Place du Canada

General Tao chips from President's Choice

I enjoy President's Choice products. I like their light blue menu. I like their cola. And now I think I just may love their General Tao Chicken potato chips.

I haven't bought a bag of fried-in-oil potato chips in several years. I either get the Baked Lays or the Olestra Ruffles from the United States of America. So, my excitement over General Tao Chicken chips was genuine.

The packaging suggests the chips have a sweetness. I was eager to find out. Here are my observations as I write this minutes after enjoying a few.
1. They are thicker than Ruffles.
2. They are spicier and sweeter than barbecue-flavoured chips.
3. They are comparable to, say, all-dressed flavour in that there are a lot of flavours to content with.
4. For now, I would describe these as a cross between barbecue-, ketchup- and all-dressed-flavoured chips.
5. There are very salty (I just had to down a glass to water).

Friday, April 25, 2008

Students suspended for funny, harmless gag

Students at a high school outside Chicago were suspended for five days what I think is a funny gag. Ten students in larger-than-life banana costumes ran the halls of the high school with an eleventh student dressed as a gorilla giving chase.

The school should lighten up.

>> Read the article

>> See the video

Silly, mean fines

I'm not one who likes to take cheap shots at the Montreal police. Whatever the occasional failing of some of their members, police officers are there 24/7 to protect you if someone is trying to hurt you. For that the police deserve our praise and respect.

Two stories this week annoyed me, however.

Item #1: A university student got a $628 fine for sitting on a granite ledge of some sort at Émilie Gamelin Park (de Maisonneuve and Berri streets). Montreal bylaws, it seems, state one can sit only on park bench when in a park. The police say they warned the student several times to move off the granite ledge (pictured below). This story even made the UPI wire service. Was the student being a jerk? Perhaps. The fine, however, seems excessive.

This will cost you $628.
(Photo credit: Phil Carpentier, The Gazette)

Item #2: Motorists dropping off passengers at the commuter train station in Beaconsfield were given tickets, according to a letter writer in The Gazette. Apparently a new no stopping sign was erected but instead of giving warning tickets, the police starting fining people right away. The letter writer explains that the new "waiting area is not clearly demarcated nor is it pedestrian-friendly." As she writes, why not give warnings first, like the police are doing to enforce the new Quebec law banning non-hands-free use of mobile phones while driving? Worst still, why target commuters who are doing their part by taking public transit?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Quebec destroys the evidence

Just how many people were denied their right to have their votes counted in the referendum in 1995 on Quebec secession?

We'll never know because (a) the Quebec Liberal Party made a decision to not make a fuss about stolen votes once their side won, (b) the Parti Québécois didn't want to be dragged down by the actions of some of its election officials who instructed underlings how to disallow votes and (c) the courts didn't do their job.

This is a scandalous story. Far worse than the sponsorship scandal. And yet the Quebec intelligentsia want to hide this away like a crazy aunt. I am fairly confident that René Levesque is spinning in his grave. This scandal was an affront to Quebec democracy and is about to be shredded from the collective memory of the province.

Spoiled votes saga nears end
Court is expected to allow 1995 referendum ballots to be shredded, leaving some unanswered questions

The Gazette

Monday, April 21, 2008

The long-running saga of the spoiled ballots from the last Quebec referendum looks destined to end in anticlimax.

It now seems likely that all will never be told about the extent to which the separatist side tried to rig the vote, given the impending destruction by powers that be of vital evidence in the affair.

A Superior Court hearing is scheduled for the last day of this month to entertain a request by Quebec's elections chief for leave to finally put the 4.8 million ballots from the 1995 sovereignty referendum to the shredder. And presumably to the recycling bin after that.

>> More

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Let's take their money and then not serve them

Another day, another example of crazy nonsense trying to maim reasonableness and moderation in Quebec.

The Quebec government is being criticized for having English-language text on its business-related government websites. Parti Quebecois language critic Pierre Curzi is shocked and wants these words removed (read: censored, redacted, erased) from Quebec government websites.

The government minister in charge of economic development says the government has to provide information in English... for the benefit of folks outside Quebec who read English. Of course, he adds, the governments policy is to deal with businesses in Quebec in French only.

So, in the end, the PQ and governing Liberal Party aren't that far apart on this issue. They both agree that services to Quebec should be in French only. I suppose if there was a way to block the English pages for people stuck in Quebec, the Liberals would do so. (Perhaps they would hire Internet monitors from China to advise them.)

By the way, about 10 percent of Quebecer tax payers speak English as their main language at home.

Quebec under fire for ignoring Bill 101
English features on provincial websites
Marianne White
Canwest News Service
Friday, April 18, 2008

The government came under fire yesterday for flouting the French Language Charter by communicating in English with Quebec businesses amid a heated debate on the survival of French in the province.

The government is posting almost all of its forms, guidelines and leaflets for businesses in English on the websites of Revenu Québec, Investissement Québec and the Autorité des marchés financiers.

The charter, known as Bill 101, states that the government can communicate in English with individuals at their request, but must deal only in French with businesses in the province.

>> More

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Gazette headline mixes French and English... how disrespectful!

Uh oh. The Gazette published the following headline today: Merci France, Bernier says.

I hope the publisher is prepared for a tongue lashing from PQ education critic Marie Malavoy who, by the way, is an immigrant from France who voted illegally in Canadian elections before becoming a citizen of Canada.

Malavoy doesn't like it when one mixes the two languages. It is "very disrespectful" says she. You might consider it a faux pas to mix the tw... oh, damn it. I am so busted.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

PQ represenative angry over ad that mixes French and English

Quebec law prohibits free choice in public education, in violatation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The provincial government, which has jurisdiction over education, limits access to publicly-funded English-language schools. Only kids whose parents went to English-language school (in Canada) can attend. Everyone else (new Canadians, French-speakers, etc.) are prohibited.

One English-language school board, struggling to survive as a result of these restrictions, placed some ads in French-language newspapers to try to recruit new students -- within the strict confines of a restrictive law. That was too much for PQ education critic Marie Malavoy who, by the way, is an immigrant from France who voted illegally in Canadian elections before becoming a citizen of Canada.

Malavoy is upset because the newspaper ad from the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board includes the slogan: Moi? J'apprends in English.

Remember, this is Quebec where language supremacists go into a tizzy over the use of English in public, even in those rare cases where it is permitted.

Malavoy says the sentence is "very disrespectful" of both languages. Here's her reason: "It's a very bad message because we speak English or we speak French. We can speak both languages but not at the same time."

Like five-year olds who begin to understand that some games have rules and get terribly upset when the rules aren't followed, language supremacists insist that things be done in a precise, narrow way, according to rules. There is no room for creativity or evolution. The dogma is strict and ye must follow it.

Forget what you heard about hockey. Telling people what to do is Quebec real official sport.

If Malavoy was aware of, say, Web 2.0, she would probably go into irreversable seizure. The idea of people...people!...creating content without any politburo to verify the uninhindered creativity of the masses... quelle horreur !

Oh, dammit. I've just broken Malavoy's Rules of Order.

Quebec town threatened with violence for translating bylaws

What happens when a municipality in western Quebec decides to translate some of its bylaws into English for the benefit of its residents? They are threatened anonymously by terrorist wannabees.

It is 2008, by the way.
A few days after asking the City of Gatineau to translate its bylaws into English, the Regional Association of West Quebecers began receiving e-mail messages telling the group it must abandon its alleged crusade against French or risk getting "lead in their heads."

André Hurtubise, the English-language community group's chief executive officer, had told city councillors on March 11 that English-speaking residents of Gatineau have as much right to understand what their city expects from them as French-speakers.

More here and here.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Language supremacists strike again

The Quebec language police are threatening to fine McKibbin's Irish Pub $1,500 for each in a series of language-related offenses. Offense 1: Too much English is being spoken by staff. Offense 2, 3, 4, etc.: Antique posters lining the walls advertising hundred-year old Irish beer (in English) no longer sold.

Please remember how this story made you feel when one of the three big political parties in Quebec asks for your support and your money. None of these parties have the courage to end this language madness that has gripped Quebec for 40 years and continues to hold on like a old-arthritic hand belonging to some old man that you wouldn't want anywhere near your children. If you vote for any of those political parties, you are the problem, not the solution.

I fully expect that someone at the Office Québécoise de la langue francaise (read: language police) is going to say the threatening letter was a mistake by an "over zealous employee" and that the old antique posters are considered art and therefore are exempt according to Quebec language censorship laws.

But what if the pub owner hasn't gone to the news media and reported this craziness? This nonsense happens to owners every day and not all of them have the courage to contact the media.

Language supremacists and the political parties that don't have the courage or backbone to stand up to them are the enemy.
McKibbin's Pub faces fines for English signs
Alan Hustak
The Gazette
Thursday, February 14, 2008

McKibbins Irish Pub in Montreal will challenge an order from Quebec's language police to remove antique advertising posters from the popular Bishop Street night spot.

Inspectors from Office de la langue française have ordered McKibbins to remove advertisments for Guiness Dublin 1759 Ireland Trademark, Palethorpes Pork Pies, and St. James Gate Dublin - products that have not been available for more than a century.

On Feb 6, the Office de la langue française informed McKibbin's owners that, under article 58 of the language charter, too much English was being spoken among the staff.

"We advise you that the law requires the French language to be predominant in public signs and commercial advertising; if another language is used at the same time, French must be given overall priority, the visual impact of the French text has to be much more important," the notice also read.

McKibbin's could be fined as much as $1,500 for each infraction.

Pub owners Rick Fon and Dean Laderoute say the signs were imported from Ireland when they opened thepub 10 years ago, and are décor, not a violation of Quebec's language laws.

"We're not taking any of it down," said pub co-owner, Dean Laderoute. " If we cannot have an Irish decor, McKibbin's as an Irish pub ceases to exist."

Viviane Guérin, the complaints specialist with the Office de langue française who ordered the signs removed cannot be reached for comment.

McKibbins will be launching a website next Wednesday,, to solicit public opinion on the matter.


Monday, January 21, 2008

Newspaper tries hard to cause social unrest, then parent company goes under

Soon to be bankrupt owner of QuebecorLast week, Quebecor-owned tabloid newspaper the Journal de Montréal ran a cover story about an undercover reporter who applied for retail sales jobs in downtown Montreal while pretending to speak only English.

The supposed English-speaking job applicant was rejected by 75 percent of employers. But you wouldn't know that from the sensational front cover or the outrage this caused on French-language talk radio. The Journal did a good job of spinning the article in such as way so as to play up the 15 percent of retailers who agreed to hire her and not the inverse statement.

Last year, it was the Journal de Montréal that stirred up anger and resentment against religious and cultural minorities. This led the governing Liberals to try to defuse the Journal's irresponsible stories by what they hoped would be a boring public commission.

Now the Journal is back to baiting the English-speaking community. On cue, all the usual language supremacists are demanding the Quebec government strengthen language laws to make the most business-unfriendly jurisdiction in North America just that must more intolerable. The threats from the FLQ won't be far behind.

From time to time, you begin to think everything is going to be okay in Quebec. I can live here. I'll buy a house and send my kids to school here. And then things like this happen to remind you to pay more attention to the writing on the wall.

The only happy note in all this is that Quebecor World, the parent company of the Journal de Montréal--whose founder once commented that Jews "take up too much space" in Quebec and women had no place on boards because "they seduce too much"--filed for bankruptcy protection today. The Péladeau brothers should have no trouble getting work at a store downtown as their French is impeccable.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Democratic debate

I watched part of the Republican and Democrat debates from New Hampshire on Saturday evening. Charlie Gibson did something I've never seen before: he was interviewing a group of people at the same time. That is, he would challenge an answer in the way he might do in a one-on-one interview.

Gibson also did something else interesting by getting the Democrats to come on stage at the end of the Republican debate. It was like a rumble royal but without the flying chairs.

Change is the keyword in the last week or so. Change is what people want, we are told by the talking heads. Senator Obama did well in Iowa because he is the change candidate.

The silliest exchange of the evening was Senator Hillary Clinton's answer about how she, too, is all about the change. You dig?
"I want to make change, but I've already made change. I will continue to make change. I'm not just running on a promise of change. I'm running on 35 years of change. I'm running on having taken on the drug companies and the health insurance companies, taking on the oil companies. So, you know, I think it is clear that what we need is somebody who can deliver change. And we don't need to be raising the false hopes of our country about what can be delivered. The best way to know what change I will produce is to look at the changes that I've already made."--Hillary Clinton, Jan. 5, 2008
You can no more convince someone you are the change than you can convince someone to love you. Change is a feeling and people "feel" that Obama is new and different in some way. They don't "feel" that way about Hillary Clinton. "I'm running of 35 years of change..." what they hell does that even mean?

While her "change" answer was ridiculous, her nuclear-terrorism answer was not. Gibson asked:
The next president of the United States may have to deal with a nuclear attack on an American city. I've read a lot about this in recent days. The best nuclear experts in the world say there's a 30 percent chance in the next 10 years. [...] On the day after a nuclear weapon goes off in an American city, what would we wish we had done to prevent it? And what will we actually do on the day after?
Senator Edwards responded thus: "The first thing is we have to immediately find out who's responsible and go after them. And that is the responsibility of the president of the United States." Wow. He fully grasps the issue.

Edwards adds: "Because if someone has attacked us with a nuclear weapon, it means they have nuclear technology, it means they could have gotten another nuclear weapon into the United States that we're unaware of. We have to find these people immediately and use every tool available to us to stop them." Uh huh. Wonderful. Next!

Senator Obama pretty much said the same but segued into his message about his work in nuclear non-proliferation: "We would obviously have to retaliate against anybody who struck American soil, whether it was nuclear or not. It would be a much more profound issue if it were nuclear weapons. That's why it's so important for us to rebuild the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty that has fallen apart under this administration." But Obama, the bombs are out there. Terrorists don't sign non proliferation treaties.

Senator Clinton gave the best answer. She sounded like someone who has thought about this before: Firstly, she said the US needs to reform its intelligence agencies. That's a good, practical suggestion. Then she hit a home run showing that, on this issue at least, she is way ahead of her opponents. "If we can demonstrate that the people responsible for planning the nuclear attack on our country may not themselves be in a government or associated with a state, but have a haven within one, then every state in the world must know we will retaliate against those states."

Exactly. As Benjamin Netanyahu has said, there is no international terrorism without the support of sovereign states. He said: "Terrorists are not suspended in mid-air. They train, arm and indoctrinate their killers from within safe havens on territory provided by terrorist states."

Clinton understands this. The other Democrats do not, or more charitably, have never taken the time to try to understand it.

Governor Richardson freaks me out. Here's what he said: "If I'm elected president, I will do two things. First, I will seek immediate negotiations with the Soviet Union and other nuclear states to reduce the number of nuclear weapons."