In a nasty piece on the student protests, Margaret Wente lays on the clichés about lazy, demanding, ungrateful Québecers - protected cradle to grave by the “Québec model” nanny state – all subsidized, she adds, by Anglophone Canada.
She describes Québecers as ingrates not sufficiently beholden to those in the ROC who pay the bills: “In France, which many Quebeckers feel more connected to than they do with the rest of Canada, growth has stalled and generous entitlements have far outrun the government’s ability to pay. The same has happened in Quebec. But it gets a helping hand from the rest of Canada in the form of equalization payments, which will amount to $7.3-billion this year”.
Wente makes the student protest emblematic of a French/English divide, and tells Québec to take a hike: “The rest of Canada looks on, appalled. If this is an example of Quebec’s distinct society, we want no part of it”.
Comparing Québec to Greece, she concludes: “They want the Germans to send them money forever and ever, and no matter how much the Germans send, they’ll keep demanding more. The student protesters are the Greeks of Canada. And we’ve had it”.
So who is the emblematic Québec student Margaret quotes? After describing a protest at the Université du Québec à Montréal, Ms. Wente offers a single, exemplary quote from a protester.
But it turns out the protester isn’t quite so exemplary. He’s not a Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, nor a Leo Bureau-Blouin or any other Québec protester (who could no doubt have provided a quote in English). No, Wente’s example for this exercise in Québec bashing isn’t from Québec. The spoiled, entitled brat that “people in the rest of Canada simply cannot understand”, is a student named Ethan Feldman, from, well, somewhere in “the rest of Canada”.
Here’s Wente’s quoted example of his motivations:
“Governments are completely saturated by neo-liberal ideology, disconnected from the public interest. These protests – like others around the world – are about showing there’s a limit to how far the state can go to protect capitalist interests at the expense of the people.”
And here's Ethan Feldman (an out of province McGill student) in the Montréal Gazette:
“’Governments are completely saturated by neo-liberal ideology, disconnected from the public interest. These protests – like others around the world – are about showing there's a limit to how far the state can go to protect capitalist interests at the expense of the people.’
He (Ethan Feldman) points out that few of those involved would be seriously affected by the proposed gradual tuition increase. They're working for future students. His out-of-province tuition is around $6,700.”
Of course this isn’t the first time Wente has offered up a sloppy cartoon of lazy, “entitled” students. A more significant example of her lax standards was "John", the fake Occupy protester whose bio and quote originated on an American website – but who, it turned out, was not an Occupy protester at all.
While not as egregious an error, presenting an Anglophone out of province student as exemplary of the Québec protests is still irresponsible. Particularly when Wente is so actively inciting ill will - asking us to view the Québec protests as something “the rest of Canada” (read Anglophones) “cannot understand”, “has had it with”, and “wants no part of”.
I suppose from where Margaret Wente sits in her upscale Toronto neighbourhood, Greeks and Québecers might look the same – tiny, and far away – especially when you can’t be bothered to look. Most Québecers disagree with the protests, but that doesn’t stop Ms. Wente from ramping up and exploiting Anglo outrage.
Clearly Wente doesn’t care to find out what’s going on, and omitting the identification of her protesting poster boy as someone from outside the province serves her purposes. Wente’s article achieved its objective, eliciting an outpouring of nasty anti-Québec comments on the Globe’s website.
But before she engages in any more divisive baiting, maybe Ms. Wente could do a bit more research. Given that his “parents cut the cheque” for his “$6,700” out of province fees, maybe Ethan Feldman isn’t so far away after all. Maybe Margaret could actually interview him. Maybe he lives next door.