Mr Montpetit compares the political morality of government officials after the Constitutional Act of 1792 with present day behaviour which led to the adoption of Bill 106 about hydrocarbons. In the 1830s, the Patriots fought against vested interests and responsible government; was their battle in vain?
The Chateau Clique
In its May 20th edition, Le Devoir “challenges history afficionados to decode a current theme by means of a comparison with an historic event or person”i. On this Patriots’ Day, a holiday dedicated to the memory of the leaders who fought for a democratic ideal in the 1830s, it might be appropriate to examine the similarities between the shenanigans and attempts to pervert the law in the course of the first electoral campaigns of la Belle Province and what goes on 225 years later. Just for fun, let’s point out the similarities between the tactics of the “Chateau Clique” after 1792 and those of the present government on the adoption of the loi sur les hydrocarbures (Bill 106).
The article written by Mme Anne-Marie Sicotte describes the more than dubious manœuvres used at that time to “play” with the electoral map; thus ridings (electoral districts) were created where voters would be favorable to friends of the regime and other ridings would be intrinsically unfavorable to members of parliament who were not kowtowing to the vested interests of the elite. So, nothing new under the sun as, “by chance”, an attempt has just been tried to get rid of the riding of Sainte-Marie–Saint-Jacques which would have meant that the MNA for Québec Solidaire, Manon Massé, “unfortunately” could not sit in the National Assembly after the next general election.
In 1792, candidate Young in Québec’s Lower Town had alledgely offerred slices of ham, eau-de-vie, Madeira, beer and turkeys as favours to persons who voted “on the right side”. So Maurice Duplessis was not using innovative methods during his electoral campaigns in the 1950s. When it comes to the purchase of the social consensus, the petroleum lobby is slightly more subtle than candidate Young: “TransCanada Enterprises just launched a new program of scholarships notably aimed at young Québecois who live “near” the route of the future Energy East Pipeline”ii, noted Le Devoir.iii “The oil company thus offers 150 bursaries for a total of $250,000.” Generous study grants for the students who live along the path of Energy East: what a big heart TransCanada has!
Speaking of the buddies of the regime who have easy access to the government, the Lobbyists Commissioner “…confirms that already, due to budgetary restraints, he was unable to carry out as much surveillance activity, last year, as he had hoped…. During 2015-2016 the number of lobbyists inscribed in the ledger grew by 31% compared to 2014-2015 to reach 9330. The majority of them, 6338, were business lobbyists…”iv. Could budgetary austerity be the means of muzzling the watchdog in charge of monitoring ethical behaviour? The press and the Lobbyists Commissioner must denounce behind–closed-door meetings like those which took place between Mr Charest and the NEB!v
Historian Anne-Marie Sicotte describes various strategies which were used to prostitutevi the electoral process in favour of the friends of the regime in 1792. Today we note the same contempt for the concept of social consensus as the PLQ government launches Bill 106 on hydrocarbons just two days before the summer break; furthermore in order to maximize the chances that this despicable bill should pass under the radar of public opinion, the parliamentary commission began on the 16th of August 2016. Despite the rejection of the shale gas industry by two BAPE (numbers 273 and 307) and two EES (strategic environmental assessments), and to better supercede the rights of citizens in favour of the fossil fuel industry, Minister Arcand forced the adoption of the Hydrocarbons Bill BY CLOSURE on the 10th of December 2016. Long live the government of Lobbyists!
On this Patriots’ Day, were the battles of William Lyon Mackenzie against the Family Compact in Upper Canada and that of Louis-Joseph Papineau against the Chateau Clique in Lower Canada conducted in vain? In 1849, some merchants preferred to set fire to Parliament rather than accept the principle of responsible government. Likewise, did the Hydrocarbons Bill violate the same principles of democracy?
Are we still and for ever in the process of battling the interests of the lobbyists and the “1%”?
Member of Comité des citoyens et citoyennes pour la protection de l’environnement maskoutain
May 22, 2017
NB. The quotes from Le Devoir were translated.
vi Prostitute: “to sell for low or unworthy purposes”, Webster’s New World Dictionary, 1974.