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running for office: my platform

I must say all the tizzy about the last Quebec election passed me by, and I wasn’t interested in the least – though I was surprised by the result. I expected a PQ or Lib majority, with ADQ also-ran as usual. But things are up in the air now. Still, I think Charest has proved himself unable to lead; Boisclair is completely vapid (and gratingly arrogant as well); and Mario Dumont has been a politician since he was a teen, which indicates to me a profound lack of character. Solidarity is a dreamy bunch, and the Greens offered nothing interesting (tho that’s who I voted for).

But rather than JUST complain about what appears to be the dismal state of Quebec politics, I thought I would list off some policy positions that would excite me:

1. replace “je me souviens” as a provincial motto.
[UPDATE #2: Turns out my (anglo) understanding of “je me souviens” is very different from other people’s understanding of what it means. Still, the main principle is this: that Quebec has done extraordinary things in the past 35 years – totally changing the power structure of the Province… and that a collective, and serious, “Now What?” must be answered – so the backward-looking “Je me souviens” at least should be updated with something looking to the future.]

a motto should define the province … and what does our current motto say? it says: “we define ourselves as a province by celebrating our anger with the past, and our animosity towards defeat, betrayal, colonial oppression.” That is: “I remember the shit that happened in the past.”

Why not make it more explicit: “On est en calisse a cause de ce que vous avez faites?”

[UPDATE/ASIDE: I have always understood that “Je me souviens” refers to the Plains of Abraham … that’s what Anglos are told anyway. But it occurs to me that I might have that wrong, and perhaps there is a totally different interpretation on the other side of the linguistic fence… please let me know if so]

Or better yet, instead of having a motto that celebrates how pissed off Quebec is about the past, how about a motto that celebrates how Quebec will kick ass in the future? How about, “Bientot, vous en souviendriez aussi.” Or: “Doing better than you.” Or: “Looking forward to being an independent nation.” Or: “Unique in North America.” Or even: “Forget the past, we’re conquering the future.”

Whatever the political message, for God’s sake let’s make it a *positive* one looking forward, and not an official statement that says: “we are obsessed with, and pissed off about, the past.”

By the way, i have said this before: I don’t see my politics along the federalist/separatist lines: that political issue does not interest me nearly as much as what this place I love is like. Canada or Quebec is less interesting to me than: what are the policies of the government I am voting for?

2. official endorsement of net neutrality
I believe net neutrality is a core issue for a successful society. freedom of information flows means more innovation, means a more successful country in the long run. pls, guarantee free info flows on the net. see the canadian activists.

3. access to government data in open formats
One thing history proves: The government cannot be trusted to make good decisions. And the government makes decisions based on data they collect. But often you can’t see the data. So. Make the data open for all, in open formats, and let citizens make proposals based on the data. check out, and Watch this video.

4. proportional representation
why are we afraid of proportional representation? see fair vote canada. principle:

Current system: 49% of people in every riding vote for party A, 51% vote for party B. Result: Party B gets 100% of seats.

Proportional system: a certain number of seats are given to parties based on % of popular votes. My pal Andrew tells me PR transformed New Zealand politics.

5. healthcare – figure out global best practices, and build systems accordingly.
i feel so unequipped to figure out how to solve the healthcare problem. I am a longtime opponent of 2 tier healthcare, but my wife is a doctor: so much is wrong with the system. one thing I know: emergency rooms should all have management system studies done. they are inefficiently run … and that costs money.

but my main proposal: do a big study on health systems in the rest of the world, figure out our objectives, figure out best practices to meet those objectives, and then build policies and a health care system around that. get universities involved, and open source the whole thing.

it seems to me so much of our healthcare debate is completely blind and uninformed, and that;s no way to figure out how to fix the (supposedly) most important issue in our country.

6. climate change / kyoto protocol / energy
Actually do something. including:
-push forward on churchill falls II, the big hydro project. unpopular with environmentalists (like me), but being a producer of clean hydroelectricity is one of Quebecs great advantages in the world – environmentally and economically.
-mandate that Hydro-Quebec more actively promote energy efficiency in homes and businesses – give targets
-comprehensive urban planning strategy for montreal and quebec city, to reduce CO2
-increased funding for public transport (funded by increased gas taxes).
-push forward on the climate exchange at the Montreal Exchange

7. education
-improve education in the trades (carpentry, electric, plumbing etc). there’s tons of money in the biz, and not enough qualified workers
-increase uni tuitions. can’t believe i am saying this, but quebec has both the lowest tuition rates AND the lowest university participation in canada. so whatever we are doing isn’t working.
-free software in schools. make hacking & digital media production part of the curriculum.
-mandate that every quebec citizen be fluently trilingual (french, english, and one other language: spanish, chinese or arabic)

8. economy

-support small business… I don’t have any specific recommendations here, but would convene a group of successful small entrepreneurs and figure out better policies to encourage small businesses.

9. Defense & Security
I am a pacifist who believes that a country should have a strong agile military. so:
-Beef up army budgets
-withdraw from afghanistan – has anyone even defined what success would be there? anyone heard of benchmarks, measuring progress etc?
-take a stronger role in UN

10. Arts

-continue strong support for the arts – maybe take Ireland’s approach: no income tax on income from art.

That’s a start. Responses and condemnations welcome.


  1. Justin Justin 2007-04-17

    You’ve got my vote – of course I’m not a Quebecer so it doesn’t count for as much – proportional representation or no

  2. Hugh Hugh 2007-04-17

    that’s 1!

  3. Boris Boris 2007-04-17

    #1 had me rolling
    #2 begs the question: “freedom of information flows”; even in english?!?!
    #9 … um… Quebec has a military?! Jesus, time for me to décrisse mon camp!


  4. Hugh Hugh 2007-04-17

    re: #9 …i assume if i am in charge of quebec, I will control the province of canada as well.

  5. heri heri 2007-04-17

    very good post hugh. i also think politics and politicians should change in quebec

    i may add

    1. i would replace the motto too, and give people in quebec something to look forward too

    5. i think the health system needs to be entirely redone too. i think doctors are good but the managers are not. it is so badly organized.

    6. environmental issues should be quebec #1 priority. i see it as an opportunity for quebec to shine. this can be an issue where everyone can aim to. i am not just talking about hydro-quebec – i am talking about pushing innovation. electric cars, where are they? and wind/sea power plants? and research in solar panels? i think quebec can position itself as a worldwide leader in environemental technologies

    8. encourage the spirit of entrepreneurship. (give quebecers other models than céline dion)

    As a whole, i see quebec’s future in innovation, research and development. every other country can produce steel or wood, like quebec has been doing for dozens of years. and they will do it for peanuts. and what may sets apart quebec from the pack is investments in green issues. Hydro-Québec built once an eletric car. Quebec should be exporting eletric/hybrid cars right now. What happenned? Danemark are exporting their wind plants throughout the world. what is quebec doing? the province has a goldmine with wind here. same with mass transit. the montreal subway was high-tech in the 70s, and it hasn’t changed since then.

    For me, the problem of the candidates in the past elections is that not any of them had a vision for Qu̩bec. It was a rehash Рlike a replay of the past battles. Someone should point out that Quebec can have a bright future Рbut in order to so, politicians and citizens should change and aim for the better good of the province on the whole, not just about their own selfish battles.

    just my .02


  6. Justin Justin 2007-04-18

    This is more of an idea for National Politics than Quebec and I’m sure there are flaws with it that I haven’t considered yet. I should also note that the system would work much better if everyone in the country had an internet connection but the basic idea goes something like this:

    Everyone who wants to hold office (with a party or as an independent) adds their name to a database. Every voter gets a ballot. You can then add your ballot to the Candidate of your choice (whether they are local to you or not). There are no more elections, you can move your ballot any time you like to a different candidate. Once a year (on say Canada day) the top 308 Candidates become MPs so MPs who’ve slipped are automatically unseated and replaced by Candidates who have risen. The MPs would then reaffirm or remove the PM

    The actual vote totals are only published on that date (so candidates don’t know before hand how they are doing) and no public list of who’s ballots are with which candidate are ever published.

    This would enable even small parties to put a certain number of MPs in office, and even for single issue groups to send an advocate to parliament. It would take away the emphasis on parties and put it on worthwhile individuals and it would save the country a fortune in elections and campaigns – a candidate would be accountable for all their actions and positions all the time (not just during an election) and their ‘stock’ would rise and fall accordingly.

    As I’ve said, the idea is less than 24 hours old – I’m sure there are glaring flaws, I just haven’t spotted them yet.

  7. Hugh Hugh 2007-04-18

    ;-) perfect! i see no flaws! lets do it …

  8. heri heri 2007-04-18


    plans and strategies needs years to build. you can’t improve the healthcare system within 1 year for instance.

    if you compare with private companies, short-sightdness leads to mass layoffs, no R&D, no plans for the future, just immediate and brutal tactics. you can then boost your quarterly results but overall it will lead to being outpaced by other companies who have invested in innovation and long-term plans (see General Motors vs Toyota).

    With your system, politicians would lower taxes, would spend money as if there was no tomorrow etc… because they wouldn’t be there to see the negative effects next year.

  9. Justin Justin 2007-04-18

    @ heri,

    Thanks, I know there are flaws with it – and as I said it’s less than 24 hours old so I’m not attached to it at the moment. However, I think some of what you suggest might be mitigated. First, only people who were less popular, or who had done what they came to do would be ousted. So lack of long term planning would hurt the people who stayed (presumably the ones who passed the tax cuts etc.) – Second it would allow Canadians to rally around individuals (even if they weren’t local) or around issue groups and send some of our best minds to Ottawa and/or send people for a specific purpose – net neutrality, global warming etc., and then they could move on when the task was accomplished.

    Under the current system there are already glaring problems with short term thinking (especially around election time). The hope is that by doing away with elections but putting Parliament on notice that they could lose public support at any time I am actually trying to undercut what you are talking about.

  10. Hugh Hugh 2007-04-18

    patrick, thanks for the link. i wonder what happens if you ask:

    a) an anglo federalist
    b) an anglo fence-sitter
    c) a recent immigrant (english 2nd language)
    d) a recent immigrant (french 2nd language)
    e) a francophone fence-sitter
    f) a francophone separatist

    what does: “je me souviens” mean? curious that the explanation you linked to goes out of its way to essentially say: “we remember all of our history.” but certainly it’s interpreted differently by different groups. in the anglo world it’s seen as i described it … which may be a total misreading, but at least reflects what one group reads it as – an official statement on every license plate that anglos will not be forgiven. which again, could be wrong.

    regardless, quebec is this really fascinating political story: a place that got completely transformed in 35-odd years, with a complete shift in power from one group to another. not a drop of blood, all done politically, and for the most part successfully.

    My impression is that Quebec has been successful in that transformation phase, but hasn’t really started to ask, “Now What?” yet.

    The world of 1970 Quebec is nothing like the world of 2007 … but it seems politics were stuck forever in an old dynamic. Lib-PQ-Lib-PQ…etc. I don’t like ADQ, but at least the last election bashed some of the existing structures, which I think is a good thing.

    Now Quebec needs to ask: what are we to become? Not just quebec has changed, the world too is a very different place. i guess because I live on the net, i believe the net is in the process of really changing the world. the connected world anyway. Quebec – because it is small and potentially nimble – could take a lead here, certainly in Canada, probably in the world. will we? how will we deal with the 21st century? lets ask these questions instead of parroting on as the “leaders” did in the last election.

    There’s a problem there – worthy of a whole other post – in that English grows in importance with the growth of the net. This is something francophone quebec will have to come to terms with one way or another.

    for instance, the last democamp happened (almost) entirely in English…I don’t know quite what to think of that, but it is significant, and potentially problematic. What does it mean? Is it bad? Good? Neither? Does it impact the anglos? the francos? … I don’t know.

    Anyway … all this to say, I think it is time that we considered looking to the future rather than focusing on the past.

    so: tentative suggestion to replace “je me souviens” … “et, alors, qu’est ce qu’on fait maintenant?”

  11. matt matt 2007-04-18

    There’s an NFB doc on this subject:

    Je Me Souviens: A License to Remember

    A License to Remember: Je me souviens
    2002, 51 min 02 s

    Quebec license plates don’t sport cutesy tourist slogans like “Canada’s Ocean Playground” or “Land of Living Skies.” Instead, they draw attention to the past with “Je me souviens” (“I remember”)–a motto that cuts to the heart of Quebec history and society.
    To find out just what “Je me souviens” means to Quebecers, director Thierry Le Brun sets off across the province, license plate in hand. He rides a dog sled, goes ice fishing, visits an emu farm, joins the Carifiesta celebrations and even gets pulled over by the cops. In the process, he meets a cast of characters–both famous and unknown–with wildly differing views on the provincial motto.
    Over the course of this illuminating, entertaining and funny documentary, “Je me souviens” becomes a Rorschach ink blot into which Quebecers peer, each bringing their own interpretation. In the process, they can also see each other in a new way, and come to understand the concerns of the many communities that make up their land.

    Also available in French
    Un certain souvenir

  12. Hugh Hugh 2007-04-18

    matt, i presume that’s available on the NFB’s online archive for free right? or is it on youtube or something??


  13. Hugh Hugh 2007-04-18

    UPDATE: Hey! They got it on… it’s zipped!:

  14. zura zura 2007-04-18

    Yep, you’ve got my vote, too. :)

    As for our motto, I never really gave much thought to “Je me souviens”, but I really am not an advocate of living in the pain of the past. I remember when our license plates said “Le belle province”, but I suppose I’d be more inclined to having something pro-active as well as positive, and yet not as overly dramatic as say New Hampshire’s “Live free or die”.

  15. Justin Justin 2007-04-18

    “Somewhere between ‘Live Free or Die’ and ‘Famous Potatoes’ the truth lies”

    – George Carlin

    (Famous Potatoes is Idaho)

  16. Stéphane Z. Stéphane Z. 2007-04-21

    One of the many interpretation that I heard for the motto is something like « Je me souviens que né sous le lys, je croîs sous la rose ». Even if it’s not official (in the sense that the government of Qc can’t put that on his website) many people, both anglo & franco see it this way.

    And the motto is frenquently used by people to express their anger (for example “Je me souviendrai des OGM” of Greenpeace I think to ask for GM being notified and “Je me souviendrai des fusions forcées”. That’s the kind of usage that make the Québec motto such a negatif and backward thing.

  17. Evan Prodromou Evan Prodromou 2007-05-04

    My understanding of “Je me souviens” is that it was Taché’s family motto, which he lent to the Parliament building that was his personal masterpiece. The apparent meaning of the family motto was, “I remember my friends”; that is, if you’ve been a friend to the Tachés in the past you’re going to be treated right by Tachés in the future.

    Je ne suis pas bien attaché aux Tachés, but I figure that’s an excellent sentiment that perhaps Québec should start owning more. We’ve got an strong, secure society that takes care of its own, but there are still some glaring holes that need to be filled. Is Québec remembering its friends among the First Peoples? Its friends in its diverse and multiethnic communities? Its friend in Mother Nature?

    Anyways, there’s a lot embedded in that ambiguous motto. It’s probably worth remembering, lest we forget.

  18. Krash Coarse Krash Coarse 2008-01-27

    Hugh, would you seriously consider running somewhere I could vote for you? Like independent for comté de Bellefeuille? Reading this post has been the best 5 minutes I’ve spent politically in years…

  19. Hugh Hugh 2008-01-27

    @krashcoarse: ha! thanks …

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