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Charitable giving, Canada

The figures on charitable giving are out and, as you might expect, Quebecois show themselves to be the most tight fisted among us. I explain it on the basis that this was a society where volunteerism was not welcomed: the Church or the State did it for you. But when I hear about Quebec’s social solidarity, I snort in derision. Quebec is the least sociable; the most atomized, of Canada’s provinces. Charitable giving is the basis of collective but private action. Low chartable giving lead to low levels of private action. Hence the state steps in, and prevents the development of the habits of private giving for collective action. Read Francis Fukuyama’s Trust for further details of how this works out.


Charitable donations — Canada, provinces and territories


Dons de charité — Canada, provinces et territoires
2017 – Donors 2016 to 2017 – Donors 2017 – All Filers 2017 – Charitable donations 2016 to 2017 – Charitable donations 2017 – Median donations
number change in % % thousands of dollars change in % dollars
Canada 5,348,220 -0.9 20.0 9,576,975 7.7 300
Newfoundland and Labrador 73,920 -4.0 17.9 80,970 -1.0 370
Prince Edward Island 24,230 -1.6 21.3 33,685 5.2 440
New Scotland 133 130 -2.2 18.5 198,510 9.1 360
New Brunswick 106,070 -3.6 17.9 150,435 -1.0 340
Quebec 1,219,000 1.0 19.0 900 630 1.7 130
Ontario 2,122,600 -0.6 20.9 4,099,990 5.5 390
Manitoba 219,540 -1.1 23.2 462,295 8.2 450
Saskatchewan 166,980 -3.5 20.6 309 275 -0.5 440
alberta 585 490 -4.4 19.8 1,566,425 9.1 480
British Columbia 687 620 -0.2 19.0 1,758,465 18.9 460
yukon 4,500 -2.4 16.5 7,015 6.0 450
Northwest Territories 3,690 -3.9 12.4 6,205 0.0 400
Nunavut 1,450 -0.7 7.0 3,075 13.5 560
Table 11-10-0130-01 .


Quebec’s refusal to apologize

Legault demands apology for ‘attack’ on Quebec

“Advancing the idea that protecting French is discriminatory, or even racist, is ridiculous,” a furious Legault said at a news conference Friday. “It’s not true we are going to be lectured about this by anyone.

“Regardless of what is said, regardless of what is done in Ottawa, Quebec is a nation, free to protect its language, its values, its powers,” he added, invoking a turn of phrase used by former premier Robert Bourassa after the failure of the Meech Lake constitutional accord.

“I will certainly not apologize for defending our language, our values, our powers,” he said. “It is even my duty to do so as premier of Quebec.”

Am I the only English Canadian who digs Francois Legault’s refusal to back down on Quebec’s legislation barring religious symbols being worn by public servants?

Now I grant you that Legault is somewhat over the top. But as Jonathan Kay has noticed, the French Canadians are proud of being themselves, while English Canadian elite opinion deplores itself and wants to fly the flag at half mast in perpetuity until the Indians forgive us for seeking to educate them in Edwardian-era residential schools. Shame shame!.

Yes the legislation is discriminatory, and the French Canadians have decided that this is necessary for the maintenance of their society. You may consider them wrong in this, and I am likely to agree. But I cannot resist admiration for their unalloyed sense of self and their desire to preserve themselves from the dissolution of multiculturalism.


The real (?) Quebec

The Quebec I see bears almost no relationship to both how Quebec’s political class portrays it, nor to the image that English Canada has of it because of the propaganda of the political class. What I see daily is an industrious society growing crops, driving trucks, making cheese and ice cream, fabricating steel snow plows, logging, cutting granite: in short, a busy and productive place. New cars are everywhere. Steel and wood  buildings are being erected in many places to house the massive amounts of farm equipment needed to cultivate huge farms. Empty lots that had been left undeveloped from the 1970s and 80s are being built on. Activity is everywhere. People are working and prosperous.

Yet none of this activity seems to penetrate the consciousness of the political class. You would think, if you read nothing but the tweets of the Heritage Minister, that Quebec’s biggest obsession is controlling the Internet and subsidizing the arts. You might think that Quebec is obsessed with constitutional issues, if you listened to the Premier.

Perhaps the busy rural Quebec I see is the same as the busy rural Ontario or Saskatchewan where I do not live. Maybe this busy-ness reflects the rural-urban divide. It really does not matter. What I see is a systematic misrepresentation of a place, through its media and political class (same thing really) for reasons that make less and less sense. Psychically and economically, Quebec has left its dreary past behind.


2020 Contractor Survey: Regional View – Quebec - Wood Business


Bill C10 – Internet censorship coming to a site you read

For some time now I have been tweeting and organizing resistance to Bill C-10. This has kept me busy in my personal capacity, as it were, and Dalwhinnie has had to take back seat to my public-facing self.

I have learned or been reminded of several truths in the course of the past few weeks, but first let me tell you about the bill.

There are two modes of communications, legally speaking. On the one hand, there are speech and writing, film production, and others which occur without prior permission from the state. You write what you want and assume responsibility after publication for slander, criminal conspiracy, obscenity, and other legal liabilities. Then there is that creature of the twentieth century, called broadcasting, which requires a licence from the state. You broadcast under conditions established for a particular class of speaker, one who is assumed to be few in number talking to hundreds of thousands who are limited in their choice of “stations”. This was the original rationale for broadcasting regulation,  few-to-many, one way and which used airwaves that interfered with one another unless carefully assigned by central authority.

It will be readily understood that every advance of electronic communications has served to increase the number of stations, from three to seven to thirty to fifty, to the Internet. The internet has exploded the number of speakers into the millions, or tens of millions. With new forms of addressing, such as IPv6, the number of “stations” will be in the trillions.

Despite this, Canadian law still treats the Internet as a form of “broadcasting”, a licensable activity that for thirty years the government had the wisdom not to touch. Previous CRTC decisions had said that regulating the Internet as broadcasting was superfluous and unneeded. These decisions of the CRTC claimed jurisdiction over the Internet but did not exercise it.

Now that restraint has been overthrown. In a search for revenue from web giants, and egged on by the Canadian cultural organizations – the ones who feed on television productions subsidies – the government, led by the Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbault, has plunged recklessly into a gigantic extension of federal authority over communications.

Bill C10, which is a series of amendments to the Broadcasting Act, would treat

  • all websites
  • all user-generated uploads to social media sites

as “broadcasting”, that is, occasions where you could be regulated by the CRTC. The difference is that, in the case of user generated content uploaded to platforms, you would not be the broadcaster, the platform would be the broadcaster. This would outsource government control and censorship to the large platforms, who would act under CRTC or other government regulations.

This website, and all others, commercial, artistic, political, would be treated as broadcasting if they were “predominantly” -word undefined – audio-visual rather than printed in nature. It is not difficult to imagine that by bit count alone, and by inclusion of a few video inserts, a newspaper would become a “broadcaster”, in the same way that a podcaster is now, according to this Bill, a radio station.

It reaches the absurdity of a zoom call among church attendees being considered broadcasting, and subject to federal regulation. Will “balance” in religious programming be imposed on church services? Will the imam share time in the pulpit? If you think this is absurd, you don’t know the CRTC.


The authors of C10 are seeking to jam the internet into the form of broadcasting, rather than make  broadcasting conform to the Internet.

It is readily evident that a large number of issues will remain undecided by the bill itself and that years of hearings and lawsuits will ensue, including challenges to the constitutionality of the bill, on several grounds.

But back to the tweetstorm.

The public debate on this bill took a while to get started, for several reasons. The first is that members of Parliament are not clever lawyers on the whole, and it took them a while to scope out the extent of the government’s ambitions. Both the Bloc Quebecois and the NDP favour large public subsidies to their unionized buddies in the TV production industry. The Liberals favour their own guy and they are not averse to totalitarian controls on the Internet, it seems. That left the Conservatives to slowly appreciate that the Liberals had handed them a major electoral campaign issue if they wanted it. They finally realized what the bill meant to ordinary Canadians. And ordinary Canadians are waking up.

This state of affairs was changed only by professors of communications, like Michael Geist, members of the Internet Society of canada, and former CRTC commissioners such as Peter Menzies, Konrad von Finckensten and Timothy Denton to write op-eds in papers until the latter woke up to the notion that they would become “broadcasters” if this bill passed. Open Media got involed and that meant that the political left started to agitate against it. As one wit said of the left-right alliance on C10: “we want to be able to shout at each other without the state refereeing.”

The ignorance of the press on this issue has been astounding, if you were not already cynical about their capacity to understand issues. They had to be told in black and white what the Act said, and even then they still hesitated to get it.

The opinion battle among the elites has taken place principally on Twitter. Throughout, the motives of those opposed to the Bill have been questioned. Vast conspiracies have been imagined by the proponents of the bill, sponsored by the likes of Google and Facebook. It has not occured to them that people could actually freely spend time opposing the bill because of principled concerns for freedom of speech. If you speak only for money, it comes as a shock that people will speak and write for no money at all.

Not once have the arguments of the opponents of the bill ever been frontally addressed. Not once. The Minister has been reduced to blithering incoherence on several occasions by being asked factual questions about what the Bill plainly says. It is as if he had not read his own bill, or did not understand it. A reasoned defence of the Bill has been missing. It might have been attempted, but was not, largely because to address the issues would be to deal with some real concerns that the bill’s proponents would rather not discuss.

The TV production and other recipients of cultural largesse in Canada have only tweeted their unanimous support for C10. (Canada spens about as much money on cultural subsidies overall as we spend on the Candain navy). The French Canadians, it would appear, have no concerns for freedom of speech, and seem not to understand what English Canadians are going on about. Their confidence in a federal institution, the CRTC, to decide matters of cultural concern to them, appears to be unbounded. We are confidently told by those who feel they understand Quebec that even to raise these concerns with them is a provocation.

Normally a story has a two or three day run. The C10 issue has occupied weeks of media attention, and won’t go away because it constitutes an immense assault upon historic rights of free speech won by revolutions and bloodshed in the 17th and 18th centuries, revolutions that passed French Canada by. It remains to be seen whether the Liberals have handed the Conservatives a winning election issue or not. But if enough people say they will die on this hill, not even the federal Liberals can overcome the resolve of the nation.









Why Quebec drives liberals bonkers

Most English Canadians find aspects of Quebec’s political culture to be tribalist. Here I would like to insinuate a subversive thought. Maybe Quebec is on its way to solving problems of identity and belonging in a way that is direct and effective. Moreover I think its policies are designed to establish a state based on values rather than ethnic identification. In a curious way, Quebec may be handling its problems of declining birthrate by telling people who wish to immigrate that democratic behaviour and attitudes is part of the deal.

Quebec’s decision to impose a values test on immigrants is a sign that intends to ensure that every immigrant is on notice that democratic and peaceful behaviour is expected. Sure, people can cheat on the test. They can fake attitudes they do not have. Any such test is open to guessing the right answer and giving what the immigrant thinks the government wants to hear. But what is so bad about that?

Denmark has tests for immigrants. The United States has tests for immigrants. Moreover, as states move way from unity through ethnic uniformity to unity through shared values, there is no way to escape the question of values. The United States is a country founded on shared values, not shared ethnicity. As other societies move from kinship to common values as the basis of adhesion, they too have to start talking about a language of values, rather than assume belonging through kinship.

And then the old Quebec rears its ugly head. “Bonjour- hi”, which is the practical response to serving the customer in his language, is condemned by politicians. Quebec is open and tolerant, as long as the issue is not about the use of English. The shared values are expected to include a measure of adhesion to the French language. This is the source of English Canada’s eternal disagreement with Quebec, because it does not respect Quebec’s pretensions to control the language of public discourse. Quebec has won every legal battle in its drive to suppress the use of English and, by inevitable consequence, the number of people living in Quebec who identify as English-speaking Quebecers. While Quebec is right to insist on a values test, the language conflict colours English Canada’s interpretation of what Quebec does.

How to create animosity by government fiat

This is a sign found at the entrance to a trail in the Gatineau Park. The entrance to the trail is an hour’s drive away from Ottawa. Few use it, maybe several dozen a weekend. The trail leads into a ski trail and a set of snow shoe trails. They are called “ski” trails because the National Capital Commission occasionally maintains them from falling trees, and repairs bridges across streams. They are called “snowshoe trails” because they scarcely exist except in the minds of dedicated snow-shoers who maintain them by hand. These trails take one into the deep woods and places unseen by the skiers, whose trails more closely approximate narrow highways.

What does this sign mean?

  • You cannot reach the snow shoe trails by means of the common access trail? or
  • You can reach the snow shoe trails but as a snow-shoer you have to create your own path beside the ski trails?

Supposing it means the latter, why create two classes of user of the Park? One class, the skier, has superior rights. Why?

  • Most of the time the snow showers create the path for the skiers by being the first out on the trail after the snow has fallen.
  • Does a skier have the right to push off a snowshoer, or claim priority, for using his ski-trail?
  • Does the skier have the right to claim a trail as a “ski” trail by going over a previously-made snow shoe trail and thus forcing the snowshoer to make a new trail – at great effort I assure you – so that the higher class Brahmin skier can ski without his shadow falling on the unclean Dalit snowshoer?

I can see the logic of keeping the two classes of trail user apart where the NCC grooms the trails mechanically, but where all the effort to make trail is human, and the labour is shared, then I am ready to tell the skiers to go around me if they get stroppy.

95% of those who get rude or aggressive are French Canadian, in case you wonder.

We snow-shoers get to places seen maybe by a score of people a year, we happy few.

Parkman on New France and the French Canadians

With the Peace of Paris (1783) ended the checkered story of New France; a story which would have been a history if faults of constitution and the bigotry and folly of rulers had not dwarfed it to an episode. Yet it is a noteworthy one in both its lights and its shadows: in the disinterested zeal of the founder of Quebec [Champlain], the self-devotion of the early missionary-martyrs, and the daring enterprise of explorers; in the spiritual and temporal vassalage from which the only escape was to the savagery of the wilderness; and in the swarming corruptions which were the natural result  of an attempt to rule, by the absolute hand of a master beyond the Atlantic, a people bereft of every vestige of civil liberty. Civil liberty was given them by the British sword, but the conqueror left their religious system untouched, and through it they have imposed upon themselves a weight of ecclesiastical tutelage that finds few equals in the most Catholic countries of Europe. Such guardianship is not without certain advantages. When faithfully exercised it aids to uphold some of the tamer virtues, if that can be called a virtue which needs the constant presence of a sentinel to keep it from escaping: but it is fatal to mental robustness and moral courage; and if French Canada would fulfil its aspirations it must cease to be one of the most priest-ridden communities of the modern world.

Francis Parkman, writing in 1884, in Montcalm and Wolfe.

While the French Canadians may possibly have exchanged the rule of priests for that of sociologists, environmentalists and new-age gurus, they seem to have escaped the priestly regime that governed until 1960. Indeed so thoroughly have they fled the Church that formerly gave them their self-definition that attendance in Quebec hovers around 2 or 3% of the population.

Highway 13

Much has been made of the fact that, during a recent snow storm,  Highway 13, a major artery running through Montreal, was blocked by two truckers who refused to allow tow-truck drivers to remove the blockage their accident had created. The result was that some 300 citizens had to spend the night in a snow storm in a major urban artery, unable to leave, unable to seek help. The cops claim that they could not reach the blockage so that they could not sort out the truckers who had refused to be towed. The truckers claimed they would not move for reasons related to insurance. And all of Quebec society thinks the government failed to respond adequately that night.

The CBC reports that:

Two trucks were involved in the accident that created the blockage near the Hickmore Street exit of Highway 13 shortly after 6 p.m., he said.

One of the trucks had jackknifed across the southbound lanes, leaving no way for traffic behind it to pass — and leaving police unable to get to the scene immediately.

[QPP Police captain] Lapointe said the truck drivers did not co-operate when authorities tried to tow their vehicles, and they could face criminal charges.

“An investigation is ongoing, in the sense that they did not respect the work of police,” he said.




It interests me that this is one of those issues which has galvanized both the people and the government of Quebec. The Premier of Quebec, Philippe Couillard, has fired managers of the Highway 13 and appointed a senior investigator to find out what went on.

Anyone acquainted with Quebec will know there is a tendency to not cooperate for the general good. The lack of social cohesion should not be mistaken for individualism, however. Quebec is a low-trust society, which resulted  from three hundred years of people being organized from the top-down rather than being allowed or encouraged to organize from the bottom-up. [You are invited to read Francis Fukuyama’s book, Trust, if you want to learn more about the relationship between political centralization and lack of social trust.]

What strikes me as hopeful in this situation has been the unanimous opinion of French Quebec that this was an unacceptable situation, and that something had to be done. The Premier, Philippe Couillard, had to be seen to do something, and did.

Andrew Potter wrote in McLean’s magazine that the incident exposed the profound lack of social cohesion in Quebec. Then he had to pull back some of his statements in the article, by way of a Facebook posting. French Canadians  (should I be careful and say “many French Canadians?”)  reacted with fury at being observed in anything less than favourable light, and many English Quebecers thought his portrait overdrawn.

Yet there remains a good deal of truth in what Potter observed in general about Quebec society. It prides itself on its collective or communitarian impulses, while having the smallest networks of personal friends , the lowest levels of vulunteerism, the lowest levels of charitable giving, and the least trust in public institutions or other people,compared to other Canadian provinces.

More particularly:

What exactly went on in the minds of the two truck drivers who refused to let the tow trucks move them off the highway? Why were the tow truck drivers unable to move the trucks? Were they threatened with lawsuits or with violence? Why could the cops have not walked through the blocked cars to the scene, or driven up the other side of the road and crossed the median on foot? My concern is not with systems that failed, although there was no lack of that, my concern is with humans on the spot who failed.

There are other questions that will be asked and answered about why the Provincial Police could not reach the Ministry of Transport. I do not doubt their importance, but for me the really important question is why two truck drivers were able to cause a major urban highway to be blocked for 12 hours, and no one in authority to straighten them out.

Says Andrew Potter:

And then a serious winter storm hits, and there is social breakdown at every stage. In the end, a few truckers refuse to let the towers move them off the highway, and there’s no one in charge to force them to move. The road is blocked, hundreds of cars are abandoned, and some people spend the entire night in their cars, out of gas with no one coming to help. Forget bowling alone. In this instance, Quebecers were freezing, alone.

I thought the reaction of Quebec society to this minor disaster was telling: it was unanimous that something should be done; that some line had been crossed and that government had to be seen to do something, and actually remedy the problem. Yet it remains extremely sensitive to criticism from outsiders. Its inability – or the inability of a large proportion of its people – to endure honest observations from outsiders is not the symptom of a healthy society.

P.S Andrew Potter has resigned from his position as head of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada (March 23, 2017)