Florence Nightingale - from the Pictorial Encyclopædia, Samson Low Marston & Co., Ltd (date of publication not marked) super-imposed on the Fleur du Lys

The Catharsis of Nurses
July 6 1999


"Mr. Bouchard's problem is that the nurses are not common criminals. Perhaps it is a just irony. Nurses take care of us when we are sick. Indeed perhaps their actions, although illegal, will bring about the necessary and final catharsis for the Quebec society so that Quebec can move forward in a new way."

On July 5, the Montreal Gazette published an op-ed piece titled "Defending the indefensible" by Richard Le Hir. Although it is interesting to read a former party member and cabinet minister who has looked in the mirror and doesn't like what he sees, the article is no doubt lost on most of the Gazette readership who have known for years what Mr. Le Hir has recently found the courage to step out of line and express.

However, it does take great courage to step out of line as Mr. Le Hir has done and he should be commended. Other french canadian leaders who have been uneasy with the governance of Quebec should take his cue and step forward now. There are many who have not spoken out for years out of fear of being isolated and shunned by their own community.

However, the real problem for Mr. Le Hir is that he is preaching to the wrong constituency.

The message should not be in the Gazette but in Le Devoir, La Press,Le Soleil and Le Journal de Montréal for starters. He should be on every TV show and newsprogram across the province.

Although we occasionally read of some positive developments about Montreal, we all know that the real situation continues to deteriorate here and the nurses' strike is just one more sympton that things are not working.

Indeed, one might say it is criminal for conditions to have been allowed to deteriorate to the point at which a stabbing victim must wait 40 minutes for an ambulance in a major metropolitan area in Canada as happened this weekend in Montreal.

The Gazette today ends their lead editorial with the following: "The deterioration of Quebec's economy and public services is admittedly a high price to pay for national unity. But it is what comes of expecting good government from a separatist party - a lesson becoming clearer by the week." - Montreal Gazette July 6, 1999.

The stabbing victim died. It is more than a high price. It's a disgrace.

Mr. Le Hir says the "future of Quebec society depends on a thorough revision of this so-called model (modèle québécois), whatever Mr. Bouchard may think." Indeed what Mr. Le Hir should have added was that the future of Quebec society rests with the majority in Quebec and no one else. No one else is to blame for the current situation and no one else can correct it. Quebeckers have been maîtres chez-nous for a long time and a good look in the mirror as Mr. Le Hir has had the courage to do is in order.

While the anglophones and allophones can stand by and agitate in an essentially unproductive way and sometimes create a discomfort for the state fundamentalists, we cannot ourselves bring change. It is the majority in Quebec who must decide which path they wish for the future. Unfortunately, we are only powerless bystanders as no matter how many times we trudge to the ballot box and vote against what we see as a march down an irrational path and a wasteful governance that has gone on now for far too long, we are not the majority. It is only when the majority say "enough is enough" that change will come.

The majority who can make the difference must themselves wake up and realize that they alone are responsible for the government and governance we have.

That is Le Hir's message. It should get broad exposure.

In business poor management is rarely tolerated for long, simply because market forces will be brought into play and the company will either go out of business or change. Usually the board of directors act to engage a new management before the shareholders actually have to throw the board out and do the job themselves.

However, poor government seems far more difficult to change. In fact, poor government develops an intransigence of its own that can often only be changed by complete collapse.

The crowd that was cheering is now screaming and angry. Former acolytes like Le Hir and journalists are singing a different tune. The hollowness of the so-called Quebec model is pretty self evident now. No one need embellish on Mr. Le Hir's very adequate list.

As any former politician can tell you, when the crowd gets ugly it can turn in a minute . The Quebec people are stressed over their concerns for their health care and their future which appears more and more like a Third World existence. While all of us are concerned for, and recognize the necessity of, responsible social behaviour and while we recognize that wholesale disregard of the laws of Quebec cannot be tolerated, is it not always a sign of the final illegitimacy of governments across the world when large sections of the populace rise up and say enough and are prepared to break the law?

At this juncture either a government must forcibly repress or seek a confirmation of its legitimacy.

Mr. Bouchard's problem is that the nurses are not common criminals. Perhaps it is a just and fitting irony. Nurses are there to take care of us when we are sick. Indeed perhaps their actions, although illegal, will bring about the necessary and final catharsis for the Quebec society so that Quebec can move forward in a new way.

Let us hope the majority of Quebeckers finally see what Mr. Le Hir sees.

Although we can scarcely afford it either financially or emotionally, it is time for an election. It is the only solution to avoid repression and a fast developing anarchy in Quebec. The people must demand that the major parties outline in their election platforms exactly how they intend to handle the pressing public sector labor issues. Taxation and separation must be addressed with great clarity.

Ontario's example is there to follow. Tempus fugit.

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