Martine St-Victor: What Quebec's Top 100 list says about us

Article content

L’actualité magazine is to Quebec what Maclean’s is to the rest of Canada. Last week, it released its list of the most influential people in the province, a recent tradition surely inspired by the one Time magazine established 25 years ago. 

The magazine explained that the people featured on the list enjoy an influence that transcends their respective environment and extends to the entire population. This influence has to be exercised in Quebec, L’actualité wrote.

Article content

Unsurprisingly, Premier François Legault tops the list. He’s followed by Health Minister Christian Dubé, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon, with Hydro-Québec CEO Michael Sabia coming in at No. 5.

Your eyes aren’t deceiving you. There are many elected officials in there. Out of 100 people, 21 come from politics, 20 are from the world of culture and 17 are from the media. 

The bottom five on the list of 100 most influential people in Quebec are Martin Munger, executive director of Food Banks of Quebec, Université de Sherbrooke Prof. Luc Godbout, rocket scientist Farah Alibay, political analyst Chantal Hébert, media pundit Richard Martineau and bookending the list, at No. 100, is TV producer and host Julie Snyder.

Upon its release, the list unleashed a tsunami of criticism because of its lack of diversity. There is not one Black person, for example. But diversity should also be reflected in age groups and gender. Only eight are in their 30s, 42 are in their 50s and five are over 70 years old. As for gender parity? Sixty-six of the province’s most influential people, according to L’actualité, are men, 33 are women and one of the entries is a couple.

Article content

L’actualité addressed the controversy by saying the exercise did not consist of drawing up a wish list of who should have influence; rather, it lists those who have it at this moment in history, in the most objective manner possible. The mise-au-point is important. But beyond the people named, the industries they hail from give us a temperature check on what moves the needle in Quebec — from climate to unionism, from artificial intelligence (an area where the province shines) to the art (and business) of living (Ricardo chimed in at No. 28.)

Lack of diversity aside, it’s quite a wonder that no university president is featured on the list. 

Forty thousand students attend McGill University, and 50,000 go to Concordia. At the Université de Montréal, the number reaches almost 70,000. With these numbers, it’s not far-fetched to say that McGill’s Deep Saini, Concordia’s Graham Carr and UdeM’s Daniel Jutras are heads of small states within the province. Beyond their academic influence, these bustling microstates have considerable economic, cultural and social importance. That matters. Their absence could be a sad indication that education might not be a priority in our province, and thought leadership might not be as appreciated as it should be.

What a shame. Influence is important, but so is trust. In Canada, it’s reassuring that again this year, the most trusted traditional leaders are scientists and teachers. We should thus hear and see them more, particularly when universities are sounding the alarm on the consequences of lack of funding, reduced accessibility to students and projected lost revenue.

As imperfect as it may seem, L’actualité’s list is important to understand where we are. The conversations it has sparked are signs there’s still work to be done and that we expect more of both who should represent us and who we want to be. That’s progress. 

Martine St-Victor is the general manager of Edelman Montreal and a media commentator. Instagram and X @martinemontreal

Recommended from Editorial

Share this article in your social network