Toula Drimonis: Tricks, no treats, from CAQ government

It’s chilling that populist and divisive tactics are distracting from failures in education, health care, housing and the economy.

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I loved horror movies when I was a kid. My parents, concerned the terror would traumatize me, forbade me from watching them. Undaunted, and with all the telltale signs — even at eight — of lifelong stubbornness, l remember sneaking out of my bed late at night, tiptoeing into the living room to watch old ‘60s Vincent Price classics, like House of Usher. They were right. I had nightmares. But my love of being scared half to death has never wavered.

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Lucky for me, there’s lots to be terrified of these days.

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It’s scary that in 2016 wait times across Quebec ERs were among the worst in the Western world, and it’s even scarier that six years later, they’re even longer.

It’s scary that Quebec’s family doctor crisis (as in, you can’t find one) is the worst in the country, and it’s equally scary that the government’s proposed reforms to the health care system are perceived as so alarming that not one, not two, but six former Quebec premiers got together to write an open letter urging them to backtrack.

It’s scary that less than a week after McGill University celebrated its medical school’s No. 1 ranking in Canada by Maclean’s magazine, our provincial government so underestimates what top-notch research and the reputation of our world-renown institutions contribute to Quebec that it’s willing to compromise their success.

It’s scary that despite chronic underfunding of Quebec universities to the tune of billions of dollars and successive governments realizing that attempting to impose higher tuition fees comes with a political cost, our current government thinks the only solution is to propose a game of musical chairs — raising fees for English universities to recoup $110 million, when the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal warns that students attending these same universities (who now run the risk of not coming) contribute about $520 million annually to Montreal’s economy, not including tuition.

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As a registered accountant, surely our premier has mastered math!

It’s scary that we have a minister of the French language who somehow believes that around 33,000 out-of-province and international students (most of which leave anyway, according to him) have the power to “anglicize” a city of close to 2 million. And this, with no proof provided. Just vibes.

It’s scary that a government so unwilling to provide the provisions and investments required to improve French-language acquisition demands that immigrants should miraculously be able to communicate in the French language within six months. Out of a record-breaking $697 million transferred to Quebec by the federal government in 2021-2022 to help the province integrate and teach immigrants French, the Coalition Avenir Québec government spent only 25 per cent of that sum.

It’s scary that the CAQ seems to think it’s cheaper and more politically advantageous to throw Quebec anglophones (and pretty much anyone coming from outside the province who has the misfortune of not speaking French as their mother tongue) under the bus.

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It’s chilling that these populist and highly divisive tactics have successfully distracted from the CAQ’s failures in education, health care, housing and the economy.

It’s scary to build a life here, contribute, and still be reminded almost daily that you’re not the “desired” kind of Quebecer. That your presence here is begrudged, conditional and always — always — a “threat.” Something to contain in every possible way. Like a virus. Viruses are petrifying, right?

It’s scary that sovereigntists believe Quebec could become its own country at “zero cost” and one of the world’s “wealthiest nations.” OK, that’s mostly funny.

If all this sounds a little like dark humour, you’d be right.

The truth is things feel a little scary these days. And it’s not the kind you can just turn off with a remote.

Toula Drimonis is a Montreal journalist and the author of We, the Others: Allophones, Immigrants, and Belonging in Canada. She can be reached on X (formerly Twitter) @toulastake

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