“Montréal! Tu n’es qu’une salope
Et tu manipules le jeu”
— Xavier Caféine
There was once a legend, concocted deep in the countryside of Quebec and recited to little children to keep them in their beds at night. As the legend would have it, one day the entire Island of Montreal would sink beneath the waters of the Saint-Lawrence River and be gone. Suspicion of the city ran deep: ours was the realm of decadence and deviance and such sinful liberties that was inevitable that it would be struck down. This story was told at least up until the 1960s. Perhaps it still is.
But lately the stories about Montreal have slipped from the realm of legends to the rhetoric of politicians. The Conservative Party of Canada, perhaps motivated by a “divide and conquer” mentality, seems to be reinforcing – if not re-inventing – tensions between urban and rural voters in Quebec.
The party has been running brutal campaigns against all their opponents, but their TV smear campaign against Bloc Québecois leader Gilles Duceppe hinges on his being “trop Montréalais” – too much of a Montrealer.
I don’t mean to discount the importance of rural areas in maintaining the economy, sustainability, diversity and vitality of Canada, but the tagline “notre région au pouvoir” seems to stray a little from their English slogan, “we’re all in this together.”
Meanwhile, Daniel Petit, a Conservative MPs elected in the rural Charlboug-Haute-Saint-Charles region, recently pulled a bizarre attack on the Plateau Mont-Royal: «Lutter contre la criminalité et assurer la sécurité de nos enfants dans toutes les régions du Québec est notre priorité. Malheureusement, cette priorité n’est pas celle du Bloc et des gauchistes du Plateau Mont-Royal», he said (reported in La Presse).
The Conservative MP’s brash assertion that children’s safety is not a priority shared by Plateau-dwellers is clearly unfounded. The same week, 400 Plateau parents petitioned to improve safety measures around Laurier elementary school after several children were injured by automobiles. The “leftist” Projet Montréal borough council responded with traffic calming measures.
But even unfounded, this political story-telling is scary. It scares me to realize that the government of my country has so blatantly forsaken the people of my city. It saddens me that this government is willing to play off of deep-set prejudices for their own political gains rather than working to represent all of their citizens. And it disturbs me that discrimination between urban and rural Canadians is still, somehow, politically correct.