Father Doesn’t Know Best

In the Land of the Blind, Charest Is King

Graphic Paku Daoust-Cloutier

In the perverse macrocosm of “father knows best” that is our culture, we keep listening to the black-suited bureaucrats. In theory, their credentials and experience guide policy-making, but realistically, private interests rule the roost.

The United States’ economic collapse came about because of a number of factors, not least of which is the unquestionable belief in power of logos and business models.

It would be counter-intuitive to think that a banker who deals in mortgages and loans for a living would issue ones that are destined to fail.

While religious-types may laud the virtues of blind faith, society at large seems to have embraced it in their dealings with corporations and governments.

Canada is not immune to modern symbols of authority; if a policy is spun the right way and delivered by the right group of people, it is easy to believe—comfortable, even.

But believing that those who lord over us can see the big picture and have our best interests at heart is on par with children believing in Santa Claus.

In Quebec, the easy logic that our tuition needs to go up is appealing because of the template set by governments around us. Ignorance is equated with bliss for a reason.

For those who can juggle the demands of a 21st century life and find themselves needing a challenge, looking behind the curtain more than tests their limits. But many prefer to let the people who stand behind podiums, in front of flashbulbs and beside corporate leaders tell them what’s happening.

We’re a society of baby birds waiting for momma to chew the worm first, because we’re tired, we’re busy and isn’t it their job, anyway?

So when someone whose job it is to know certain issues inside-out says we are headed towards financial ruin because students aren’t shelling out enough cash—someone like Minister of Education Line Beauchamp or Premier Jean Charest—the knee-jerk reaction is to listen.

We’re a society of baby birds waiting for momma to chew the worm first, because we’re tired, we’re busy and isn’t it their job, anyway?

But right now, the curtains seem to be fluttering uncontrollably.

When Charest’s government took over in 2003, it promised to cut down on Quebec’s bloated public service departments. But instead of there being a reduction in the 275 government entities he inherited from the Parti Quebecois, he nearly doubled them.

So Quebec Finance Minister Raymond Bachand is trying to solve government overspending by charging the population more.

The most recent increase came from Quebec’s sales tax going up one per cent to 9.5 per cent in January.

La Presse reported that Quebec universities spent $80 million in five years on advertising.

Do hospitals advertise? Does the fire department advertise? Advertising a public service is pure budgetary farce, and it makes clear the truth—universities have become businesses.

They don’t seem to be run according to business logic; however. Concordia shelled out $3.1 million in severance packages for six departing employees over the last few years.

It seems like the Board of Governors thinks the university’s coffers are full of Monopoly money.

From the eye of this mess it’s hard to tell what’s more disconcerting—that our school system seems to be run by a pauper who thinks he’s Richie Rich, or that Charest’s Liberals have made this federalist anglo Quebecer start considering voting Parti Quebecois in 2013.