Which one of these covers is more damning?
Now that a little time has passed I was reflecting on the controversy about the Maclean’s cover about Quebec as “The Most Corrupt Province in Canada” and remain amazed at the outcry it generated. It is stunning that Parliament took time out to condemn the cover. I don’t say this because I think the article is true. Let’s face it, Canada really isn’t that corrupt. In 2009 Transparency International ranked us as tied for 8th as the least corrupt country in the world. What is more interesting is that so many people felt it was in their interests to take seriously (or exploit) what was obvious link bait.
Indeed what made the outcry all the more fascinating was the a mere 2 years earlier Maclean’s called BC a “World Crime Superpower” and that elicited no response. No outcry from parliament… no screams of protest… Again, in the grand scheme of things claiming BC us a World Crime Superpower on par with countries like say Mexico, Afghanistan and Colombia feels, like a stretch. (Although the economic impact on BC of California decriminalization marijuana is fascinating topic)
Lots of reasons can account for the difference. Part of it may be that BCers frankly don’t care what the rest of the country – not to mention Maclean’s – think. It’s also possible the BCers have less of a sense of common identity – especially one sensitive to how the central Canada describes it. It may also be a reflection of how political power doesn’t always flow with demographics or even opportunity. Today there are few seats to be won in Quebec – the bloc is entrenched and unlikely to move. making a big stink probably isn’t going to change one’s fortunes. In contrast, in BC, vast swaths of the province are up for grabs for all the parties (save the Bloc) – defending the honour of BC might actually yield something. And then, of course, all the parties may not be interested in condemning the Superpower of Crime label – a real, or imagined – creates a mega-crime menace in BC that would play well with a party interested in finding kingpins to fill the empty prisons it plans to build. Perhaps not coming to BCs defense is the shrewd move for some (although one is left wondering, where were the others?).
I think what is most interesting though is that it suggests that for all of the past challenges Quebec has had regarding being in Canada, it is an activist member of the dominion, both in its politics and in its populace. Quebecers seem to care what the rest of the country thinks and they’ll sharpen their elbows and let themselves be heard if necessary. In short, they’ll play in the game. BC has never cared to separate, but sometimes it feels like the province the least part of the dominion. Federal politics don’t get much play in BC, its provincial politicians rarely play the federal game (well) and its population is usually oblivious to what goes on east of the Rockies. Hence the irony of a province that has at times wanted out still cares so much, and a province that defined the country by asking to come in, cares so little.
Or maybe it’s just all a fun note about the fun country we live in and how old stereotypes sometimes send us into a tizzy… and sometimes not.