It took a 40 billion dollar disaster to finally convince the government that they needed to hire the best candidate, and not necessarily the best Francophone candidate, to run the CDPQ.
In the past it has been the policy of both the PQ and Liberal governments to hire only Francophones for top jobs at state related enterprises (Hydro Quebec, SAQ etc..)
There'll be much hand-wringing and muttering over the next few days over the decision to hire Michael Sabia, to run the province's pension fund.
It didn't take long for the "Anglo" issue to come up. At the press conference announcing Mr. Sabia's appointment, a reporter couldn't be more blunt. Here's the exchange and a translation below;
REPORTER: The question is directed to Mr. Sabia, but I'd like Mr. Tessier to respond as well. Right now, There are voices being raised, who say that it's a little sad that despite your choice of Montreal as your home for the last sixteen years, that we entrust the Caisse de Dépôt et placement to an Ontarian. How would you respond?Mr. Sabia looks a bit surprised at the question and looked at Mr. Tessier, inviting him to make the response. Mr Tessier responds;
TESSIER: I'll start my response by asking; What is the length of time required to live in Montreal to become a Quebecker? If you have a rule..ugh.....Of course, the reporter is basing his question on a faulty premise, one that he invents as the basis of his question. It is the assumption that you can't be a Quebecker unless you are born in Quebec, a cretinous idea on any level.
He was called out on it by Mr. Tessier, who didn't allow the statement to slide.
The truth is that reporter used the word 'Ontarian' as code for 'Anglophone.' Somehow, questioning Mr. Sabia's roots and defining him as an Ontarian (wrongly) doesn't sound too racist.
Had the circumstances of Mr. Sabia's birth be different, do you think the reporter would have dared to ask the same question?;
Reporter: ...it's a little sad that despite your choice of Montreal as your home for the last sixteen years, that we entrust the Caisse de Dépôt et placement..........to a Haitin.I don't think so, even in Quebec, that would cross the line. However anglo bashing is always acceptable in Quebec, whether the term Anglophone, Ontarian or Canadian is used.......to a Jew
......to an Italian
......to an Arab
Now another complainer who used code instead of the word "Anglophone' was ex-Premier Bernard Landry, who when asked by the RDI network to comment on the appointment, said that;.
"The Caisse needs a leader who has lived his entire life in the socio-economic reality of Quebec"Or in other words .... NOT AN ANGLOPHONE!
The first person to publicly complain about the Anglo factor was Pierre Duhamel, a reporter for "L'Actualite" magazine. In his blog, he says language isn't the issue, but on TV complains that the choice of Mr. Sabia is a wrong not only because Mr. Sabia ran his old company (BCE) poorly, but because he filled the top executive ranks exclusively with anglophones.
The Premier knew that appointment of Mr. Sabia's would be controversial, that's why he used the old political trick of announcing it on a Friday afternoon.
It won't be very long before the nationalist yahoos weigh with their particular take on Mr. Sabia. It's likely that they will attack the appointment, but it will be interesting to see, on what basis.
I shall report on their reactions next week.