The controversy surrounding the now cancelled donations to the private schools has opened up a can of worms that has sent shock waves around Quebec's francophone arts community.
Hydro-Quebec's donation policy has come under the loupe and many are questioning the legitimacy of a provincially owned monopoly doling out money without public oversight.
While Mr. Vandal seems to have survived his attempt to steer money to his alma mater, the question of Hydro-Quebec donating to the arts has become an open question.
Shocked by the direction of the debate, leading francophone editorialists are flocking to the defence of the program whereby Hydro-Quebec shells out money to it's favorite festivals, theatres and arts programs.
By the way don't bother asking Hydro-Quebec for dough if your name is Clark, Cohen, Collevechi, Costas, Hadid or Chong. This money is meant to support 'real' Quebec culture and education.
Here's some of Hydro's biggest beneficiaries;
OSM ($600 000 )Here's an example of what Hydro-donates to in the Sagenuay region;
le Musée Pointe-à-Callières ($400 000 )
le festival Montréal en lumière,($900 000 )
Les Grands Ballets canadiens ($70 000)
l'Opéra de Montréal ($42 500 ),
le Moulin à images de Robert Lepage ($250 000)
Festival du cinéma international en Abitibi-Témiscamingue ($60 000),
Fondation de ma vie (Hôpital de Chicoutimi): $476 500Of course all these beneficiaries of Hydro largess are spurned to action, fearing that the tap will soon be turned off. There hasn't been such a call to action since the Harper government cut off funding to Quebec artists. Maybe we'll have another parade.
Fondation Hôtel-Dieu Alma: $25 000
UQAC (campagne de financement 00-09): $25 000
UQAC (projet Balsac): 25 000 $ Cégep Jonquière Fondation Asselin: $20 000
Dolbeau-Mistassini (comité spectacles): $25 000
Festival international des Rythmes du Monde: $25 000
Orchestre symphonique du Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean: $21 000
Camp musical du Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean: $15 000
Cathédrale de Chicoutimi (concerts d'été): $50 000
Chambres de commerce: $8700
Grands jardins de Normandin: $10 000
Randonnée à vélo Hydro-Québec: $30 000
Traversée internationale du Lac-Saint-Jean: $30 000
The $26 million that Hydro-Quebec has spread around the francophone art community has bought it a lot of defenders.
Former Quebec premier Lucien Bouchard, who is president of the board of directors of the l'Orchestre symphonique de Montréal penned a letter in Saturday's le Devoir which is representative of the type of argument used to defend the program;
"WE NEED THE MONEY!!!"
Things are much more serious for Nathalie Petrowski in La Presse;
"Without the support of Hydro-Quebec, there wouldn't be any culture, not only in Montreal, but across Quebec"...Not everyone in the French press agrees. Richard Martineau in Le Journal de Montreal asks;
"Is it the role of Hydro-Québec to invest $26 million in culture? Don't we already have a minister?There seems to be a chasm between the Francophone inteligensia and the man in the street.
As far as I know, the Minister of Culture doesn't invest in the production of electricty"
When Pierre Duhamel wrote a fatuous defence of Hydro-Quebec in L'Argent, his readers were not amused and the comment section was overwhelming negative. If you read French go over to the article and see for yourself. In fact, most of the comments are better written and make more sense than does Mr. Duhamel's article.
At any rate here is my favorite comment which I have taken the liberty to translate;
1) Every dollar that HQ gives in sponsorship is a dollar less returned as a dividend to the government and a dollar more that needs to be collected in taxes. As the anglos say; "no taxation without representation"...By the way I like the nickname given to Hydro's boss Thierry Vanadal by another commenter- " l'invisible PDG".
2) HQ is a badly run enterprise, wasteful and notoriously inefficient. By the way at least 70% of it's profits come from the sale of electricity from Churchill...
(ed. note - Hydro Quebec re-exports energy produced in Newfoundland because the power lines need to cross Quebec territory to reach markets. Hydro forces Newfoundland to sell it the power at the border for a pittance and makes a huge profit upon it's resale.)
3) HQ is a monopoly and doesn't need to promote it's image in a captive market.
4) HQ is probably one of the coziest havens for unionism on the planet, the average citizen probably has no idea how its employees (and managers) are living large, but they should understand that they help fund these golden pensions while often without a pension fund of their own. Ultimately it is the citizens who are funding these "gifts" to Hydro.
HQ is basically a mediocre enterprise which wasn't always the case, (but is now) which uses our money to brush up it's image. -Pierre Brasseur