Reading the online comments, attached to the articles discussing the story, one would expect the majority of reader opinions to echo the professionals and defend their beloved province, but surprisingly, or perhaps not surprisingly at all, such was not the case.
Quebeckers remain deeply humiliated by the allegations made by the magazine because most know the charges to be true.
Whether Quebec is the most corrupt province in Canada is largely beside the point, that it is perceived by almost all Quebeckers as extremely corrupt, is entirely the issue.
Quebeckers didn't need the magazine to remind them that corruption is a problem in Quebec, we already knew.
It's more than likely that the article itself was borne from the growing public debate and outrage that has gripped the province over corruption. The issue has become the number one political topic and has far eclipsed even that of sovereignty.
Perhaps the greatest failing of the Maclean's article was to ignore the ongoing public reaction in Quebec and so leave the impression that it is business as usual.
It is most certainly not!
Quebeckers across all political stripes have been howling for a cleanup. Most believe that Premier Charest's refusal to call an inquiry into the construction industry, perceived by the public to be the most corrupt and corrupting element in Quebec society, is evidence that he and his party have a lot to hide. His calling of an inquiry over the lessor issue of whether undue political influence was brought to bear in the naming of judges was seen as a diversion and even that hasn't worked out that well. While Marc Bellemare, the ex-justice minister who made the allegations of interference, hasn't made a great case for himself, the exposure of the inner machinations of the political party system, it's fundraisers and their influence, even legal, has left a decidedly sour taste in the public's mind.
Corruption has always been around, but it remained hidden from the public under a layer of secrecy, worthy of the mob code of secrecy - 'Omerta'
That all changed drastically one day, two years ago, in May, 2008, when Frank Zampino, the City of Montreal's number two elected official and boss of its finances, resigned rather hastily. LINK
I remember the press conference distinctly because it was the germ that led to me start this blog.
I remarked to my wife how surprised I was that all the reporters attending the news conference, were falling for Mr. Zampino's story that he was retiring to look for new challenges and that he didn't have anything lined up. Not one reporter challenged him.
All this led to the exposure of the 'Water Meter' scandal, whereby it is alleged that Zampino facilitated a bid by an Accurso consortium to supply hundreds of millions of dollars of water meters to the city of Montreal. That contract was eventually cancelled amid cries of corruption.
It's been downhill since then.
Reporters finally started doing their jobs and the long hand of corruption was exposed at almost every level of government.
It was quite a shocker!
Eric Duhame wrote in the National Post about the dubious connection between unions, politicians and the underworld;
All these public revelations, as well as the Maclean's article. have contributed to the impression that Quebeckers are more dishonest than other Canadians, a perception that despite the prima facie evidence, I contend is not true.
I shall write about that in another post, but if you visit Quebec and get stopped by a cop for speeding, I wouldn't recommend offering him a bribe. You'll be sadly surprised at his reaction and might even find yourself behind bars.