Insults, accusations, finger-pointing and nasty retorts were just about all we took away from the two-hour slugfest.
Afterwards, the journalists on both sides of the political spectrum discussed who won the debate in terms of who more successfully flung mud and whose barbs and insults had more effect.
It reminded me of a hockey fight where the two players square off and throw a few punches, some landing, some not, where in the end teammates applaud the effort and cheer their gladiator regardless of effect.
I don't know if in high school or college you ever had the experience of attending a student debate, but if you did, the level of debate was certainly higher than what we witnessed yesterday and ideas no doubt, the center of attention. No teacher/moderator would ever let debaters speak the way they did to each other last night or wander off into personal insult territory.
Over the last forty years the sovereignty debate has hung over the province like a permanent toothache, an analogy I use because when one has a serious toothache, there's nothing much else that can occupy one's mind.
Whether you are a federalist or a sovereigntist, I think you'll agree that we haven't seen anything that resembles a rationale attempt by the parties to enter into a real discussion with voters about how Quebec can be set right.
Oh, sure, we've been promised money for this, or money for that, a chicken in every pot by all the parties, a sad attempt to seduce us with our own money.
The promises would be laughable, if not so sad, my favourite being the undertaking by the PQ to make sure every Quebecer had access to a family doctor within two years.
If that was doable, why hasn't the PQ already found a doctor for, say half of the 25% of doctorless Quebecers in the year and a half they've been in office?
But I'm not singling out the PQ for pie-in-the-sky promises, it's been the policy of the Liberals as well to spend money we don't have, on entitlements we can't afford and this in a lame attempt to buy voters' love.
In our comments section, the overwhelming topic of discussion remains sovereignty and the reality is that so overbearing is the issue that most voters will tolerate any incompetent government as long as it is federalist, while the same goes for sovereigntists, who really have no choice but to vote PQ if they desire a sovereigntist government, or at least a non-federalist government.
As I said, the sovereignty issue is a toothache that drowns out all rational political discussion and sadly remains once again, the dominating issue in this election.
I'm often castigated by those who decry the fact that I bitch and moan a lot, without offering any solutions, so I'm going to now offer an election platform of my own, in a effort to spark some discussion and to underline the utter inanity and vapidness of the election platforms offered by our political parties.
The idea behind these suggestions is to point out that real change requires real change, talking about shifting a few dollars here or there can't or won't affect real change.
No. 1 - No Discussion about sovereignty
Some things in life are better left unsaid.
Talking about a pointless and divisive issue serves no purpose. Maybe in the future, but certainly not now.
Discussions about not having a referendum are as pointless and as painful as discussing about having a referendum.
With the equalization debate about to be re-opened, it is self-destructive at this point to annoy the rest of Canada with idle threats and tantrums.
We've now reached the point that support for Quebec sovereignty has sunk to about 38% percent in Quebec and RISEN to about 38% in Canada, the worst case scenario I can think of, not particularly conducive to good relations.
The sovereignty debate reminds me of a caged hamster running on a treadmill, a lot of effort and distraction expended on nothing.
Come to think of it, the lyrics of the old STEELER WHEEL song, Stuck in the Middle With You pretty much describes our situation perfectly
♪ ♫ ♬
Well I don't know why I came here tonight,
I got the feeling that something ain't right,
I'm so scared in case I fall off my chair,
And I'm wondering how I'll get down the stairs,
Clowns to the left of me,
Jokers to the right, here I am,
Stuck in the middle with you.
♪ ♫ ♬
More wordiness? How about this old proverb;
"What the eye doesn't see, the heart doesn't grieve over"
Now to the Nitty-Gritty.
No. 2 - Reserve public daycare for those who need it
Is this the biggest no-brainer of all?
Who of you out there believes that it's okay for a $150,000 plus lawyer to drive up to deliver her child to a public daycare facility while a barista at Tim Hortons can't find a place for her child.
Before we even discuss whether the program is reasonable or desirable, can't we clean it up to make it accessible to those who need it and restrict access to families which can afford other arrangements?
No. 3 - Free University Education
Students only pay about 12-15% of their university education, so making it free isn't a big deal, only about $700 million.
But making education free would be a wonderful opportunity to create a new social contract in education, one where students have to study and where teachers would have to teach...a novel idea in Quebec.
A revamped education system would more than pay for the free tuition and in fact SAVE the government hundreds of millions of dollars money in the long-term. Quebec tried to be different from the rest of North America, but sometimes, the tried a true is the way to go.
- Eliminate cegep and add one year to high school and university. The cegep system is a failed experiment that allows unqualified students to be babysat by unqualified teachers.
- Raise standards, instead of lowering them. The idea that everyone benefits from higher education is absurd. In Quebec, French cegeps are so desperate for students that a high school leaving certificate is no longer required. Just show up and you're in. Of these students 50% drop out in the first year.
- Shrink university sizes. Almost all universities and cegeps in Quebec are just plain too big so they try to fill the benches with unqualified students. Dropping the capacity of the universities by 15% would return competition to the system while saving tons of money. Losing the worst 15% of students would be a financial blessing without sacrificing anything. These students aren't going to pass anyways and are just wasting their time and our money.
- Free tuition is not a free pass. Students would have to qualify by PASSING their courses. A one time charge would be applied in the first year and serve as a deposit for failure. Those who fail classes or drop out would forfeit the money and be required to pony up again if they wished to continue. Sound harsh? The alternative is paying every year. Students benefiting from free tuition could be required to do some community service in their own school or waive that obligation by participating in university extra-curricular activities. The money held in trust could be returned with interest to graduating students who have completed their studies in the allotted time, a pretty nice incentive for success!
- Eliminate the program whereby Quebec taxpayers pay for a reciprocal transfer program between Quebec and francophone countries where foreign students pay local tuition rates. This program is a one-way street with French students studying in Quebec benefiting 10-1 over Quebec students abroad. 25% of the students attending the HEC of the University of Montreal are beneficiaries of this program from France. The program was meant to foster relationships between the Francophonie, but some of these foreign students are going to McGill, all on the taxpayer dime, medicare included! Talk about unintended consequences!
- Courses like Art Appreciation, History, Political Science and Cinema are now mostly the repository of students unable or unwilling to take actual courses that can lead to an job rather than an avocation. I'm not in favour of eliminating these courses, society needs to be well-rounded, but these courses should be reserved for ELITE students who deserve the opportunity to study these subjects. Would you as a taxpayer be in favour of offering violin lessons to talentless layabouts or require them to display an aptitude for the instrument. I'm more than willing to subsidize a student with real talent or determination, someone who is more than likely to use his education to further a career in those esoteric fields.
- Eliminate 'hobby' education. I had a neighbour who went back to school at 55 to become a sociologist and never practiced a day after graduating. The whole thing was an enrichment experience that taxpayers shouldn't be forced to fund. Like hang-gliding or golf, pay for it yourself.
- Control salaries and expenses, while freezing all new building programs. The idea that a university rector is worth $400,000 plus a padded travel and expense account is laughable. Running a university is nothing as compared to a real executive job in the real world where creating money is the trick, not spending it.
No. 4 - Re-vamp Hydro-Quebec and eliminate political interference
With falling prices internationally, Hydro-Quebec is being squeezed between lower demand and diminishing prices.
The very first act would be to stop any expansion of foolish wind power and co-generation projects, AS WELL as closing down all such projects in operation, which lose money every day, every hour and and every minute.
Undertake negotiations with Newfoundland to normalize the situation so that the foolish energy programs put forward by Newfoundland can be replaced by over-capacity from Quebec.
Renegotiating the famous 'swindle' can actually be in Quebec's long-term interest.
No. 5 - No More Jobs for the boys
Rather than have money-losing jobs-for-the-boys projects that create jobs at two or three times the cost of the salary of the employed, the government can move some of it operations to these depressed regions.
We've all called customer service and been greeted by somebody in Bangladesh or India, so why not in the Îles de la Madeleine?
In fact, of the 700,000 people who work for the government, a transfer of just 5% or 35,000 jobs would cure the problem of unemployment in the regions at no cost.
Any paper-pushing department can be moved and the loss of jobs in Quebec city, not nearly as important as the creation of jobs in the boonies.
No. 6 - Do more with less
Freeze government hiring for five years and let the civil-service attrit naturally through retirement. Governments grow because they can, not because they need to. Every single government department should set a five-year target of reducing its size by 10%.
No. 7 - Encourage bigger families
If Quebecers just had more babies, just about ½ a child per family more, Quebec could completely eliminate immigration.
Poof!, No need for the Charter of Values, because Quebec could freeze it's identity as is and this within just one generation!
The money spent on the costly and under-employed immigrants can be returned to families that have three or more children, via a tax break.
That's right, a three or more children home would benefit from a ten or fifteen percent lower tax break, come income tax time.
Special programs could be created that only three-children plus families could benefit from, like making daycare free for them alone.
A big hurdle is affordable and available housing in the big cities that is needed to accommodate larger families, so builders could be required to set aside a certain percentage of new homes or condos or rental apartments with three bedrooms, available only to families with three children and at a rent comparable to a two-bedroom. The rest of the tenants would make up the difference. That's social justice!
I've got plenty of other ideas, but I'll leave them to another post. In the meantime, what are your ideas and what do you think of these.
Wouldn't you like to see these and other ideas debated, ideas that mean real change.
As Joan Rivers said...'Can we talk?'