Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Three Reasons Why This Anglo Is Thinking About Leaving Quebec: Breach of Trust, Loss of Confidence, Demographics

Truth be told, I have lived in Quebec for the last twenty years.  Last week, not much of a surprise, a poll revealed that about 50% of the anglophone and allophone respondents were thinking about moving out of Quebec.  Too bad I wasn't contacted.  I would have loved to explain why. 
So here goes.

For me, unlike many anglophones living in the Montreal region of Quebec, language is not the problem.  I live in Gatineau. I am fluently bilingual, as is my wife, as are my kids.  Communicating in French is something I do every day without much effort.  It doesn't matter to me in which of the two official languages the communication exchange takes place.

What irks me is something else.  In short, I live in a province where corruption is chronic and widespread, touching all levels of the society.  Second, over the last ten years, the political class has proven themselves to be incredibly inept.  Finally, given the aging population, declining productivity, and a belligerent attitude towards immigrants, in my opinion, the quality of life has peaked in Quebec and the society has entered into a steady period of decline, with little hope for a better future.

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Don't get me wrong.  I love to live where people speak French, but sadly Quebec has lost its appeal.  As I approach my retirement years, I think I would be better off living part of the year in the south of France, and the rest of the year in a small francophone community in eastern Ontario.

Looking back at the last twenty years, I can't help feeling that I have been fleeced.  I have been active politically, only to find that for the last thirty years the elections have been rigged thanks to the illegal funding of the major political parties.  Moreover, I am one of those who is taxed at a marginal rate of almost 50%.  Then I find out through the revelations of the Charbonneau Commission that taxpayers are exploited for an extra 30% over and above the real cost of public works due to the endemic graft in the political system.

It doesn't end there. Not only have we overpaid for the infrastructure, it is literally falling apart. The Olympic Stadium in Montreal is the symbol of the shoddy construction practices in Quebec that were accompanied by huge cost over-runs.  From time to time, parts of it fall off.

Taking a further look around Montreal, one cannot help but notice that the busiest bridge in Canada, the Champlain bridge looks like its about to collapse, the Mercier bridge is even in worse shape, and the Turcot Interchange is falling down, each one requiring a multi-billion dollar investment.

Problem is that Quebec is short on cash.  It has European style social programs but with a very limited tax base. More than fifty percent of the adult population does not pay any income tax.  Without the equalization payments from the federal government, which make up almost twenty percent of the provincial budget, we would be seriously fucked.

To make matters even worse, Quebec's pension plans lost approximately 25% of their value during the financial market crash of 2008.  Having put into place very generous pension benefits for themselves, the boomer generation have stuck subsequent generations with the hefty tab.  Simply put, Quebec's boomers did not make the necessary investments to keep the public infrastructure in good shape, and they did not contribute enough into their pension plans to make them sustainable over the long-term without asking for larger contributions from their children.

As the workforce continues to shrink -- we are only at the beginning of the waves of boomers retiring -- who is going to pick up the slack?  Immigrants?  Why would they settle in Quebec, the highest-taxed region that also has the highest per capita debt in North America, when Ontario and the Western provinces offer much better economic futures and embrace the principle of multi-culturism?

Without question, old stock Quebecers of French origin make up the ruling class in Quebec, but for those of us who have the means to simply move out, why wouldn't we?

Why should my wife and myself pay approximately $100,000 in income taxes (about $20,000 more than what we would pay in Ontario) and have to put up with a third-class health system in the Outaouais, when I can just move across the river to Ottawa, where more than 20% of the Quebec side go when we need health care.

WhyTF would I want to stay here? My vote doesn't count.  My wife already works in Ottawa, and we both have defined benefit, pension plans outside of Quebec.  If the kids were finished high school (only one year to go), we would have already left.

So, don't be fooled by the spin doctors who like to place this all upon a PQ government.  Quebec's problems run much deeper than the nationalist option. 

The cracks in the foundation of Quebec society run as deep as those on the Turcot Interchange.


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