1. Tell us what your film L’Illusion Tranquille was about? What inspired you to make it?
The Quiet Illusion challenges many of Quebec’s sacred cows: the “sacrosanct” Quebec model, powerful trade unions, costly and inefficient universal social programs, state monopolies, etc. The main conclusion of the film is as follows: “We knew that the Quebec model was costly and inefficient. Now we know that, contrary to the magical thinking propaganda, it does not deliver in terms of social justice.” Worst of all, the Quebec model is based on intergenerational injustice. It is this injustice that inspired me to make this film.
2. When you made the film, there was opposition from within Quebec to what you had said in it. Why do you think that is and what did that say about Quebec society at the time?
Quebec’s elites (government, media, left-wingers) pride themselves on being “different” from the rest of Canada and from the “neoliberal” United States. Their identity is based on this difference. They assume that Quebec is a more just society. The film demonstrates that it is far from being the case. Our social programs help the rich much more than the poor and are paid for either by the ROC or by future generations. (See, for example, Barbara Kay’s article or Henry Aubin’s article or Graeme Hamilton’s article.
3. Looking back, how would you assess the impact of your film on Quebec society?
I would like to believe that the more immediate impact was a boost for Mario Dumont’s ADQ in 2007 where his party became the Official Opposition Party in Quebec in Charest’s 2008 minority government. I guess also that I was one of the first voices that expressed the Quebecers had had enough of the sovereigntist-federalist debate. It was urgent to question our socio-economic model and resolve problems that were of our own making. In the following couple of weeks of the film’s launch, I received 3,000 emails of Quebecers mainly saying the same thing. “I am not alone”, “You expressed exactly what I think since many, many years”, “Thank you, thank you, thank you”. Whereas the film was supposed to be in a theatre for two weeks, it was there six weeks before Christmas and it came back six weeks after Christmas. People applauded at the end of viewings. Even Radio-Canada had us on every talk show they had.
4. What has changed since? Do you think Quebec still has many of the problems you identified in your film?
Not much, if anything [has changed]. We are still “tweaking” the system whereas the main question is still being eluded: “What is the role of government?” Unions are still co-governing the province, government intervention is still at its highest (especially since the latest recession), debt has almost doubled since Jean Charest’s arrival in 2003. In summary, Quebec is still the most fiscally irresponsible province of Canada.
5. As a director, what role do you see films and documentaries playing in the smaller government movement?
I think that the film played a major role in not only networking people that share the same views but in educating the mainstream media that such ideas exist. Think tanks do a great job but they tend to talk among themselves. Studies, books and research articles have their limits. Quite frankly, very few people read them and fewer people relay them to the greater public. What is needed the most, I think, are people that can relay these ideas and network people. That is the reason why I co-founded the Réseau Liberté Québec in 2010, a sort of Quebec Manning Centre for Building Democracy, if you will. Radio, film and blogs, as I see it, are the most efficient ways to communicate “small government” ideas.
By the way, next November 8th, exactly 5 years after launching L’Illusion tranquille, I launched my new book Pour en finir avec le governemaman. I hope, as the film did, it will serve as another visit card so that I may continue sharing small-c fiscally responsible conservatism in Quebec.
6. Many saw the Mario Dumont’s ADQ as the hope for smaller government in Quebec. What, in your view, happened that led to the failure of that party?
Mario Dumont abandoned his base when his party was the Official Opposition. The following election, 700 000 people that had voted for his party in 2007 did not vote in 2008. That is the main reason.
7. The ADQ generally avoided moral issues, but do you see any role for social conservatism within Quebec?
If “social conservatism” means revisiting abortion rights, the death penalty or reintroducing religion in state affairs, the answer is a resounding NO. Having said that, Quebecers are really worried about the impact of multiculturalism. Many of us are worried that our Western values are being shaken by the religious agendas of some of the newcomers. Equality between men and women, free press and opinion, and the separation of church and state must and should be defended at all costs.
8. What does the NDP victory say about Quebec and the prominence of conservatism?
Absolutely nothing. I am convinced that the NDP vote was simply a way to get rid of the Bloc Quebecois. I also think that Quebecers will get rid of the Parti Quebecois in the next provincial election and that the Liberal Party will be reduced to its few seats in Montreal. Sometimes, to get somewhere, you cannot do it in one step. This year’s federal election was, I hope, a first step in abandoning the federalist-sovereignist discussion and opting for a left-right debate in Quebec.
9. What are your thoughts on Francois Legault’s new political movement?
Personally, I think that the NDP sweep will be followed by a Legault sweep in Quebec. I think that Quebecers will repeat what happened last May 2nd. They will want to get rid of the Parti Quebecois and give Jean Charest a lesson. By the way, a recent survey in La Presse says exactly that. If elections were held today, Legault’s group allied with the ADQ would give them 48%. Legault alone gets 39%!
In both of these instances, I think that people did not and will not care what parties and people stand for. All they want is a change of government. They still do not really want a change in politics since a real change would require a great deal of lucidity and sacrifice.
Having said that, I believe that François Legault is a strong supporter of the socialist Quebec model. He is a “Quebec Inc.” sort of guy and revels in social and economic government intervention. Legault is a pure product of the Quebec model. Coming from the PQ, he is an interventionist in social and economic matters. Nowhere in his platform does he attack public spending. When he cuts one place, he redistributes somewhere else.
In economic matters, he is a firm believer of using the Caisse de dépôt et de placement du Québec as a nationalist tool: to invest in Quebec companies, that sort of thing. Also, there will be no cuts in company subsidies (when Quebec subsidies companies at a level equivalent to the rest of all the Canadian provinces!).
10. Is there any hope for Harper in Quebec?
I think so but there needs to be courageous and credible people to promote small-c conservative ideas. And Quebecers also need to be reassured that social conservatism is not on the PC’s agenda.
What everybody respects, though, is a leader that does what he says and in this case, Harper delivers.
In the next four years, the Réseau Liberté-Québec could play a role in this sense. Networking small-c conservatives from the ground up is one of our goals. In both of our events (October 2010 and April 2011), more than 450 people came. Speakers like Ezra Levant and Danielle Smith were greatly appreciated. Maybe Mr. Harper would find it interesting to come at our next event in April 2011 in Lévis, who knows?
11. Do you think the current economic crisis enveloping Europe and the United States will help convince Quebecers that their fiscal model is unsustainable?
No. If change is to come, the crisis needs to be much closer and it needs to affect their lives. Moreover, I do think that Quebecers are much more aware that their fiscal model is unsustainable. The thing is, they, as the rest of Westerners, are not ready to pay the price of reforms.
12. What, in your view, will it take to wake Quebecers up and convince them that their model is heading for catastrophe?
As I said, I think that Quebecers are more and more aware that the Quebec model is outdated. Unfortunately, not only Quebecers are not ready to pay the price of reforms, but also there is no political leadership courageous enough to convince people that the time has come to do something about it. In the end, reforms will have to be made and the more we wait, the more severe they will be.
Right now, as we see everywhere in Western and indebted countries, people blame everybody but themselves: banks, capitalism, neoliberalism, individualism, governments, etc. Curiously it is the same people that have asked governments to intervene time and time again in social and economic matters.
13. What are your future plans?
On November 8th, exactly 5 years after my documentary, I launched the sequel of The Quiet Illusion in the form on an essay. The 200-page book goes further in denouncing the Quebec model but explores new aspects of it. A greater emphasis is put on the cultural differences between Quebecers and the ROC or more precisely the English speaking Canadians. The conclusion is that we need more than public policy change or even change in politicians. We need change in our cultural values. Example: encourage entrepreneurship, do away with union values, etc. I also plan to continue to coordinate things at the Réseau Liberté-Québec.