Can anyone today imagine a major Quebec town, possessed of a very large swimming pool, installing a heavy chain to divide it into two parts: one for the boys and one for the girls? This actually occurred in the fifties, and it also meant that neither man and wife nor father and daughter could swim together. A Quebec Rip Van Winkle (or should it be D.C. Bigorneau?) who fell asleep in the fifties, and who woke up today would not believe his ears or his eyes and would probably faint away in stunned surprise.
Forty odd years ago, in that period known as la Grande Noirceur, we didn't have a Liberal Democracy, such as we have today. In those terrible days you could start a business and post a sign outside it, written in any language you chose and in letters as large or small as you wished. There probably weren't many tape measures around and certainly no OLF inspectors. As I recall, there were few grants and subsidies being given to pressure groups or to
Today's state even intrudes into what is surely about as private a matter as could be imagined. Calling your child Lucifer, C'est-un-Ange, Stormy or even the common Spanish name Tomás is not allowed by the Quebec Registrar of Civil Status. Although the latter piece of idiocy was overturned by a judge.
The Times They Are A-Changin'
In that black period we didn't have to pour money into repairing that perpetually crumbling monument in the east end of Montreal. In 1960, the provincial budget was some $600 million or about $100 for every man, woman and child or $400 per family. The present provincial budget is more than 60 times that amount, being some $6000 per person or $24,000 per family. The Quebec budget amount per family is now higher than the income of the average tax-payer ($21,500) and represents more than 47% of the family income of $51,000.
Where does all this money go to? Most of it has been extorted by unions whose support politicians seem to think they need to achieve social peace. A couple of examples may suffice. Many teachers are paid $60,000 a year including fringe benefits for about 1000 hours work a year. Montreal firemen are paid about $70,000 including fringe benefits, for an unknown number of hours. The average citizen is being paid $21,500 for 2000 hours of work, which works out to $10 an hour; not sixty or seventy.
In the 1970's, Quebec's Ministry of Education employed 2000 bureaucrats. Denmark's Ministry of Education, with a similar population at the time, had just 50 bureaucrats, and a better education system. What is today's ratio of bureaucrats to doctors? To nurses, to farmers or to teachers? The questions are endless. In addition, indexed pensions go with these jobs so the costs never really come to an end, even when the bureaucrat is forcibly retired.
The Quebec debt now requires $6 billion a year to be paid out just in interest alone. This is $800 each, or $3200 for a family of four. If voters could just understand what is really happening to the taxes they pay and then find a political party willing to do something about it there might be a slight chance of correcting it. Both the PQ and the Liberals, rarely having had an original idea, just introduce minuscule pay cuts, freezes, buyouts and the like. If such a new party could convince investors that there will be political stability, less regulation and greatly lowered governmental running costs then they might just find themselves leading this province towards a better economic future in the new millennium.
On a positive note, the last forty years has produced at least one growth industry; the booming psychotherapy industry of this province. How else can one explain all those names in the Montreal telephone book? Complexe Desjardins (stressed out gardeners?), Complexe