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By Philip Authier, The Montreal Gazette, September 26, 2016


Quebec anglos creative, fun and distinct, book says

The one thing uniting Quebecers is no surprise, the book says. A whopping 94 per cent of Quebecers of all stripes root for the Montreal Canadiens. Only 58 per cent of Ontarians cheer for the Maple Leafs.

When it comes to living in Quebec, anglophones pick and choose from the buffet, a new book argues.

They’ll indulge in the joie de vivre their francophone neighbours cherish — which includes more belly laughs and going out more than Canadians in other provinces — but they’ll take a pass on the dressing when it comes to lavish spending.

Anglos are attached to having a good job and financial security, but they also want to be creative and happy — attributes the francos already have, which have leaped over the language fence over the years.

In fact, compared to the old days when some anglophones feared the new linguistic reality around them, today “they try and take the best from both worlds,” the authors of a new book on the Quebec DNA, Cracking the Quebec Code, say.

“Anglo Quebecers form a distinct society unto themselves,” the book published Tuesday says. “They’re the only anglophones in Canada who go to the dépanneur instead of the convenience store and take the métro instead of the subway. But don’t tell anglo Quebecers they are a distinct society because it will remind them of the failure of the Meech Lake (constitutional) Accord.”

Three years in the making and co-written by respected pollster Jean-Marc Léger and two other experts, Jacques Nantel and Pierre Duhamel, the book says if Quebecers are generally hybrids of the French, English and American cultures, anglos are as well but to a different and somewhat entertaining degree.

Seventy-six per cent of Quebecers, for example, prefer pleasure over responsibility as opposed to 53 per cent of English Canadians. But Quebec anglos are right up there with their francophone neighbours with 60 per cent opting for pleasure.

And while 51 per cent of francophone Quebecers would rather reach a consensus on the issues of the day compared to 37 per cent of English Canadians, anglos (43 per cent) have hopped aboard the same collegial bandwagon.

“It’s like ordering the best but à la carte,” Léger said in an interview about anglos cautiously dipping their toe into mainstream Quebec society and liking how it feels.

The anglo data popped up as a surprise in a book otherwise devoted to trying to get inside the heads of Quebecers and define who they really are.

Léger said he decided to produce the book to mark the 30th anniversary of his polling firm, but also because nobody has explored the theme since 1978 when advertising executive Jacques Bouchard’s book, Les 36 cordes sensibles des Québécois, hit the street.

Launched in French and English, Léger’s book clearly targets readers in other parts of Canada as well. It sets out again to answer the eternal question about the province of 8.3 million people: what does Quebec want?

The reason the answer has never been found is simple. Quebecers themselves don’t know, the book says.

Whether it is a throwback to the conquest on the Plains of Abraham or a tendency to let others decide their fate, modern Quebecers like the middle road and prefer to wait for things to decide themselves, the authors say.

The first and only time they said yes to themselves was during the 1919 referendum on prohibition. To the question: “Should the sale of light beer, cider and wines be allowed,” 79 per cent said yes. Prohibition was ultimately applied only to spirits.

There have been four referendums since 1942 and Quebecers have answered No each time.

“Not unfairly, this suggests that the only time Quebec said yes is when fun and festivities were on the table,” the book says.

That joie de vivre attitude permeates Quebec society to this day. If you ask Quebecers, as the researchers did, if they are happy, 88 per cent will say yes. Only 77 per cent in the rest of Canada said yes to the same question.

The authors say that number in itself is surprising since Quebec’s economy is not among the strongest, its residents not among the wealthiest.

Yet the study reveals that unlike Canadians in other provinces who worry a lot about money, jobs and the future, Quebecers tend to live more in the present, take that hour for lunch (with dessert), or head out for an evening in a restaurant with a bottle of fine wine — French or Italian by preference — and live by the maxim “any excuse for a party.”

While 70 per cent of Quebecers love shopping, only 45 per cent of anglophones in the rest of Canada feel the same way. Quebecers spend less on big houses because it’s not a priority but won’t compromise on clothing, food or going out.

Léger delved into areas of the Quebec psyche he admits some would rather not talk about. The book concludes Quebecers have seven main characteristics, some good, others bad. Besides joie de vivre, he adds into the mix these terms: easygoing, non-committal, victim, villagers, creative and proud.

The one that ruffled the most feathers — especially with the talk show crowd — was victim, a trait the book says is epitomized in Quebec by countless highly popular French advertising campaigns featuring happy male imbeciles or morons. A good example was the 1985 ad featuring a goofball hockey player played by Claude Meunier for Pepsi.

That ad alone helps explains why Pepsi still outsells Coke in Quebec.

Quoted in the book, historian Éric Bédard argues Quebecers often invoke the idea they feel victimized because they have never taken responsibility for their future — all the way from the rule of France to the Canada of today.

The result is they let someone else decide while at the same time complain loudly.

“If a youth doesn’t succeed, we say it’s the teacher’s fault,” Léger said. “If things are going bad in Canada, it’s the fault of the English and federalism. It’s always someone else’s fault.”

The “all talk, no action,” trait stings, but it percolates through all aspects of life. Quebecers claim to be most religious, but are the least practising among Canadians. They say education is a priority, yet have the highest dropout rate in the country. They are happier, yet have the highest suicide rates in the country.

They are the most worried about poverty, but give the least to charity in Canada. They are good at environmental rhetoric, but 92.5 per cent of them own cars. Even in fat cat Ontario the rate is 79.7 per cent.

And the book says you can’t talk about victimization without talking about Quebecers’ relations with immigrants. It’s true statistically Quebecers are no more racist than other Canadians, the authors state, and are much less racist than the French and Americans report themselves to be.

Twenty-per cent of Quebecers say they are a bit racist, a rate that is slightly higher than the 16 per cent in English Canada but within the statistical margin of error. The level in France is 35 per cent and it’s 51 per cent in the U.S.A.

Léger reveals foreigners are not the problem in Quebec. Religious accommodation is. For a people who lived so many years under the control of the Catholic Church, they fear religion and symbols of any kind.

“I am saying out loud what people know deep in their mind,” Léger said. “It’s a portrait that is provocative and abrasive and only a Quebecer could have written this. An English person writing the same things that I wrote would have been crucified.”

Yet the book also concludes in many ways Quebecers and Canadians in other provinces are not so different.

Of the 500 attitudes and behaviours tested, 71 per cent were identical from one solitude to the other.

Quebecers, for example, harbour the same mistrust of Toronto that people on the Prairies do.

The one thing uniting Quebecers is no surprise. A whopping 94 per cent of Quebecers of all stripes root for the Montreal Canadiens. Only 58 per cent of Ontarians cheer for the Maple Leafs.


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