Monday, July 22, 2024

When Quebec’s Budget Was a Literary Work

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Maria Gill
Maria Gill
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once a month, duty Hobbyist shoots The challenge of deciphering a current topic from a comparison with a historical event or figure.

According to Roland Barthes, the French Revolution profoundly changed the way we view the links between the French language and literature. At that time, “men took over the language of the book for political purposes.”

Adding that “the writer is no longer the only person who speaks,” the critic pointed out that the resources of the French language and its poetic effectiveness, as I can say, were common to the book and this “new group possessing the common language.” “.

While ascending the river, one may wonder if things are very different in the Laurentian Valley. Have literature resources been used to build more robust and effective political discourses and more vibrant poetry? Even drier, like budget letters?

To answer that question, let’s go back to the National Assembly in Quebec on March 27, 1979, at around 8 pm. Jacques Pariso, then chancellor of the exchequer, presented a budget that would be analyzed a few days later in the literary pages of duty.

Literary discourse

As is usual in Britain, the Minister’s Cup was replaced by a glass of rough alcohol in this case. This tradition ended in the 1980s, when a liberal finance minister asked to add water to his cup for fear of not being able to reach the end of his speech!

So, for about two hours, Minister Barrizo presents Quebec finances. As his biographer Pierre Ducheson reminds us, from his first budget in 1977, he wrote his own letters, unlike his predecessors who trusted their officials.

Paraiso’s knowledge of economics and his position as a professor at HEC Montréal and his cultural capital allow him to write high-quality educational documents in a strong language. This is the note that could lead my critics duty And McGill University professor Jean Ether-Blaise to devote his literary column on April 7, 1979 to this speech.

Ether-Blaze says he wants to participate because he himself is the taxpayer (good reason) and Barrio’s opponents have accused him of making a “literary” speech. In fact, among other things, Camille Sampson, Rep for Rowen Noranda, said this about the budget: […] The fiscal champion is more entangled than ever. The truth is that there are no beautiful folkloric or poetic sermons that would change the reality of everyday life. “

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Faced with this attack on the “literary nature” of the budget rhetoric, Ether-Bliss replied in one single: “My immediate reaction: It is thus sincere. For decades, our ministers have drowned out their nonsense and tremors in a torrent of words written with gossip, allowing them to interpret their ideas in the manner. Which they see fit and harm us. “

Ether-Blaze also evokes the “kind and educated tone, tongue in cheek, high civilization that are the hallmarks of Mister Jacques Barrezzo”. He reveals “countless irony, powerful formulas, and his sovereign use of derogation, which crystallizes ideas, and reinforces the policy of carrots and sticks.”

Antinomic identity

How do we explain this literary criticism of a speech on the budget? Did Barrizo, Alice Poznanska’s husband, make use of the admiration Ether-Place felt for the latter? Nice look also for an economist who willingly attended the same parties as Gaston Miron? Possible, even possible.

Let us return with that to the discourse to look at its literary sources. The 1979-1980 budget attracts particular attention to the abolition of the tax on clothing under $ 500, shoes under $ 100 (including skis “in the name of cultural duty,” paradoxically kindly Barrizzo), and textiles. It is, of course, a matter of giving air to these struggling industries, which were once at the heart of the poverty-stricken economy of French Canadians, and which have now been thrown away by competition from Asia and the United States.

Parizeau interferes with the economy in his own way. There is definitely something of a Social Democrat in him, but he is also a kind of aristocrat, who cultivates this image of a conservative financier, whose first budgets are well received by financial circles, even English-speaking ones – that’s say.

How can a person hold onto both ends of this atomic identity? This becomes even more important in 1979: negotiations with state officials must lead to the renewal of their collective agreements; René Levesque should present the referendum question to Quebecers. The bag must be loosened and tightened at the same time. Do not scare off officials who constitute an electorate that is likely to vote YES in the referendum. At the same time, we shouldn’t be giving them too many advantages when the economy goes to hell.


Barrezzo failed to control the fluctuations in the economy, so he is controlling the course of his speech. As Ether-Bliss reminds us, “In his speech, he is not afraid to say“ I ”: I have decided, I declare. He is the narrator and the main character.

Democratic socialist first. Parezzo refers to the wealthy and their connections to previous governments. He smiles: “There was a time in Quebec where it was thought very clever to allow savings bond subscribers to purchase up to $ 50,000 per issue. The individual paying such a chip is not exactly a small saver.”

Or again, ironically, “Nevertheless, I thank the previous government so much for leaving it not only at 375 million dollars in salaries to pay, 400 million in arrears due to school boards, high-rate Olympic debt and in such a short time the time it offered to build The playing field is at risk, not only is an actuarial deficit in excess of 5.5 billion in relation to the pension funds, but also a few hundreds of millions of savings bonds redeemable at any time, and therefore at the mercy of any increase in interest rates. “

Moreover, he pretended to be surprised: “The kind of rebellion that we have been witnessing to the rich that we have been witnessing for a year must therefore be defused. Quebec’s personal income tax curve will remain very gradual. It aligns with the goals of a social democratic government, and we are always surprised to note that in certain circles, We are surprised not to see right-wing government targets in it. Yet, there is a way, for the high-income earners, to cut their taxes drastically: invest in Quebec, not in Nassau, Florida, or Alberta. “

Once a socialist (the living room?) Is seated well, he can implicitly bring the “affluent” closer to union members, by reminding them that permanent work is of great value in this time of economic turmoil. But it shouldn’t intimidate them. To do this, Parezzo uses metaphors and cuts.

For example, to describe the wage increase that his liberal predecessor gave to the unions, which would go into effect on the night of the last day of collective agreements, 30 June 1979, he spoke of “a wonderful display of night fireworks.” … which it will have to take into account in its negotiations.

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With regard to public service in general, this analogy is made: “Individuals congregate in bays or administrative bays because the current was less powerful there than anywhere else.” But the Minister of Finance extends his hand to his officials: “There is a way to restore this public sector to the vitality it should enjoy, and to make it play the catalyst role that it must play.” Governments don’t have to be slow, heavy, and deaf. To get out of the bay and find the river, why don’t you vote yes in the referendum?


Barrizo concludes his speech on the upcoming referendum question – December 20, 1979, to be exact: “We are approaching the moment when we will be able to develop our goals and projects with all of our resources available to us. Before long, Quebeckers will be asked to decide that the half is not sufficient. And they want to be in charge of all their resources, but the Quebecers decided, in May 1980, that half was enough.

The defeat did not prevent Barrio from writing, in his speech on the 1981-1982 budget, the first since the referendum: “So in a position of strength we want to approach the coming years and have a good hope of success, even, again, after the struggles we have known so much in the past. Which we see that we still want to impose on us, we can propose to our fellow citizens, calmly, and with self-confidence that comes from good challenges, the final form of our national future.

Self-confidence, patriotic future … Obviously, here, we are bathed in complete imagination. Perhaps Jacques Barrezo was more of a writer than people think.

To send text or make comments and suggestions, write to Dave No atl at [email protected].

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