This past week, the province of Quebec passed a special bill in order to be able to bypass the usual bidding process and award a contract to replace Montreal’s outdated metro cars to a consortium involving Quebec-based company Bombardier inc. while blocking any challenges from other companies. In the process, the province managed to isolate an entire nation.
By essentially leaving a Spanish company out of the bidding process, and showing their blatant preference to a local corporation, the province and city not only angered the company, but also the Spanish prime minister who sent a letter to Premier Jean Charest making it clear that future trade dealings could be hampered because of this situation. We’ve all heard of the benefits, in jobs and taxes, that the selection of a local company brings, but the Spanish PM’s comments bring to light the troubling other side of this preferential logic.
The idea of favouring the “homegrown” isn’t limited to the economic sector either, and has manifested itself in many areas of Quebec society over the last two months. From the Bloc Quebecois’ complaints over the lack of Francophone players on the Montreal Canadiens, to the more youth-relevant decision to start alleviating university finance problems by raising the tuition of international students before anyone else.
All of these situations are symptoms of a much greater problem we have in the province: our tendency to isolate. In favouring Quebec companies, arts and even foods, we are not only isolating the international producers trying to introduce their product into our very diverse market, but we’re also isolating ourselves from the widespread global perception of Canada as a free and open nation.
For a nation that has always been perceived as incredibly free and accepting, our province seems to be working hard to close us off and decline that which is different and from afar at the door.
The notion of preservation is fine, when it comes to issues where the province sees itself as “in danger” or “under attack.” Preserve the French language, preserve the culture and preserve the economy. But what are we preserving in shutting a Spanish company out of the bidding process?
What are we preserving in placing academic financing on the shoulders of international students? We’re preserving a view of Quebec as in it for itself, and no one else.
Former Mexican president Carlos Salinas de Gortari once said “Globalization is a fact of economic life; isolation is a self-defeating dream.” As the world becomes more and more integrated not only economically but culturally, why is our province headed in the opposite direction?
As students, we may not have that much influence on a multimillion dollar metro contract. What we can do is show our support for the international students who have been singled out to bear all of our burden. Cater to the diversity of our university, and our province or we’re going to lose a little more than a trade partner, we’re going to lose our Canadian identity.
Isolation isn’t the answer.