Quebec politicians and organizers of the Quebec Winter Carnival are up in arms about an explosive cover story in the latest issue of Maclean's magazine that declares the province the most corrupt in Canada.
The Oct. 4 edition of the magazine also depicts the iconic figure Bonhomme Carnaval carrying a suitcase overflowing with cash.
Two accompanying articles inside explore the question of why so many political scandals seem to happen in Quebec, from the current controversy involving judicial appointments to the patronage days of former premier Maurice Duplessis.
"As politicians and experts from every facet of the political spectrum told Maclean's, the history of corruption is sufficiently long and deep in Quebec that it has bred a culture of mistrust of the political class," writes Martin Patriquin in the article.
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"It raises an uncomfortable question: why is it that politics in Canada's bête noire province seem perpetually rife with scandal?"
Quebec New Democrat MP Thomas Mulcair said he is sickened by the magazine's treatment of the issue from the cover to the content.
He said there is no evidence Quebec's history with corruption is worse than any other province.
"It's the worst type of group smear you could think of," Mulcair told CBC News on Friday. "It's beneath contempt."
Bloc Québécois MP Pierre Paquette also criticized the publication, saying Maclean's was engaging in "Quebec bashing."
'It's the worst type of group smear you could think of. It's beneath contempt.'—Thomas Mulcair, Quebec NDP MP
On Friday, officials with Quebec's Winter Carnival weighed in. Carnival director general Jean Pelletier said using the world-renowned image of Bonhomme in a story about corruption was out of line.
"It is deplorable that the image of our winter ambassador for tourism in Quebec has been misrepresented in this way," said Pelletier in a statement.
Writer defends edition
Patriquin, Maclean's Quebec bureau chief, said the magazine is legitimately exploring the history of corruption in Quebec.
He said people should read the entire five pages dedicated to the story before casting judgment. According to the article, Quebec had been described by historians as far back as 1968 as the most corrupt region of North America.
"The idea that this is Quebec bashing is frankly moronic," Patriquin told CBC News. "We hit hard with our covers. We have done this for other regions in Canada. [Anyone who says] that we are singling out Quebec for any reason hasn't read any of the other issues we put out in a year."
He said not everyone is upset with what they have read.
'When people look past the cover and read the story, they realize there is a point to it.'— Martin Patriquin, Maclean's Quebec bureau chief
"When people look past the cover and read the story, they realize there is a point to it. The reaction has been quite pleasantly good."
One prominent Quebec columnist has come out in support of the magazine's treatment of the issue.
Patrick Lagacé, a columnist with the Montreal daily La Presse, said the magazine makes a point: Quebec's political corruption scandals run deep. He said Patriquin hit the story right on the money.
"Right now, Maclean's is right. I would defy anyone to say that stuff like what we're seeing in Quebec in the last two years is happening elsewhere," Lagacé said in an interview.
The latest issue of Maclean's comes in the same week that Premier Jean Charest has been on the stand at the Bastarache commission, defending himself against allegations of influence peddling in the appointment of judges.