Montreal

Quebecers 'deserve better,' Maclean's insists

Maclean's magazine is refusing to apologize for an article that called Quebec the most corrupt province in Canada, accusing politicians in la belle province of being opportunistic for dismissing the report as bashing Quebecers.

Magazine rejects premier's demand for apology over 'twisted' corruption report

Maclean's magazine is refusing to apologize for an article that called Quebec the most corrupt province in Canada, accusing politicians in la belle province of being "opportunistic" for dismissing the report as bashing Quebecers.

The magazine published an online editorial Wednesday afternoon addressing widespread critique of its Oct. 4 cover story, "The Most Corrupt Province in Canada."

                     
Read Maclean's editorial

The rebuttal came hours after Premier Jean Charest released a letter he wrote to magazine editor Mark Stevenson on Sept. 26, demanding an apology for the story he described as "a twisted form of journalism and ignorance" built on a series of "dubious conclusions, unproven allegations and isolated events."

Quebec does indeed have a problem and Quebecers "deserve better," the magazine's editors responded.

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"Quebec's political system is failing its people. But let's be clear about this: it is a political problem, and a reflection on the province's politicians and its political culture, not a condemnation of the character of the province or its people."

Quebec politicians targeted 

Maclean's journalist Martin Patriquin, who wrote the article, told CBC News no retractions are necessary because critics are missing the point.

The Oct. 4 edition of Maclean's describes Quebec as the most corrupt province in Canada. ((CBC))
"They're asking us to apologize on behalf of all Quebecers. We didn't target all Quebecers in the piece. We targeted the political class of which Mr. Charest is a member," said Patriquin, Maclean's Quebec bureau chief.

"The idea of apologizing for something that we didn't do is absurd."

The online editorial suggested Charest's interpretation of the article is "not only false but cheap in that it implicates the citizenry in the misdeeds of the politicians and their cronies.

"It is bad enough that the people of Quebec have to put up with corruption in public office — they shouldn't be smeared by it as well."

Charest said the five-page Maclean's spread is offensive because it suggests that Quebecers are "genetically incapable of acting with integrity." 

                     
 Read Jean Charest's letter to the editor

Maclean's said: "Quebec voters have proven time and again they have little patience for corrupt politicians — frequently tossing out governments tainted by scandal. That is cause for optimism for the future of the province's political culture."

The editorial admits the article was not based on any statistical database "to prove beyond a doubt" that Quebec rises to the top when it comes to corruption.

But that doesn't preclude judgment "in the face of a preponderance of evidence-based scandal after scandal at every level of government in the province," the editors say.

The editorial also touched on the use of Bonhomme Carnaval on the cover to illustrate the story. The Quebec Winter Carnival's jolly snowman icon is shown swinging a suitcase brimming with cash.

Maclean's is, like all Canadians, "a strong supporter of the Carnival and the great tradition of Quebec hospitality it represents," said the editorial.

The Quebec Winter Carnival is considering legal action against Maclean's for its use of the mascot and has asked for an apology.

'A culture of mistrust'

Charest joined a chorus of critics who began speaking out earlier this week about the article, which describes a history and evolution of corruption in Quebec.

The main article chronicles a series of events in Quebec's history, from the current controversy over judicial appointments to the patronage appointments by former premier Maurice Duplessis, that has "bred a culture of mistrust of the political class," Patriquin wrote in his piece.

The author wonders why "politics in Canada's bête noire province seem perpetually rife with scandal."

                     

The House of Commons backed a Bloc Québécois motion condemning Maclean's, that reads:

"That this House, while recognizing the importance of vigorous debate on subjects of public interest, expresses its profound sadness at the prejudice displayed and the stereotypes employed by Maclean's Magazine to denigrate Quebec nation, its history and its institutions."

Charest took issue with the question.

"Yes, Quebec is different from the rest of Canada. You say it's the 'bête noire ' of the country; I say Quebec is half of Canada's soul, identity and humanity," he wrote.

The provocative piece prompted Quebec politicians across the federalist-sovereigntist spectrum to tear a strip off the magazine. Outrage echoed among Quebec columnists, talk shows and call-in programs, where the magazine's methodology was questioned.

On Wednesday, the Bloc Québécois tabled a motion condemning the article, that was adopted unanimously in the House of Commons.

Many media commentators acknowledged Quebec is grappling with corruption — from the federal sponsorship scandal to Montreal's water-meter contract fixing controversy, to the Mafia's reported influence in public affairs, to the most recent scandal involving alleged influence-peddling and judicial nominations.

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