Postmedia

National Post: Quebec’s ‘married name’ law is paternalistic and dumb

Some Canadians might view the PMO directive that Justin Trudeau’s wife be always referred to by her hyphenated surname as a gesture to gender equality. Despite her union to Canada’s most powerful man, Mrs. Grégoire-Trudeau has challenged a paternalistic social construct by opting to keep her maiden name. Because it was 2015, right?

However, what Canada’s “first couple” is actually doing is giving Quebec’s Civil Code the middle finger — and good on them for it.

Since 1981, it has been illegal for women in Quebec to change their surname when they marry. Since Trudeau and Grégoire married in 2005 in Montreal, she has had no right to share names with her husband — or their children, for that matter.

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Montreal Gazette: Artisanal distillers shouldn’t be left out of Quebec’s liquor-sale liberalization

Think of a spirit made in Quebec — one of the first to pop in your mind will likely be PUR Vodka, Ungava Gin, or maybe even Piger Henricus gin. These small Quebec liquors have all won multiple international awards for taste and quality, and continue to impress spirits aficionados around the world. The SAQ has also dedicated thousands of your taxpayer dollars to advertise them, increasing their reputation.

Now, think of a Quebec wine — any wine. Having trouble? Unlike our spirits, the SAQ has done little to promote wines with a Quebec terroir, and few have won widespread international recognition. Though Quebec has great wine to offer, most people simply don’t know about them.

So it’s a bit of a turnaround to see the government now making it harder for distillers to do business in the province, while making it much easier for everyone else.

Quebec’s Minister of Finance recently tabled Bill 88, An Act respecting development of the small-scale alcoholic beverage industry. Most of the measures in the bill are very welcome. For one, Quebec alcohol producers will be allowed to sell their products directly to grocery stores and dépanneurs, giving them the same rights as breweries. Breweries and other alcohol producers will also be allowed to sell bottles of booze directly at the point of production, bringing the province in line with the rest of the civilized world.

But here’s the catch: To be able to sell anything that isn’t beer outside the SAQ, the alcohol must only be made from fruit, honey, or maple syrup — when’s the last time you enjoyed a good maple wine? — and it has to contain less than 16 per cent alcohol by volume.

This clause has locked Quebec’s artisanal distillers out from liberalization. The minister has effectively decided that distillers have no right to operate like normal businesses.

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C2C Journal

C2C: A veiled threat to the NDP in Quebec

If any province is likely to confound the pundits and embarrass the pollsters on October 19, it is Quebec.

At the outset of the 2011 federal election most predicted the separatist Bloc Québécois would take a majority of the province’s seats, as they had in every election since their creation in 1993. Instead, the BQ was decimated by the NDP, a party that had previously held just one seat in Quebec. Political historians are still trying to fathom the Orange Wave, as it was called, but most agree it had much to do with NDP leader Jack Layton, who wowed Quebecers with his performances in the national leaders’ debates and a popular Francophone talk show – even as he was fighting the cancer that would kill him within a few months of the election. Many thought the NDP win was a fluke; with “Le bon Jack” gone, surely the Wave would recede.

Instead, eight weeks into the 2015 campaign, polls are promising a repeat performance from the NDP. Leader Thomas Mulcair, the holder of that lone Quebec seat in 2011, has apparently consolidated his party’s hold on the province. His 58 rookie MPs there have far exceeded the very low expectations that accompanied their arrival in office, and despite running to the right of all his competitors except the Conservatives on fiscal policy, Mulcair appears to have constructed a sturdy bond between his party and the province’s dominant constituencies of leftists and nationalists.

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Postmedia

Montreal Gazette: Quebec should get rid of the SAQ and privatize alcohol sales

Is it relevant for the state to be involved in the retail sale of alcohol in 2015?

In a report released Monday, Quebec’s Ongoing Program Review Committee answered this guiding question with a resounding “no.”

Chaired by former politician Lucienne Robillard, the committee was tasked by Premier Philippe Couillard with reviewing program spending and suggesting inefficiencies to cut.

It didn’t call for the privatization of the SAQ, unfortunately. Instead, the committee advocated liberalizing the sale of alcohol, leaving the SAQ to compete with private companies much the same way Canada Post competes with FedEx and UPS.

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Postmedia

National Post: So it looks like Mulcair is a hypocrite. What a relief

Standing five weeks into the election campaign, there is only one federal leader who has promised to limit the size of government, exalted the virtues of the free market, and talked about the need for a private health care system.

Unfortunately, that leader is Thomas Mulcair … from 15 years ago.

Quebec’s media had a blast last week digging up old footage from Thomas Mulcair’s time in the National Assembly, which seems to put him in a bit of an awkward position. Though he currently leads Canada’s socialist party, his past statements put him further to the right than the 2015 version of Stephen Harper.

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Postmedia

National Post: Kill the tax credit, reduce taxes

In 2009, Prime Minister Stephen Harper took some heat for telling the Globe and Mail, “I don’t believe that any taxes are good taxes.” Judging by his time in office, he was grossly exaggerating.

Since the Conservatives first won a minority government in 2006, the length of the Canadian Income Tax Act has expanded by nearly a quarter. This country’s tax laws now tower above Canadians at a whopping 3,134 pages. According to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, it has grown by 3.4 per cent over the last year alone.

Now, the Conservatives have not increased taxes per se, some have been eliminated and decreased. But their preferred method of tax relief comes from tax expenditures like tax credits, which unlike actual cuts, have the adverse effect of piling on new clauses and conditions to an already confusing system. You still initially owe the same amount, but checking off more boxes on your growing tax form entitles you to get bigger reimbursements.

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Postmedia

National Post: Legalize pot — just don’t let the government monopolize it

All roads currently lead to the marijuana’s eventual liberalization: both the NDP and the Liberal Party support some form of decriminalization or legalization.

A change of government, then, will see the country embrace some less draconian approach to the drug.

(The Greens support liberalization, too, of course, although God help us if they take power.)

The biggest mistake any of these parties could make, then — and sadly, the mostly likely one — would be to give the government a monopoly on the sale and production of cannabis.

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Montreal Gazette: While C2MTL innovates, government holds back business

 

Montreal’s annual C2MTL conference is quickly becoming a magnet for global innovators, bringing the hope and optimism of Silicon Valley to a city that has struggled to keep pace with the rest of the world.

That struggle brings out a certain irony. The success of C2MTL is due in part to massive government funding, yet the conference unintentionally exposes how government red tape is holding back Montreal and, indeed, Quebec as a whole.

Last year, for example, a marketing rep from the Absolut introduced Montrealers to its new effort to make vodka more personal. Absolut thought people should discover their local flavours, so they hired locals to set up small distilleries in four cities around the world. Branded as Our/Vodka, they use local water supplies and locally farmed grain to produce a vodka that is wholly “ours.” The concept is so popular that they plan on expanding rapidly into seven other cities. Sadly, Montreal is not one of them.

As it stands, Quebec distilleries can’t sell their own products to anyone but the SAQ. The success of Our/Vodka rests on the fact that people can tour the facilities, sit at a bar, taste the spirits, and then leave with a few bottles if they so choose. The distillers can also form partnerships with local businesses and sell to bars and restaurants. But Quebec’s archaic laws forbid this innocent and profitable idea.

The solution to this problem isn’t new, and it’s one the governing party is familiar with.

In 2013, Liberal MNA Stéphane Billette introduced Bill 395 while in opposition. After unanimous approval from the legislature to study the bill, it never moved further.

If brought back to life, Bill 395 would solve all the above problems. It would create a new class of permits for small-scale distilleries in Quebec. Distillers using raw materials grown in the province could sell directly to the public from their distillery. They could also sell their booze at farmer’s markets, to restaurants and even to grocery stores. They would also, of course, be able to sell their products at the SAQ.

Bringing back this piece of legislation would not only give more freedom to struggling entrepreneurs, but it would be a boon for local economies.

Case in point: C2MTL’s official alcohol sponsor this year is Pur Vodka. Having won countless worldwide medals for best vodka, this company proves that Quebec can produce world-class hooch, made with local Quebec corn and locally sourced water. The company’s CEO, Nicolas Duvernois, wants to open up a new distillery in Mile End to expand his production, yet he finds the cost hard to justify. In conversation, he told me that if the law changed tomorrow and he could sell directly from his distillery, he would secure a $3 million loan for the new location. But until the province acts, he feels the costs outweigh the benefits. That’s only one of many possible multimillion-dollar investments that could be brought on by Bill 395’s revival.

Quebec is not the only province held back by outdated regulation. Microdistillers in Ontario are also asking the government there to afford them the same freedom as the beer, cider and wine industries.

The C2MTL conference provides a perfect opportunity for the government to match its money with action. It’s not enough to fund a massive conference that inadvertently promotes unrealizable ideas. If Montreal is truly to innovate, it needs to let entrepreneurialism flourish. One easy and profitable step would be to bring back Bill 395.

Tom Kott is a consultant at HATLEY Strategy Advisors, a Montreal-based public affairs firm. tkott@hatleystrategies.com

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La Presse

La Presse: Sortir de la SAQ

Depuis son arrivée à Montréal en 2010, la conférence C2MTL est rapidement devenue une Mecque pour les innovateurs des quatre coins du globe. C’est ainsi qu’un vent de renouveau souffle, chaque année, sur une ville qui peine pourtant à évoluer au même rythme effréné que le reste de la planète.

La conférence elle-même illustre une grande ironie, car son succès est en partie attribuable à un immense soutien financier gouvernemental. Or, la conférence révèle involontairement à quel point Montréal et le Québec en entier sont handicapés par la lourdeur bureaucratique de la province.

Par exemple, l’an dernier, Absolut a dévoilé son désir de permettre aux consommateurs de s’approprier leur vodka. L’entreprise, souhaitant que les gens découvrent les saveurs locales, a embauché des producteurs locaux afin qu’ils puissent établir des distilleries dans quatre villes à travers la planète. Regroupés sous la marque Our/Vodka, ils utilisent de l’eau de source locale et des céréales produites localement afin de produire une vodka issue du terroir. Le concept est si populaire que l’entreprise compte s’établir dans sept autres villes. Malheureusement, Montréal ne fait pas partie de la liste.

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Postmedia

National Post: The only liquor stores that truly belong in this century are private

In an interview this week with Les Affaires business newspaper, the president of Quebec’s state booze monopoly outlined his vision for the future of the state-owned business.

Alain Brunet’s goal, he proudly stated, was to have the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) “be part of people’s daily lives in every way possible.” Already spending $30 million a year on advertising and marketing, the government’s liquor peddlers are developing a new digital strategy and app that will cost countless millions more (in true government fashion, Mr. Brunet won’t tell taxpayers what the actual price tag will be), all to ensure a day doesn’t go by when Quebecers don’t think about this “restricted” product.

The irony here is too rich: isn’t this exactly the type of behaviour that state-run liquor monopolies were supposed to help prevent? Government control over liquor sales used to be justified as a “social responsibility.” Now the provinces don’t even pretend to be believe this anymore.

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