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Stickergate: Quebec puts business second – again!

March 19th,2024 | Letters, Opinion

By Beryl Wajsman

Montréal International just reported that foreign investment is down 24 per cent. Hydro profits are down. The province is in a technical recession with two-quarters of negative GDP growth. And the only significant piece of business has been a lithium battery plant that required an almost $2 billion subvention from Quebec.

What is Quebec’s response? Introducing new regulations requiring French stickers on all appliances and cars sold here to cover up English words like “on” and “off”. You just can’t make this stuff up.

The language overseers have decided that English words are somehow a threat to the French language. This is reminiscent of Pastagate and Spoongate, which made this province a laughingstock–again–around the world. You will all remember when the language police tried to get Italian removed from menus in Italian restaurants. The word “pasta” was deemed unacceptable. Or when a yogurt chain was told to remove its name from the plastic spoons it gave out because it was too English.

The OQLF backtracked in the face of local resistance – including from the French media – and global jeering. But if fully implemented, Stickergate is far more serious. It will have direct economic impact on prices and will hit all consumers in the pocketbook and all taxpayers with higher taxes.

Does this government really think that Quebec’s paltry two per cent share of North American consumption of appliances and cars is going to influence manufacturing giants like General Electric and General Motors to start accommodating our culture war obsession by putting stickers on every place where there is an English word? Are we going to see “s” stickers instead of “p” for parked on a transmission? Or “froid” instead of “cold” on an air conditioner?

The answer is no! What will happen is that many manufacturers will stop shipping to Quebec. It will cut competition and drive prices up. Consumers will pay more. Sales will drop and when Quebec sees its sales and business tax revenues going down it may just decide to raise everyone’s taxes to make up the difference!

And besides the coming avalanche of international ridicule we are sure to face, we will have another problem. Particularly with automobiles. We are still in the midst of supply chain backlogs that started during the pandemic resulting in new car orders – and some large appliance orders – to be delayed by months. If there are companies willing to accommodate this inane regulation, it will not only cost more but take longer.

As always, the welfare of Quebecers takes second place to fake culture battles. It is to be hoped that international reaction against Stickergate will make Quebec pull back. If not, the industrial giants may resort to Facebook’s tactic in reaction to Ottawa’s charges for media posts. Facebook just turned Canada off. Messages simply say, “this media is not available in Canada.” We wonder how Quebec consumers will feel when messages start appearing on corporate websites stating, “these products are not available in Quebec.”

Beryl Wajsman is editor-in-chief of The Suburban newspaper in Saint Laurent, QC. 

The article first appeared in The Suburban. It has been edited for style. Reprinted with permission.

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