Thursday, March 1, 2007

PQ election, homophobia ! (unreal this day and age, the bashing)

Boisclair says homophobia won't affect his campaign
March 1, 2007

A controversial radio host has dragged homosexuality into the open in the Quebec election campaign after declaring Andre Boisclair's Parti Quebecois looks like a "club of fags."

Boisclair, the openly gay PQ leader, angrily declared Thursday that Quebecers will decide whether homosexuality is an issue worthy of consideration.

The PQ leader was asked if homophobia is posing a problem for his struggling campaign leading to the March 26 provincial election.

"You know what? I'll allow Quebecers to answer that question," said Boisclair, who paused at length before his answer.

"I know Quebecers stand for equality and freedom. If there are people who want to fight that issue in this election campaign it won't be me they'll have to answer to. It's millions of Quebecers who expect more justice in Quebec."

In an interview two weeks ago with a PQ candidate, radio host Louis Champagne of CKRS in the separatist heartland of Saguenay mused that local factory workers might not like gay candidates and declared the PQ resembles "un club de tapettes."

"Tapette" is the French equivalent in Quebec of "fag."

"In Jonquiere, when you show up with another homosexual, listen, aren't you going to face the question, 'Is the Parti Quebecois a club of fags?' " Champagne said.

In addition to forcing Boisclair to address the highly personal topic, Champagne effectively outed local PQ candidate Sylvain Gaudreault, who publicly addressed his sexuality Wednesday.

"For those who don't know it, I am homosexual," Gaudreault said at a PQ meeting. "And contrary to what some people think, I don't believe factory workers will be scared to vote for me."

Gaudreault, who is running in the riding of Jonquiere, was livid.

"I find Louis Champagne's remarks totally contemptuous toward factory workers," he said.

"I really don't understand why these workers wouldn't want to vote for Sylvain Gaudreault."

Gilbert Cerat, a spokesman for station-owner Corus Quebec, said company officials will review the matter but any decision would wait until next week.

"It's worth evaluating, to see exactly what he said," Cerat said in an interview.

Champagne has been absent from the airwaves this week, but Cerat said it is not due to disciplinary action but to a flu bug. Cerat said Champagne is on sick leave for the rest of the week and will meet with company officials next week.

Champagne could not be reached for comment.

The hot topic of sexual politics knocked Boisclair's other declaration of the day off the agenda.

The leader of the pro-independence party said there's no limit to the number of referendums that could be called if the separatists were to lose a third vote on making Quebec an independent country.

"I'll never declare that an idea is dead," he said.

Champagne, the dean of Quebec shock-radio hosts, broadcasts from Saguenay, normally a PQ stronghold about 250 kilometres north of Quebec City. However, the Liberals already hold two seats in the region and they are expected to make further gains along with the Action democratique du Quebec.

Champagne has a long history of complaints from listeners to Canada's broadcast regulator over coarse and vulgar language and personal attacks.

He's one of the last shock radio hosts who have been in vogue in the province in recent years but who have been shut down in hails of controversy, lawsuits and CRTC rulings. One of them, Andre Arthur, has gone on to be a federal MP for the Quebec City region.

Champagne has bragged he's been sued dozens of times. In one interview on Tele-Quebec, he estimated he's faced down $60 million in legal action.

In the recent broadcast, Champagne suggested workers at the local aluminum plants aren't ready to vote for gays.

"Is he saying on the radio that people in Saguenay and Lac-St-Jean are more homophobic than other people elsewhere in Quebec?" Boisclair said.

"Homophobia exists, but I feel that these words are very insulting for the people of Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean."

Boisclair said he hasn't personally experienced homophobia.

"I grew up in an environment where I had caring parents and fantastic friends."

Boisclair spent most of Thursday in the provincial capital and unveiled his education program aimed at lowering the dropout rate.

He also said he wants to encourage young gay boys, who have a high suicide rate in Quebec, to stay in school.

Liberal Premier Jean Charest was in Montmagny, south of Quebec City, where he announced his plan for regional development. He noted that his government's recent budget provides $825 million in regional economic support.

ADQ Leader Mario Dumont was campaigning in the Montreal area and criticized Charest's school reforms. Dumont called for a standardized report card that all parents can understand.