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On Maclean's, the House panders to Quebec

A crowd waves Quebec flags during the St. Jean Baptiste celebrations on the Plains of Abraham on June 23, 2009.

Francis Vachon/francis vachon The Globe and Mail

Before rising last night, MPs adopted the following motion:

"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 the Quebec nation, its history and its institutions."

Shame on them.

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On second thought, shame on the House leaders for cooking up this motion. And presumably, on the party leaders - for agreeing to have it sail through the Commons.

How do we know that there was this degree of collusion?

Last night, Independent MP Andre Arthur, who interestingly enough represents a Quebec constituency, balked at giving the motion unanimous consent. He then left the House before the vote was taken. And the motion then passed by voice and not by vote, thereby sparing MPs from having to identify themselves in their hour of shame.

Let's be clear.

In an editorial posted online yesterday, Maclean's acknowledges that it did not conduct or consult any inter-provincial comparative studies in concluding that Quebec is "the most corrupt province in Canada." In other words, Maclean's is guilty of practicing shoddy journalism.

Like the rest of us, MPs have the right to free expression under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and that right includes the right to criticize Maclean's in this instance. However, Maclean's has no monopoly on shoddy journalism. Nor, sadly, does it have a monopoly on "prejudice" and "stereotypes."

Yet, in the past five years, the House of Commons has only twice chosen to speak collectively in such circumstances. And both cases involved Quebec or, as it's come to be known in this period, the Québécois nation.

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Check that, too: Last night, for the first time ever, MPs referred to the Quebec nation - a term that both Liberals and Conservatives had wisely and carefully avoided using until the Bloc Québécois slipped it into a motion that had been guaranteed clear-sailing late at night through the House of Commons.

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