To the rest of Canada, Quebec politics have sometimes seemed pretty scandalous. But most outsiders felt this was none of their business. Besides, the more lurid reports of corruption appeared exaggerated.
Now an important section of Quebec opinion has confirmed the alarmist view of the province's political morality and has sounded a warning which deserves the sober consideration of all Canadians.
In a scathing denunciation of Quebec political life, a group of liberal reform Roman Catholic priests charges that the buying of votes, corruption of the electoral law, threats, false oaths, substitution of persons and bribery have become normal election-time practices. They cite the recent provincial election as one of the worst in history and say all parties are guilty of the offences they list. The conclusion they draw is that the masses are becoming "de-Christianized" and "stupefied" by "demagogues and apprentice Fascists."
It is difficult for anyone who knows the hard-working and deeply religious people of Quebec to accept the view that they are less moral than other Canadian citizens. How, then, is Quebec's admitted political corruption to be explained ?
First, it must be realized that the unsavory practices complained of are to be found in some degree in every province. Here in Ontario we seldom hear of voters being bribed. But it is no secret that the party in power - Conservative or Liberal - saves its richest plums, in the form of roads, bridges or public buildings, for the counties that give it most support at the pools. Individual MPP's naturally feel kindly disposed toward those who work for them and like to return favor for favor. And it is generally taken for granted that contractors and others who deal with the government contribute to election campaign funds.
Secondly, there is a difference in moral emphasis. In Quebec, billboards along the highways call attention to the sin of blasphemy; in Ontario "buying votes" would be a more grievous offence. The priests themselves note that when the Church in Quebec conducts a morality drive it bears down hardest on sensuality, intemperance and blasphemy; it often neglects the importance of truth and justice as positive virtues.
The report from Quebec, like all revelations of moral laxity in political matters, is a matter of grave concern to everyone who cherishes democracy. If our free system is to flourish we must lift our sights beyond what is locally accepted and establish a higher goal of political morality - in every part of Canada.