Many topics covered during Quebec trip

I spent a few days last week in Quebec City at a newspaper convention.
On Thursday evening, Quebec Premier Jean Charest spoke to us at a dinner and I was left with the feeling this premier is a true nationalist leader.
He may be getting the poorest press in all of Canada. Quebec is a bounding ahead as a province and the changes put in place by the Charest government have reduced unemployment, added more dollars to health care and education, while at the same time reducing the size of the provincial government.
Charest, in his address, left everyone in the room feeling excited by the vigour of the province and its wanting to be part of Canada.
I doubt that any publisher present on Thursday evening would not vote for Charest.
In the polls, Charest currently is trailing the Parti Quebecois, but the interesting thing about the polls is that in the last two months, the Liberal party which he heads has greatly improved its standing with the population—all at the expense of the separatist party.
In fact, a forecast was made Friday morning by a Quebec political analyst that in the next provincial election, Charest again would win a majority government.
On Friday morning, John Parisella, an expert in analysis of the Quebec government, spoke to publishers from across Canada. In his review of the past federal election, he gave great credit to Stephen Harper, a man from the west who understood Quebec and its wishes better than the politicians from the province.
In return, Quebecers delivered 10 seats to the Conservative party—something that was never expected by the rest of Canada heading into the campaign.
One of the big topics of discussion has been the tantrum between the “Hill press” and Stephen Harper. The “Hill press” have chosen to boycott the prime minister’s press conferences because he has asked them to submit their names in advance if they wish to ask a question.
Instead, the prime minister now is going across Canada and meeting with local media papers in smaller centres and making announcements. For newspapers, radio, and television stations from small communities (Winnipeg and smaller), reporters from those mediums are getting the stories first and making the “national press” uncomfortable.
Community newspaper publishers are not having any sympathy for the national press, and really hope they keep the boycott up. Hopefully, the prime minister might even want to make a national announcement in Fort Frances.
It may be one way of bringing a prime minister back to our riding.
Then on Saturday night, the Canadian Community Newspapers Association recognized writers who, in the past year, found and wrote stories about people who have assisted others in developing countries.
The winners will get to spend two weeks in a country visiting projects that are funded by the Canadian International Development Association.
This year, the minister of International Co-operation, Josée Verner, attended for the first time. Prior to the start of the program, she announced Canada’s beginning commitment to the government and earthquake victims of Indonesia.
It is amazing that twice this area of Indonesia has suffered huge catastrophes. The first was the tsunami and now the earthquake. Canada initially committed $2 million on Saturday to assist victims in that region.
Speaking to many street vendors inside the walls of Quebec City, they were telling me that American tourist numbers peaked there in 2002. But since that time, the numbers of U.S. visitors to the Quebec capital have declined on an annual basis.
Retailers were looking around Saturday for American tourists to spend their dollars and were not finding many in the street. The Memorial Day weekend had not brought the hoped for traffic.

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