Archive for the ‘Memoirs’ Category


February 20, 2018

Pit Stop By Neil McKenty

Time is ripe for a new political party in Quebec

Now that hunting season has begun, it behooves most Quebec politicians to head for the hills.

According to all the surveys, the popularity of the province’s politicians is dropping like a wounded duck. And this applies to both Ottawa and Quebec City.

A Léger poll shows the level of satisfaction with the federal Conservatives has dropped a full seven points. Only one in five Quebecers is happy with the political leadership in Ottawa.

The results were similarly dismal for the provincial Liberals. The level of dissatisfaction with Premier Jean Charest’s government is at a record-breaking 77 per cent, with only 28 per cent saying they would vote Liberal in the next provincial election. Support for the Parti Québécois stood at 34 per cent.

These figures must be seen in the context of a provincial scene where most of the news is negative. Whether it is the dirty linen on judge’s appointments being aired at the Bastarache commission, the ever-rising cost of health care, controversial language legislation or the government’s refusal to investigate the construction industry, there is not much for the ordinary voter to be happy about.

All this means that Charest, who must face an election within three years, is in dire straits politically. But the PQ leader, Pauline Marois, is right in there with him.

Let’s face it. Although Marois has been in public life for three decades, she has never really caught on, either with her own party or with the electorate generally. This could become more evident when she faces a leadership review next spring.

Unlike the Liberals who cherish their leaders so long as they are in power, the separatists seem to view their chieftans with considerable suspicion. As Don Macpherson writes in the Gazette: “Liberals are disciplined and remain loyal to a leader, especially when they are in power, until he loses an election. Péquistes, on the other hand, are impatient, nervous and suspicious of any leader not named Jacques Parizeau. Since they last held power in 2003, they’ve already had three leaders.”

What’s more, unlike the Charest Liberals, the PQ has a potential leader prowling around the precincts. That would be Gilles Duceppe, who is getting long in the tooth in federal politics. Duceppe threatened to run against Marois once before. This time, if she really stumbles, he might go through with it.

So what we have now in the province is a Liberal government that is dead in the water and a PQ opposition that is not exactly setting the heather afire. What better time to fly a trial balloon about a new party?

A group of former politicians (Péquistes François Legault and Joseph Facal) and business people think the time is ripe for a new party that would regroup federalists and sovereigntists around a centre-right agenda and leaving the “national question” aside.

A new poll shows that such a new party would win 30 per cent of the votes in a Quebec election, with the PQ at 27 per cent and the Liberals at 25 per cent. If nothing else, these results suggest there is a deep desire in the population to break through the federalist-separatist division to some third force that would concentrate on the economic and social well-being of Quebec.

Such a party would emphasize fiscal restraint and smaller government. But would the Quebec voter buy into such a program? Ironically, this is what Charest wanted to implement when he first took office eight years ago. Charest, a small-c conservative, hoped to cut back on Quebec’s bloated bureaucracy, reduce some services and cut taxes.

But Charest discovered to his chagrin that he could carry neither his cabinet nor his caucus on a program of serious fiscal restraint. The government was even afraid to raise the rates for electricity, something practically all economists urged them to do. Recently all it took was the prospect of a coming by-election for Finance Minister Raymond Bachand to shelve plans to impose user fees for medical visits.

So attractive as a new party might be, especially one that jettisoned the sovereignty question, it is not at all clear that it would be able to sell a policy of fiscal restraint, the very policy that Charest could not sell when he first came into office.

Furthermore, as Lysiane Gagnon has pointed out, the new Legault party looks much like the old Mario Dumont party. The Action démocratique du Quebec was also based on a centre-right agenda and a moderate nationalist approach (for most of its life it did not even take sides in the sovereignty debates). One difference is that Legault’s movement was born in Montreal and might eventually attract more high-profile personalties than the ADQ, whose scope was limited to eastern Quebec.

What this new party does right out of the gate is underline popular dissatisfaction with the two old parties. Another election is not required until 2013. That leaves plenty of time for the Liberals to replace Charest and for the PQ to do a makeover on Marois (or replace her with Duceppe.)

In the meantime, a group that has no leader and no name is more popular than the two other parties who have both. No wonder the politicians are heading for the hills.

Published on Nov.2010

The Senior Times


February 12, 2018


McKenty Live with host Neil McKenty

On today’s program, Neil is discussing municipal politics, especially in and around Montreal. With the live callers.

First aired on February 28th 1989 on CFCF 12

Jean P.


January 25, 2018

Exchange on CJAD  with host Neil McKenty.

The Lines Are Still Blazing!

What’ a on your mind?


January 22, 2018


Here is a special The best of McKenty on Exchange. Bits and pieces of everything.

Enjoy!   Listen to how Neil managed his way in a President Reagan press conference in Washington.


December 20, 2017

Exchange on CJAD with host Neil McKenty.

On this episode of Exchange, Neil talks with a former Russian military officer and asks the question: Should we be worry of the Soviet Union?


December 18, 2017

Here is Neil on the other side of the microphoneisd

interviewed for his biography of John Main.

Two short clips, the first was for the show

 » Take A Brake  » on CFTV aired on January 29th,

1987 and the second one was for  » Midday  »

on CBC aired on April 17th, 1987.



December 11, 2017

Exchange on CJAD with host Neil McKenty.

The Lines Are Blazing!

On this show, Neil discusses with Clark Davey, Montreal Gazette publisher and the live callers.

Jean P.


December 6, 2017



For yet another rare occasion, we see Neil from a different angle, on the other side of the microphone discussing his early life with Dennis Trudeau for the show Sunday Night.

Aired on 13/04/97


November 20, 2017



Neil takes another call


Exchange on CJAD with host Neil McKenty.

The Lines Are Blazing!

On today’s program, Neil talks with Mr. Stanley Hart, Canada’s leader labor negotiator and lawyer about the transit strike. And of course the live callers.


November 16, 2017

Many of you might not know that Neil use to write for The Senior Times, he had a column called Pit Stop.  Since the weather is quickly changing here in Quebec, I found the perfect article for you.

Resist hibernating and enjoy the outdoors this winter.

”If you want to enjoy the Montreal winter, you’ve got to join it.”  I wish I had heeded that advice when I first arrived in Montreal in the autumn of 1972.

That first winter I was broadcasting editorial comments on CJAD and producing and hosting ”Prime Time”, a program for seniors.  On the week-ends I huddle with my wife, Catharine, (a writer-researcher at the Reader’s Digest) inside our apartment on the twenty-first floor of a high rise near the old Forum, and read the newspaper including the weighty Sunday New York Times.  This regimen turned out to be a recipe for lethargy, lassitude and recurring stupor.

At the time we didn’t have a car (once we toured a good part of the island of Montreal on two metro tickets), but the following winter, Catharine reconnoitred the lower Laurentians by bus to find a place to stay and to ski.  Happily, she discovered on the perimeters of Prévost, then Shawbridge, a sprawling white frame house with many appendages, the Laurentian Lodge Club, founded in 1923.

Catharine and I have now been members of the Club for more than twenty-five years, enjoying chef André’s savoury cuisine and cross-country skiing on trails with such evocative names as The Barking Dog, Fallen Women, The Madonna, and of course, portions of the Maple Leaf, laid out by the famous Herman Smith ”Jack Rabbit” Johannsen himself.

One stormy Saturday, I was chatting with Mr. Johannsen (then more than a hundred, still a skier and long-time member of the Club) in the living room beside the fireplace when the ”Chief” with a glint in his eye, lit a cigarette.  ”I never smoke before lunch,” he explained, ”but I usually have lunch early.”

Mr. Johannsen was not the only notable member of the Laurentian Lodge Club, chock-a-block in those early years with young families and their children.  Other distinguished members included the renowned Dr. Wilder Penfield and Brooke Claxton, a minister in federal Liberal governments.

Not that the Club was an elitist conclave or luxury resort.  Far from it.  The original iron beds were purchased from the Montreal General Hospital for three dollars each.  Their springs were so dilapidated the mattresses had to be propped up by large sheets of stiff brown paper that crackled down the halls whenever the sleeper turned over.  Still, the spartan bedrooms were merely a counterpoise to the charm and gentility of afternoon tea served in front of the blazing fire by ladies in long gowns.

From its beginning in 1923, the Club was at the heart of early ski developments in the Laurentians.  Just beyond the first door across the river and through the trees loomed the Big Hill where in 1932 Alec Foster, using an old Ford engine for power, installed the first rope tow in North America, charging skiers five cents a ride.

From those early days, the Laurentian Lodge Club developed and still retains a distinctive élan marked by enthusiastic and warm camaraderie.  ”The atmosphere,” as one senior member described it, ”was set by people in their eighties who had nothing to prove,” and who, it might be added, encouraged a tradition of fun skiing which meant taking time on the trail to stop to eat an orange and feed the birds.

This spirit continues, epitomized by the Club’s oldest active member, a vivacious ans elegant lady in her early nineties.  She still skis and still serves afternoon tea in a long gown.  She joined the Montreal winter a long time ago.  Obviously she had never regretted it.  Neither have I.

Published in February 1999

Jean P.