Tourism Minister will contemplate promoting Quebec to English-speaking community

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Quebec Minister of Tourism Pascal Bérubé

Quebec Minister of Tourism Pascal Bérubé

Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet with Quebec Minister of Tourism, Pascal Bérubé.

This 37 year-old cabinet member (the second youngest in cabinet) is not your average PQ MNA.  He is personable, articulate in French and English and down-to-earth.  He is also a good friend to the Jewish community and has visited Israel and has even introduced Israeli culture and society to his constituents in the Gaspé.

Bérubé is also no stranger to Cote Saint-Luc having lived on Old Orchard Ave in NDG.

I suggested to the minister that he consider Montreal’s English-speaking community as a target audience for a “Travel in Quebec” campaign.  So few west-end anglos have visited the many extraordinary regions of Quebec, yet are fluent in the towns, shops and restaurants of neighbouring Vermont, Upstate New York and Ontario.

Informally polling my friends, I wasn’t surprised that none were familiar with the Gaspé, North Shore, Saguenay and most other regions beyond the ski centres and popular lakes of the Laurentians and to a lesser extent the Eastern Townships and Quebec City.

I find Quebec to be a fascinating and extraordinary province, having traveled to every province and much of our own.  The Magdelene Islands is breathtaking, the scenic vistas across the Charlevoix is amazing, the North Shore is remote and isolated while the locals are so friendly.  The Gaspé is a very worthy destination (I traveled there overnight by train once) and the Pontiac in the Outaouais is friendly and great for biking along the mighty Ottawa River.

There are so many wonderful opportunities that I’ve personally enjoyed in cycling, photographing and eating my way across the province I call “notre home”.  From St. Louis de Haha to St. Leonard d’Aston, Entry Island to Chisasibi, the people and places in our very own province are magnifique.

I asked the minister to consider targeting a travel publicity campaign to the huge number of English-speaking Montrealers who have yet to visit the sights within our province.  He found the idea to be of interest and committed to giving it consideration.

I also took the occasion to tell Minster Bérubé that Bill 14 is causing the English-speaking community, and bilingual municipalities in particular, an enormous amount of frustration, discomfort and anxiety.  I urged him to think about what he is trying to accomplish with respect to promoting the French language and to do so in a constructive, positive and inviting manner.  Cote Saint-Luc, and many other cities and towns with bilingual status are strongly opposing this mean-spirited draft law, I said to the minister, and surely it is the job of the government to unite all Quebecers around a common idea rather than continuing to divide them, and even punish some, as is the case with this bill.

Overall, I found Pascal Bérubé to be a fine gentleman, someone really willing to hear the other side.  I could see him rising in the ranks as he gains in experience.

Read more: Canadian Jewish News 2011-06-23 Bérubé

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VIA Rail strike a big hassle

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Open Letter to VIA Rail:

I was one of thousands of travellers who was greatly inconvenienced this past weekend when two of my bookings were cancelled due to the VIA Rail strike. Like so many others I had to make last-minute, alternative travel plans. I wasted much of my time and this created a great deal of stress to my travel companion and to me. VIA’s answer to this mess was to announce a 60% Off sale for all travellers, not just those who were abruptly dumped from their bookings. What’s worse is that VIA only offered a 3 days window to make these new bookings, right in the middle of Quebec holidays when so many are away and unavailable to take them up on the offer.

Even worse, VIA’s 1-888 number has been constantly busy and their website crashes, unable to handle the load of new bookings.

VIA should get its customer service on the right track, distinguish between those whose bookings they cancelled from those who are getting in on a good deal and offer a reasonable timeframe for these new bookings, say 30 days.

Published in Letters, Montreal Gazette

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