In spite of President Donald Trump making things worse for himself and inspiring many to vacation in places other than the United States, I am actively taking part this year in the migratory wave of French Canadians to Florida. A prolonged respite in the Sunshine State, where it is estimated that 1 million of our countrymen vacation each year.
It is a choice that can cause one to raise an eyebrow. If it were only a question of Quebec’s economic interests, we would collectively do better if we stayed at home more. Because many more of us are interested in getting away from our snow-covered land than in attracting international tourists, Quebec’s tourism deficit is astronomical. Each year, we spend close to $5 billion more abroad than tourists spend here. Bye, bye, cash! The Ministry of Tourism, by the way, will tell you that French Canadians would only need to spend one more weekend at home than they do now in order to correct the situation. A welcome challenge!
The media have been quick to ask if there is a Trump effect on tourism. In the first trimester of 2017, a 4.2 percent drop from the previous year led us to believe that there was, even if we could also attribute that to the country’s deteriorating international image, mass shootings and the exchange rate. Then, the year ended with an increase – 0.7 percent. Rather unimpressive considering that the World Tourism Organization estimates the number of international tourists is increasing by 3.3 percent each year and will continue to do so for at least the next 10 years. That figure also came at a moment when France and Spain, already at the top of the list of international destinations, saw respective increases of 5.6 percent and 8.6 percent.
As for me, I have nonetheless chosen to set up my winter “camp” here, in this Republican territory, but in a Democratic city, Key West, the only city in Monroe County that went for Hillary Clinton in 2016, and in a state where, in the recent midterm Senate election, the Republican, Rick Scott, won with 50.5 percent of the vote after a tight race that required a recount. That backs up what those now talking about the “Divided States of America” are saying.
There certainly is an America other than that of the current president, but there is also hope that his election will someday be seen as nothing more than an error made along the way, since, let us remember, the Democratic presidential candidate won the popular vote by two points. The arrival of a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, which is fully exercising its prerogative, is a glimmer of hope, as is the fascinating race for president that is taking shape on that side of the chamber.
Like other candidates of the party’s most left leaning wing, Bernie Sanders is running on a platform of “Medicare for All,” free tuition in public colleges and universities, and a $15 minimum wage, but it is the following announcement, light years away from our self-proclaimed left – the New Democratic Party and Québec solidaire – that really excites me: “We have got to look at candidates, you know, not by the color of their skin, not by their sexual orientation or their gender and not by their age,” he said. “I think we have got to try to move us toward a nondiscriminatory society which looks at people based on their abilities, based on what they stand for.”
In order to win, doesn’t the left need to once again become alter-globalist, internationalist and universalist, acting for the common good, taking into account collective rights just as much as individual ones, even though this “new” left, in Quebec and elsewhere, has made communitarianism and multiculturalism its school of thought?
Finally, we can ask if the Democrats will dare to choose the avowed “socialist” who is Sanders this time around, instead of choosing a candidate based on consensus, a more conventional candidate such as former Vice President Joe Biden, if he runs. Will the 2020 election be a ruthless race between three septuagenarians?
At this venerable age, I should add, as I conclude, the need to get away from the harsh and cold winter was stronger, for me, than the need to boycott a country that did not vote for the right team. That will be my last excuse. To make up for it, I will spend the summer, as always, in Charlevoix.