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Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 07.24.06
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

Taking a legal break, eh?

Since last week, this column has been on Construction Holiday. Oh, it's still running, but it has to comply with Quebec's stringent Construction Holiday Regulations under the Régie de la Solidarité des Whoopees du Québec (Chapter 4, Section D2: "Pundits, Crackpots and Pseudo-Intellectuals").

If you're not familiar with Quebec's annual Construction Holiday, here is a brief history of this phenomenon.

Quebec introduced the Construction Holiday in 1971 when the government determined that the province had become too sleek and modern and was losing some of its Old World charm.

Therefore, the province would artificially create an "antique" look for infrastructures and buildings by forcing all construction workers to stop work for two weeks in the middle of the summer when they would otherwise be at peak productivity.

The gambit paid off. Quebec is now first in Canada for washboard roads and half-finished duplexes. Many a tourist has walked out of the Trauma Unit wearing souvenir T-shirts that read "I Survived Autoroute 55."

This being Quebec, however, what one group has, the entire "collectivity" demands. It wasn't long, then, before non-construction workers were taking the last two weeks of July as their holiday as well.

In Quebec's more isolated communities, entire towns would pack up and move to a neighbouring town and vice versa.

By the mid-eighties, virtually the entire province was shutting down for Construction Holiday, including the hotel industry, which made things a bit awkward, as you can imagine.

So the Quebec government decided to further regulate Construction Holiday, creating guidelines on such matters as who can take a Construction Holiday, when, and what colour pants they must wear doing so.

These guidelines also cover Quebec's columnists.

While all columnists are eligible to take a Construction Holiday, safeguards are put in place to ensure that Quebec's valuable opinion economy doesn't collapse due to a total shutdown. As a result, most columns will continue to appear, but in a slightly altered form.

For example:

  • columns must be written in crowded camping/beach/amusement/traffic areas

  • rehashing old columns is permitted if presented as a "half-year-in-review"

  • words longer than three (3) syllables may be used only sparingly; "perspicaciousness" is right out

  • the columnist must wear a Speedo at all times

  • the columnist may not import yellow margarine

  • on a scale of complexity ranging from "Branjolina" to "quantum physics," column subjects may be no more taxing than "cute things my turtle does"

  • notwithstanding the above point, the columnist may write about the hot and/or rainy weather only one (1) of the two (2) weeks (14 days)
> Columnists generally accept these guidelines because most would actually prefer not taking a full two weeks off. This is because the famously insecure columnists worry that should they stop publishing, even briefly, they will be replaced by cheap Indian imports.

Construction Holiday for columnists has proven to be so successful that the Quebec government is considering creating other special days for sages and opinion monkeys.

For instance, the Contraction Holiday will help curtail the use of those pesky apostrophes by forcing all English columnists to use the long form of phrases for one week. For example, I will be deconstructing the classic Duke Ellington song "It Do Not Mean a Thing If It Is Not Got That Swing."

Contraception Holiday: Reproduction among newspaper columnists is extremely low, for fairly obvious reasons. This holiday will encourage the creation of pundit progeny, thereby ensuring the long-term viability of self-satisfied rants and screeds in this province.

Distraction Holiday: One week a year, columnists will be provided quiet surroundings, free of disturbances and demands from family and real jobs so that they can write their columns with unprecedented focus andů oh look, a butterfly!

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