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Wednesday, 5 November 2014

François Hollande in Canada - making his political mark - really?

All right, so we've established that, in spite of being briefed (presumably) the French president, François Hollande, doesn't exactly come top of the class when it comes to putting faces to names...well at least not in the case of Canada's national hero Kevin Vickers.

But what do you know?

It kind of works both ways.

Few, it appears, in Canada, seem to know who Hollande is.

The French president has just completed an official three-day trip to the country - the first by a French leader since François Mitterrand back in 1987.

François Hollande and Canada's prime minister Stephen Harper in western Canada (screenshot Euronews)

He was, of course trying to drum up business, pointing out that France was only Canada's "eighth-largest trading partner" and that "it could do better".

And he was paving the way for next year's United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21) to be held in Paris, saying he was, "counting on Canada to be fully committed to the fight against global warming, and do its part."

That wasn't and won't be an easy task as Canada pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol (committing countries to reducing greenhouse gas emissions) in 2011 and reportedly has no plans for reducing emissions from the Alberta oil sands, the country's fastest growing source of carbon emissions.

All well and good on the political front, with a timely "message of support" in the global fight against terrorism, just a week after Michael Zehaf-Bibeau killed a soldier, Nathan Cirillo, guarding the national war memorial in Ottawa before going on a shooting spree in the nearby parliamentary buildings.

And you would at least expect politicians to know who Hollande was and what he stood for.

But not so, apparently for the rest of the country where he was apparently "relatively unknown".

"If you were to ask anyone on the street who François Hollande was, I bet they wouldn't know,"  Canadian journalist Vincent Brousseau-Poulliot for La Presse said on Europe 1 the day Hollande arrived in the country.

"Hollande's not exactly flamboyant,  and although he may well be likeable, he's not perceived to be as tough or as well known as for example Nicolas Sarkozy."

Bet that went down well at the Élysée Palace.

And there's more (or worse, if you like).

For the man, who during the final televised debate during the 2012 French presidential campaign delivered that now famous 15-point "Moi président de la République" speech insisting that he would ensure his behavior was exemplary at every moment ("Moi président de la République, je ferai en sorte que mon comportement soit en chaque instant exemplaire) guess what he is probably best known for in Canada.

François Hollande, "Moi président de la République" (screenshot Le Monde TV 2012)

His private life, according to Sébastien Tanguay, a journalist for the Canadian francophone newspaper Métro.

"We've all heard and read about his affair with Julie Gayet and the break up of his relationship with Valérie Trierweiler," he said.

"But very little his known about his politics and policies."

Join the queue Monsieur Tanguay.

So there you have it.

Hollande might not know what Canada's national hero Kevin Vickers (the the sergeant-at-arms at the House of Commons of Canada in Ottawa who put an end to gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeauman's shooting spree in the parliamentary building on October 22).

But in return, Canadians apparently know little or nothing about the French president.

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