February 25, 2013 10:58 am
Updated: March 24, 2013 2:30 pm

Quebec’s ‘Pastagate’ gets international media attention


MONTREAL – The premier of Quebec might have to travel abroad a few more times – 60 times, perhaps – to help the province generate the same kind of publicity generated by the recent language flap involving pasta.

The head of a company that does media analysis says the story about a crackdown on a restaurant with Italian words on its menu got 60 times more coverage in out-of-province news reports than a recent trip where Premier Pauline Marois tried to drum up foreign business.

The head of Influence Communication, which monitors media coverage worldwide, says there were 60 stories in traditional media about the so-called Pastagate for every one about Marois’ trip to New York in December.

While most of the stories were in Canada, Pastagate was chronicled in 350 articles in 14 countries, as far away as Australia, when it broke last week.

Influence president Jean-Francois Dumas says the coverage probably won’t scare off investors but it doesn’t present a great image for the province.

“Pastagate” stems from a visit by an inspector for the Office quebecois de la langue francaise to a trendy Montreal restaurant.

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The inspector told Buonanotte owner Massimo Lecas that the menu violated Quebec’s language law and said Italian terms such as pasta had to be replaced with French-language equivalents.

The story burned up social and mainstream media and the Office relented, admitting the inspector was overzealous and should have considered a cultural exception contained in the language law.

But that story has prompted a number of other restaurants, including some famous ones, to go public with complaints about similar dealings with the OQLF.

Do you think “pastagate” could change Quebec’s language laws? 

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