You are all, I think, familiar with the details of L'Affaire Potter, so I need not enumerate them here. If you aren't already familiar with this story, you probably don't care what I have to say about it, so you can skip the rest of this post. But as a Quebec-based academic with a weekly column in a national newspaper, I feel obliged to say something.
Which brings us to his Maclean's piece. Quite frankly, I didn't see a heck of a lot to be excited about, one way or the other. Certainly the bit about restaurant bills felt wrong to me. I'd never heard such a thing even as a second- or third-hand anecdote, but - I conjectured - maybe things were different in Montreal. (After 25 years in Quebec City, I've internalised much of the local tendency to believe the worst of what goes on in Montreal.) The StatsCan data he cited were suggestive, but I'm much too old a hand at social science data to accept them as conclusive.
It wasn't Andrew's best work, but - and this is the crucial bit - no-one hits home runs every time. Anyone who steps up to the public commentary plate is going to strike out at embarrassingly high rate; the best ones are those who can hit for the average. As someone (Felix Salmon?) once said, if you're never wrong, you're not interesting. And Andrew's batting average is such that I was willing to shrug this one off, in the almost certain expectation of more and better to come. His willingness to admit error is, in my view, yet another reason to cut him extra slack: lesser pundits would have succumbed to the temptation of doubling down. And as Colby Cosh notes, this is a field where getting things wrong can actually advance the debate.
This brings me to the delicate issue of university politics. In ten-plus years of blogging and column-writing, with an ever-increasing audience, I have never once incurred the wrath of Laval's administration. Or its approval, for that matter. I'm not entirely sure I show up on their radar (because I write in English?), and I'm not dissatisfied with this state of affairs. But not everyone benefits from this sort of benign neglect.
Certainly Andrew Potter did not. And it's not clear to me why he should pay so steep a price for an (admittedly lame) piece. As someone (sorry, I can't remember who) pointed out, being publicly corrected on a point of analysis is the appropriate punishment for getting things wrong. And there are far too many open questions about the affair to close the file at this point.