The other day, I read in the Globe and Mail that « The few words [Pauline Marois] uttered in halting English during her victory speech were the first in a month ». I also read and heard that elsewhere.
That would be entirely right, of course, except for the fact that she answered questions in English from English-speaking reporters every day of the campaign. Also, she gave a pretty substantive interview to CBC’s Daybreak, with Mike Finnerty during the campaign. Now that she’s Premier, it’s worth a listen.
Also, as an antidote to many wild post-electoral columns here is a must-read: Bernard Taylor’s column in the Calgary Herald. Read it in full here. Excerpts:
In her Sept. 6 column, Licia Corbella asks: “Are one-third of Quebec voters bigots?” As an Anglo living in Quebec, I can categorically answer “No.”
The reason why so many Quebecers, including myself, support the Parti Quebecois is simple. It’s a centre-left party with progressive policies that would appeal tomany Canadians. Let’s have a reality check. When the PQ was last in
government in the late ’90s, Pauline Marois introduced $5-a-day daycare, which won huge praise across the province, and envy in Ontario. Instead of completing the coverage for all children in 2003, Jean Charest’s new Liberal government became embroiled in patronage scandals […]
Charest’s Liberals imposed a new $200 health tax (due to rise to $400) for all Quebecers, whether you earn $30,000 or $300,000. Like the U.K.’s poll tax, it was regressive and unfair. The Parti Quebecois has promised to abolish the tax and raise the money elsewhere. […]
So, what irks Corbella and other single-issue columnists across Canada? You’ve got it — the language question. What she fails to remind her readers of is that it was Liberal Leader Robert Bourassa, who in 1974 made French the sole official language in Quebec. Quebec is not bilingual. French is the public and official language.
The Parti Quebecois subsequently strengthened Bourassa’s language law, but at the same time, guaranteed the language rights and institutions of Quebec’s English community. Pauline Marois reaffirmed this — in English — during the campaign.
The problem the Parti Quebec wants to address is that English is still making inroads in areas such as Montreal, where new Quebecers are turning to English in increasing numbers. In reaction to this trend, the Parti Quebecois proposes making it compulsory for new Quebecers to attend pre-university college in French, and for French to be used in companies with more than 10 employees (it currently stands at 50 employees). Remember, French is Quebec’s official language and the schooling measures touch new Quebecers, not the English-speaking community.
What Corbella and other commentators refuse to accept is that Quebec is a “distinct” society — yes, that word that should not be used in polite circles. Quebecers want to protect their distinct language and culture, and they want new Quebecers to integrate better. They also want Quebec’s secular values to be respected by all, and this means public servants not wearing overt religious symbols. This may irritate some religious groups and distant observers, but frankly, calling this “racist” and “xenophobic” demonstrates a serious level of ignorance and prejudice.
I expect that Pauline Marois will gain a lot of respect in the coming months for the progressive measures her government will introduce. She is the most experienced politician in Quebec, if not in Canada. And she is also Quebec’s first woman premier. At least Licia Corbella could have given her credit for that.
Bernard Taylor is president of the Parti Quebecois in the Hull riding in Gatineau, Que.
Merci à mon ami Facebook Jacques L. pour ce signalement.