After a provincial election in September where the Parti Québécois spoke of French tests for candidates seeking public office, watering down Montreal’s ethnic communities and ridding the public sector of religious symbols – except for those linked to Catholicism – observers expected Quebec to become, yet again, a national embarrassment. The PQ has not only met, but exceeded expectations with a new round of childish, xenophobic rhetoric this week.
According to an internal PQ memo obtained by Journal de Montréal columnist Jean-Jacques Samson, all members of Premier Pauline Marois’ cabinet must now communicate with their counterparts in the Rest of Canada in French, always, according to Samson, most of the time, according to the backtracking PQ. Samson, a veteran National Assembly observer, was hard-pressed to think of a tougher stance that the PQ has taken on communicating with the ROC since its inception in 1976.
If, for example, a bilingual PQ minister (and many do speak both languages) is having an exchange with a unilingual Anglophone counterpart from the ROC, the PQ would sooner use a translator than have their representatives speak English in public. The PQ later felt the need to clarify that speaking English informally or socially with their ROC colleagues would also be acceptable.
“A Parti Québécois minister,” Samson writes, “could deal with an Anglophone counterpart in a neighbouring U.S. state in English and, in the same day, refuse to negotiate in English with a member of the Canadian government.”
Cela, c’est du xénophobie anti-canadienne, Made in Québec.
The stance is part of the PQ’s “gouvernance souverainiste” strategy which seeks to, as Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Alexandre Cloutier said this week, “push the limits of Quebec’s jurisdiction” when dealing with Ottawa – they’re basically trying to act as if Quebec is already a sovereign nation, and they’ll wait and see how their delusions will play out in real life. Since the PQ leads a minority government, this is of course in complete contradiction with the will of the National Assembly, and the will of two-thirds of Quebecers.
Democracy be damned; like all fundamentalists, PQ leaders believe that, despite September’s election result, only they can show Quebecers the true path to (linguistic) enlightenment. Quebec’s language jihadistsare so delusional that they would risk plunging even further in the polls and being toppled by the opposition if it meant getting a few inches closer to paradise.
The PQ and their hard line on sovereignty and language is so unpopular in Quebec, especially following a Pastagate/language inspection embarrassment that travelled the world, that the Liberals were ahead in the polls before they even chose Dr. Philippe Couillard as their new leader. The best thing for the opposition in Quebec and for federalism in Canada would be for the PQ to continue on their path of xenophobic self-destruction.
And make no mistake: Much of the PQ’s rhetoric of late is blatantly and indisputably xenophobic. Their desire for less English education for elementary school children and heavier anti-Anglo language laws like Bill 14 are predicated on the irrational fear that the presence of English weakens French; like pouring water into a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. Despite the fact that sovereignist leaders have traditionally spoken excellent English(apart from Premier Pauline Marois, whose English is very slowly improving), it has been deemed unnecessary, even unwise to have the masses also speak English at an advanced level.
Why on earth would Péquistes deprive citizens of access to the English language? Because, in their eyes, the benefits of being able to communicate in the international language of business are trumped by the desire to advance sovereignty by dividing citizens along linguistic lines.It’s just as simple as that; create an Anglo scapegoat and rally the base with talk of a linguistic war on Ottawa. It’s childish at best and hateful at worst.
Manufacturing conflicts with the federal government is hardly a new concept for the PQ. But this isn’t 1995. Rising taxes, a lowering of the quality of government services, a $250-billion provincial debt and general angst about the fragility of the economy has wiped sovereignty off the radar screen for the vast majority of Quebecers.
The PQ can pick all the petty fights it wants with Ottawa, but the reality is that this minority government is temporary, and will become increasingly fragile as the months go on. And if polls are any indication, Quebecers are at last growing tired of the PQ’s xenophobic , broken-record approach to governance.
Dan Delmar is the co-founder of Provocateur Communications and a talk-show host with CJAD 800 Montreal.