De­spite con­tro­versy, Que­bec lead­ers take part in first English-lan­guage TV de­bate

PressReader - Tke Channel - De­spite con­tro­versy, Que­bec lead­ers take part in first English-lan­guage TV de­bate
In an elec­tion cam­paign where Que­bec in­de­pen­dence is not a defin­ing is­sue, party lead­ers held an his­toric English de­bate Mon­day and tried to woo roughly one mil­lion an­glo­phones who have tra­di­tion­ally voted over­whelm­ingly for the fed­er­al­ist Lib­er­als. All four lead­ers spoke about the im­por­tance of Que­bec’s an­glo­phone mi­nor­ity, de­spite the fact a mini-con­tro­versy erupted in the prov­ince about the fact the tele­vised de­bate was even go­ing to take place.François Le­gault, leader of the Coali­tion Avenir Québec, which is lead­ing the polls, said the Oct. 1 elec­tion was un­like pre­vi­ous ones in the prov­ince.“I want to build a strong Que­bec within Canada,” Le­gault said, ex­plain­ing the po­si­tion his party had taken to be a fed­er­al­ist al­ter­na­tive to the Lib­er­als and a na­tion­al­ist al­ter­na­tive to the Parti Québécois.While the de­bate themes were tar­geted to the prov­ince’s an­glo­phone mi­nor­ity, such as ac­cess to the labour mar­ket for English-speak­ing youth, the elec­tion cam­paign’s hot-but­ton theme of im­mi­gra­tion quickly surged to the fore­front.Lib­eral Leader Philippe Couil­lard, re­spond­ing to a de­bate ques­tion from an an­glo­phone refugee from Nige­ria, said, “the way we talk about im­mi­gra­tion and im­mi­grants is not al­ways pos­i­tive.”“It’s dis­tress­ful the way you speak about im­mi­grants,” he said di­rectly to Le­gault, whose party wants to ex­pel im­mi­grants who fail to pass a French test af­ter three years in the prov­ince.Le­gault fired back that his party ’s pol­icy was “rea­son­able and done in other coun­tries.”While Que­bec’s first English­language TV de­bate was his­toric, it wasn’t with­out con­tro­versy.Pun­dits on French-lan­guage tele­vi­sion said the English-lan­guage de­bate set a “dan­ger­ous prece­dent” be­cause fu­ture party lead­ers would be un­der strong pres­sure to at­tend sim­i­lar de­bates in fol­low­ing elec­tions.A na­tion­al­ist group went so far as to ac­cuse PQ Leader Jean-François Lisée of “be­tray­ing” his peo­ple for par­tic­i­pat­ing. Lisée re­minded An­g­los dur­ing the de­bate his party had promised not to hold a sovereignty ref­er­en­dum dur­ing a first PQ man­date, ef­fec­tively re­mov­ing one of the Lib­er­als’ strong­est weapons against the pro-in­de­pen­dence party.Manon Massé, co-spokesper­son for the fourth-placed party, Québec sol­idaire, had the poor­est grasp of the English lan­guage of the four lead­ers, which made it dif­fi­cult for her at times to get her ideas across.She said her party was com­mit­ted to ad­dress­ing a long-stand­ing com­plaint among an­glo­phones: their un­der-rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the civil service. Québec sol­idaire will in­sti­tute hir­ing quo­tas, she said, to en­sure the civil service has a cer­tain per­cent­age of vis­i­ble mi­nori­ties and rep­re­sen­ta­tion from the English-speak­ing com­mu­nity.De­spite the con­tro­versy over the de­bate’s ex­is­tence, all four lead­ers spoke warmly of An­glo- Que­be­cers.“French is the of­fi­cial lan­guage in Que­bec,” Couil­lard said. “But English is not a for­eign lan­guage.” He asked Lisée if he could say the same thing.“Yes,” said Lisée. “French is the of­fi­cial and com­mon lan­guage. English is a Que­bec lan­guage.”Le­gault said “an­glo­phones are part of Que­bec his­tory and the an­glo­phone com­mu­nity played a huge role in build­ing Que­bec so­ci­ety.”It re­mains to be seen whether Le­gault’s per­for­mance on Mon­day moved any An­glo votes to his party, but he knows he can be­come the next pre­mier with­out them. An­glo­phones are heav­ily con­cen­trated in and around Montreal. Poll­sters say the Coali­tion can form a ma­jor­ity gov­ern­ment in the Na­tional Assem­bly with­out win­ning any of the 27 rid­ings on the island of Montreal.The first de­bate was last week, with an­other French-lan­guage show­down sched­uled for Thurs­day.

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