By Raquel Fletcher
Even the most astute political observer could be forgiven if he missed a last-minute amendment this week to Bill 96, the government’s reform of the Charter of the French Language. It was tabled last Tuesday evening, after weeks of controversy stemming from a Liberal Party amendment that would have required English-speaking CEGEP students to take three courses in French. The Coalition Avenir Québec government has now softened its tone. The Minister of the French Language, Simon Jolin-Barrette, said he heard the concerns of parents, students and CEGEP administrators. Students will now have the option of taking three French courses or five French as a second language courses, an improvement depending on the CEGEPs, even if they do not jump on what is presented to them as a compromise.
All the kerfuffle could have been avoided, of course. Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade admitted as much when she made her mea culpa a few weeks ago by apologizing to the English-speaking community for the ill-thought-out amendment originally passed in February.
Last week, she told reporters at the National Assembly: “Now hopefully that is behind us. We will speak with the English-speaking community and also defend the rights of every English-speaking person. »
However, growing animosity in the English-speaking community over Bill 96 led to the creation of two new political parties, both of which marketed themselves as alternatives not only to the CAQ, but also to the Anglade Liberals. This fall, English-speaking Quebecers will have the choice between the party of former Montreal mayoral candidate Balarama Holness, the Mouvement Québec and the new Parti canadien du Québec. Federalist voters can also choose to support Eric Duhaime’s Conservative Party of Quebec.
However, these new parties could end up giving Quebecers less representation in the National Assembly, not more. Polls already show that the CAQ was aiming to win between 90 and 100 seats out of 125 with potentially less than 50% of the popular vote. Parti Québécois MP Pascal Bérubé called this eventuality a “democratic deficit”. Dividing the opposition vote further could simply allow the CAQ to make even more inroads, for example by electing candidates on the island of Montreal.
Like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister François Legault has given up on adopting proportional representation to replace our first-past-the-post voting system. Berubé said this amounts to a broken election promise.
“They laugh out loud. They look at Quebec as a game of chance and they want all the places!” he said.
This week, Legault was severely reprimanded for a joke in bad taste at the National Assembly. When longtime Liberal MP Pierre Arcand rose during Question Period on Wednesday, the Prime Minister was heard saying into the microphone: “He’s not dead yet? »
“It’s as if the prime minister’s arrogance has no limits,” Anglade told reporters at a press conference after the incident.
Premier Legault is known for putting his foot in his mouth. As in the past, the Prime Minister quickly apologized. Via Twitter, he said Arcand was a “friend” and that it was a “bad joke”.
Polls are often not accurate in predicting election results, especially when the start of the campaign is still months away. However, what recent polls indicate is the possibility of a much stronger second term for Legault’s CAQ, which would spell disaster for the Liberals and PQ as well. In this case, it will also probably lead to a change in the leadership of these parties, which will further weaken the opposition, at least for a time. Opposition parties are right to worry about the current government’s level of arrogance – the problem is that it could get worse.