Coalition Avenir Québec leader François Legault says his party will vote to send Bill 14 — the PQ government's contentious proposed legislation to toughen the French language charter — for further study.
Flanked by the CAQ's critic responsible for the French language charter, Montarville MNA Nathalie Roy, Legault told reporters his party is giving the minority government a "last chance" to make changes to the bill.
'What we need to have is a balanced bill, and it's not the case right now,'—CAQ Leader François Legault
Legault said the party supports the principle of the draft legislation, aimed at protecting and promoting the French language in Quebec.
"But there is no way we can support the bill in its current form," he said. "In other words, without significant amendments, this bill will not pass."
The CAQ has four major problems with the legislation:
- It does not support the application of Bill 101, the original language charter, to small businesses.
- It opposes removing bilingual status from municipalities with a declining population of anglophones.
- It opposes an article in Bill 14 which would compel most children of military families posted in Quebec to attend school in French.
- It opposes an article in the bill which would restrict the entry of students who had been educated in French to English-language CEGEPS.
In addition, the CAQ takes issue with a number of more technical, legal provisions which have been flagged by both the Quebec Bar Association and province's human rights commission as problematic.
"We are willing to give the government a chance to make amendments to this bill, but if significant changes are not made to address our initial problems and the new ones that came up after six weeks (of legislative hearings), we will vote against the bill," Legault said.
Liberals threaten filibuster
The opposition Liberal party has said from the outset it will vote against Bill 14 in its entirety, and it's now promising to use procedural delaying tactics in order to disrupt a vote.
Legault called that strategy "unacceptable."
"We think it's normal after 40 years that we modernize this very important law we have in Quebec," Legault said. "There are some good reasons to be for the bill…What we need to have is a balanced bill, and it's not the case right now."
The CAQ is also seeking an independent evaluation of the cost of implementing Bill 14, should the legislation pass.
"The impact on businesses will be between $25 and 30 million, to apply the bill as is," said Roy. She said her party wants to see those numbers, and it wants to know what the total cost of applying the bill will be to the government itself.
"That's a legitimate question, I think," Roy said.
De Courcy mulls amendments
The CAQ decision to stand with the government came following an impassioned plea from the minister responsible for the French language charter, Diane De Courcy.
She hinted there is some room to maneuvre on the issues the CAQ finds most irritating about the bill, including making it easier for small businesses to apply the law and giving municipalities more control over whether they keep their bilingual status.
She also said the provision stripping French-speaking military families of English education rights could be dropped.