Angely Pacis, the Coalition Avenir Québec candidate for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce who wrote a letter stating concerns about François Legault's stance on anglophones and allophones, said the letter was not a critique of the CAQ.
"I believe in the CAQ and I believe in our platform, and I believe in the approach that we're taking. Moving us out of this ghetto of divisiveness is the right approach," said Pacis.
Pacis said she does not regret writing the letter but does not want it to be misinterpreted.
CAQ Leader François Legault says he doesn't think his own candidate was bashing him in a letter to party members that said he needed to ratchet up his commitment to anglophone and allophone voters or risk forgoing their support.
The pointed letter, penned by Pacis, was obtained by CBC News.
In it, the CAQ candidate in the Montreal riding of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce says Legault "does not have a chance in winning a majority government" unless he publicly commits to the view that native non-French speakers have an integral place in Quebec and should not be "repressed, chastised or made ashamed."
The letter condemns a Legault "rant about how deplorable it is to go to downtown Montreal and hear English in commerce," and says such talk will scare anglophones and allophones into considering leaving Quebec. "It is not enough to say that the CAQ is an alternative" to the Liberals, Pacis writes in the document.
She also says some of Legault's statements in Sunday night's leaders' debate suggested he would use Bill 101 and the Office québécois de la langue française, the province's French-language watchdog, to "punish business owners and families who transact in English." She calls this "repression of English culture" and says speaking English is appropriate "where it is convenient and culturally traditional to do so."
Pacis' letter to the CAQ
'I think we're clear'
Legault said after his one-on-one debate Wednesday night that he's always been clear about where he stands on Bill 101, Quebec's French-language charter.
"I think we're clear. We say that we don't want to change the Bill 101," the CAQ leader and former education minister said.
"Right now the Bill 101 is not applied in some business in Montreal to receive customers. I have been very clear with the 125 candidates that we have. We want to apply the actual Bill 101, but we don't want to change it."
Legault said he thinks his candidate isn't criticizing him so much as suggesting how the CAQ can improve it's campaign.
"I read the letter. I don't think that she attacks me. What she says is that we should be clear."
The CAQ has tried to woo English-speaking voters, portraying itself as another option for a demographic that traditionally votes Liberal.
Though Legault was a Parti Québécois cabinet minister for nearly five years and a PQ MNA until 2009, his new party has been deliberately non-committal on the Quebec sovereignty issue. Legault has stated repeatedly that he wouldn't hold a referendum on independence for at least 10 years, and if one were called today, that he would vote no.
There's some evidence the approach has had a measure of success, with figures like Robert Libman, the former leader of the Anglo-rights Equality Party and a onetime Montreal city councillor, exhorting English-speaking voters to consider the CAQ.
Pacis's N.D.G. constituency has the third-highest percentage of native English speakers of all ridings in the province. It borders on the riding of D'Arcy-McGee, also a plurality anglophone district and a Liberal stronghold.
The CAQ entertained hopes it could snatch such seats from the Liberals.