Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois says the Quebec Liberal Party isn't committed to defending the French language, and she says her government would adopt a new charter to ensure language rights are protected in the province.
Over the last couple days, language was thrust to the forefront of the Quebec election campaign.
This morning, Marois said her party would defend the French language by adopting a new version of Law 101, Quebec's Charter of the French Language. She said the new version of the charter would address 21st century realities, such as the anglicization of the workforce in Montreal.
- CBC Archives: Bill 101 is official
"The Liberal Party has nothing to offer on language, no commitments, no initiatives," Marois said in Verdun, as she unveiled her party's French-language policy.
Marois's comments come as her Liberal opponent, Philippe Couillard, faces intense scrutiny for defending bilingualism in Thursday's televised leaders' debate on the French-language TVA network.
During a drawn out debate with Québec Solidaire co-spokesperson Françoise David, Couillard said that Quebec workers should be able to speak with visiting international clients in English.
"Bilingualism isn't a threat," he said during the debate. "Knowledge of English is indispensable."
This morning, Marois said Couillard's comments are yet another example of his party's poor track record on Quebec culture and identity.
'[Couillard] is trying only to protect the English vote.'- François Legault, CAQ leader
"During the nine years under a Liberal government, we saw a decline of the French language, particularly in the Montreal region," she said.
While Marois acknowledged there's nothing wrong with being bilingual, Marois said Quebecers must stand up for their right to speak and work in French.
"If you want to be bilingual, I agree with you as a person. But as an institution and as government, I think the official language of Quebec is French and we don't have to be bilingual in our institutions," she said.
Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault was also on the attack Friday morning, accusing his Liberal opponent of prioritizing anglophone votes above others.
"Mr. Couillard is too much at the extreme. He is trying only to protect the English vote, the anglophone vote, but in doing so, he will lose all the French votes," Legault said at a news conference in Montreal.
Legault said his government would be the best of both worlds — one that prioritizes the economy as well as Quebec language and identity.
"French people, they will always be scared in North America, that in 10 years in 20 years, in 30 years, we don’t speak French anymore. So you have to reassure them, but at the same time you have to also talk about the economy, which [Marois} is not able to do,” Legault said.
Couillard: 'Bilingualism isn't a threat'
Couillard continued to defend his stance on Friday, despite the onslaught of criticism from his opponents.
“It’s a great advantage for anyone to be bilingual. I know. This is something the péquistes don’t want me to say, but I’ll say it again: There’s not a single parent in Quebec that doesn’t hope for their kids to be bilingual. It’s such a fantastic asset in life. And it goes the other way, for English-speaking kids to be bilingual in French is a fantastic asset,” Couillard said during a news conference in Blainville.
The Liberal leader said his government would continue to enforce the existing language charter, and acknowledged that Quebecers have the right to live and work in French.
"French will always need special attention. We’re eight million in a vast continent that is vastly English speaking, so that’s a reality.
“There are certainly risks and there are things we need to do better. But we are strong in Quebec. I don’t like this idea that we’re weak,” Couillard said.