The Politics of Language
We all know that it's not always what you say but how you say it that matters.
And sometimes, in the House of Commons, it matters how you say it in both French and English.
Liberal leader Stephane Dion led off question period today, in French, with a question to the Justice Minister Rob Nicholson.
Unhappy with the answer, Dion said he'd try again in English.
That line was greeted with a chorus of catcalls from the Conservative side. Dion's command of English is considered a weakness by his political opponents. And they take every opportunity to drive home the point.
After the shouting died down, Dion said he'd try again ''in my English,'' to sustained applause from Liberal MPs.
But Nicholson, who is unilingual, wasn't about to let the language issue go.
"I listened very carefully to the question ... it makes even less sense in English, I have to tell you that.''
More howls of laughter from the government side.
More howls of protest from the Liberals.
"It's disgraceful,'' yelled a Liberal.
'It's funny,'' shouted back a Conservative.
The last word went to Liberal Marlene Jennings from Montreal.
As is her practice, Jennings asked one question in English, the other in French.
"And maybe the Justice Minister would like to answer in French,'' she said.
Nicholson tried. 'Ce n'est pas correct,'' he stammered before quickly reverting to English to a cascade of laughter from Liberals.
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