QUEBEC – Justin Trudeau has pressed one of the hottest issue buttons in Quebec, saying there’s no need to toughen the province’s language laws.
During a visit to Quebec City, the Liberal leadership candidate was asked by reporters about plans by the new Parti Quebecois provincial government to create a new Bill 101. The government calls the matter urgent, following census data that suggests a decline in francophones’ demographic weight.
Trudeau’s response: the PQ’s language policy is unnecessary and counter-productive.
His remarks come as a new poll suggested a Trudeau-led Liberal resurgence in Quebec, a province the party once dominated under his father.
His opinion on language also echoes the position of his father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who brought official bilingualism to Canada and criticized the French-only policies of the PQ.
The younger Trudeau says adding teeth to Quebec’s Charter of the French Language risks reigniting old battles.
The new Parti Quebecois government has vowed to strengthen the law, saying it needs to protect the French language and culture. It campaigned on a promise to extend the law to junior colleges and smaller businesses. In the wake of this week’s census data, it calls the matter urgent.
But Trudeau isn’t alarmed by new figures suggesting a relative decline of French in Canada and on the island of Montreal, saying it is the result of demographics and a lower birthrate.
He says hardening the language law would only punish francophones who want their children to be familiar with English, which he described as the international language of business.
Trudeau, a Montreal-area MP, made the remarks as he made a swing through Quebec City to promote his candidacy.
He arrived as a new CROP poll published by Montreal La Presse indicated he could pass the NDP in popular support in the province.
A Justin Trudeau-led federal Liberal party got the support of 36 per cent of the 1,000 respondents between Oct. 17 to 22.
The NDP, which now holds most of Quebec’s seats, clocks in at 30 percentage points, followed by the Bloc Quebecois at 19 percentage points, the Conservatives at 11 and the Greens at three per cent.