If we are looking for a symbol of the miseries of the Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ), it is in the reform of Bill 101.
Something unprecedented in the annals of parliament is happening there.
Last week, the PLQ asked that we withdraw its own amendment which required that a student of an English-speaking CEGEP pass three regular courses in French – for example, courses in sociology or mathematics – in the language of Leclerc.
Then, on Wednesday, a dramatic turn of events: the Liberals came back to this setback. They are now asking not to delete this proposal, but to modify it. Their new idea is to offer an alternative, but only to English-speaking rights holders. If they refuse to take three regular French courses, they could register for three French as a second language courses instead. This would allow those who do not master the official language to learn it instead of doing their maths or sociology in French.
However, there is a huge “but”. For this amendment to be accepted, the other parties must agree to it. But that remains to be seen…
Like a castaway in desperation, the PLQ sends this message: what we have proposed is bad, help us to undo it. The minister responsible for the French language, Simon Jolin-Barrette, contemplates their hand, thinking about what he should do with his…
It’s not because of a simple miscalculation by Liberal leader Dominique Anglade. Its whole strategy is in question.
In the last election, many francophone supporters of the PLQ migrated to the Coalition avenir Québec. Judging by the polls, they haven’t changed their minds since. On the contrary, the bleeding is accelerating. The PLQ is now reaping a starving score of 11% of voting intentions among Francophones. This is less than the PQ, Solidarity and Conservatives.
And in the by-election in Marie-Victorin on Monday, the PLQ did worse: a catastrophic 7%.
Mme Anglade no longer knows what to do to reverse the trend.
Like Justin Trudeau, she proposed in May 2021 a progressive turn. It did not work.
Last winter, she painted the party green with her ECO project and her promise to nationalize hydrogen production. The needle did not move.
His most ambitious strategy was to win back the moderate nationalist vote. She considered supporting the Bouchard-Taylor compromise fire on the wearing of religious symbols for police officers, corrections officers and Crown prosecutors. And above all, she has set herself up as the protector of French.
At the time, the subject returned to the debates. The six former Liberal and PQ prime ministers even made a rare joint outing to demand that Bill 101 apply to businesses under federal jurisdiction – we will have to see if Jean Charest still defends the idea in the race for the leadership of the Conservative Party. Canada, but hey, that’s another matter…
It is in this context that the PLQ presented its 27 language proposals last year. One of them was to encourage students in English CEGEPs to take “at least three courses in French”.
Mr. Jolin-Barrette was delighted with this opening. During the detailed study of his reform, he asked the Liberals if they would like the measure to become binding.
To his surprise, the Liberals said yes. Even their MP David Birnbaum, former director of the Quebec English School Boards Association, voted in favour. The amendment was adopted.
Today, M.me Anglade says: “Oops”.
She wants the parliamentary committee to go back and modify her proposal. Members of other parties must give their consent. It is not acquired.
Mr. Jolin-Barrette could demand something in return. This is the humiliating position in which the Liberals find themselves.
Not so long ago, the Parti Québécois was torn apart by its referendum debate. If he postponed it, those in a hurry would rebel. If he promised, the chilly worried. The PQ sought to satisfy their base while courting the undecided. It was perpetual quartering. The existential crisis returned with each season of ideas.
The Liberals are kind of going through the same thing. Mme Anglade has alienated his hard core of supporters. To be convinced of this, just consult the Qc125 site, a survey aggregator.
In 13 fortified castles, where allophones and English speakers are numerous, the probability of a liberal victory is 99%. In four others, it fluctuates between 75% and 90%. Elsewhere, in more French-speaking ridings, it drops to less than 50%.
To go up in the polls, the PLQ therefore needs Francophones. But by wooing them, Mme Anglade made few gains. Above all, she enraged her militant base.
Its die-hards are now threatening to create an Anglo party, like the Equality Party founded in 1989. It would be surprising if that threatened the seats in the castles. But it still creates an impression of disorder that she didn’t need…
To the credit of these disgruntled people, it is true that the Liberal amendment affects Anglophones, which goes beyond the spirit of Bill 101, which was primarily aimed at Allophones. But at the same time, not applying Law 101 to CEGEP is already a big compromise…
And even if they describe themselves as victims, English-speaking CEGEPs and universities remain overfunded in relation to the demographic weight of the community.
If the Liberals are defending their traditional militants, it is because Quebec politics has changed.
Faced with an adversary who does not want to achieve independence, Mme Anglade needs to redefine herself, and she doesn’t know how to do it yet. She is everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
After having governed for 15 of the last 18 years, the PLQ was ripe for purgatory. It had to reflect on its raison d’être and rebuild itself around its fundamental values.
Like PQ leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, Mme Anglade is intelligent and honest. I doubt anyone else would have done better in his place.
It’s cruel to say, but she was probably in too much of a rush to win. In search of a shortcut to victory, she rushed to rebuild her party.
The departure of practically all the veterans of the PLQ in the next elections could help the party to rebuild itself around new faces. If what’s broken can be fixed, of course.
But, unfortunately for the chef, if nothing changes, she will no longer be there to do this job.