As much as the ongoing fracas in the francophone media about what kind of leaders French debate to have is somewhat assuming, the refusal of Pauline Marois to accept an English debate, even one on radio where questions could be filtered, is downright insulting. It is time that Quebec’s non-francophones start saying “Assez c’est assez! “ Montreal island, as of several years ago, is more than 50% non-francophone. The 21% of Quebecers who are non-francophone account for some 40% of all individual revenues collected by Revenue Quebec. Where is, in Sheila Fraser’s words, their “value for money?”
Put aside the moral considerations that it is time to end the great lies of the culture wars. Put aside the historical fact that neither anglophones nor francophones have any moral superiority having each colonized this land in the name of a European king. Today the issue is simply one of civil rights. Non-francophones have very real concerns that the leaders need to address. And we have the right to demand that they address them in English.
Just how far will Marois go in acquiescing to the demands of the radical coalition that has been steering the marchers with the CSN at its heart? How much more in taxes will it cost Quebecers, already the highest taxed in North America, but particularly non-francophones who pay taxes out of all proportion to population? The Americans fought a revolution on “no taxation without representation.” Well, for non-francophones the new rallying call is “no taxation without comprehension.” We need to hear from Marois and Legault that they will make commitments not to start more language wars. Not to expand Bill 101 to the point where Quebec won’t be able to attract a foreign executive because they won’t be able to send their kids to an English school. We need to hear from Marois whether the rumours that she will let 16-year olds vote in a new referendum are true or not?
We need to hear from Legault what exactly he means when he says he will put the “national and constitutional questions aside for ten years.” Has he or has he not renounced separatism? We need to know from him exactly how he plans to undo the Gordian knot of medical care he helped create when he was Health Minister and instituted forced retirement of thousands of doctors. And we need to know that before he tells us his plans for the education system. Staying alive comes before getting educated.
This may very well be the most important vote since the 1995 referendum. This election is its own referendum . It is a choice between supporting a liberal economy that respects free and fair markets and encourages entrepreneurship against those who would impose a centralized command-state and the yoke of tax burdens too onerous to contemplate. It will be a choice between supporting those who seek to protect liberal political discourse and encourage civilized debate against those whose weapons of polity and policy are demonization, marginalization and social disruption.
What Montrealers saw in our streets this past spring was nothing less than attempted insurrection. The student protests were the least part of it. This is a watershed moment. Not just for the history of our province and our country, but for each and every one of our lives. Our ability to continue conducting them in a society that respects and protects individual choice and individual initiative. A society where private imperatives will always be balanced against public dictates and not overwhelmed by them. A society that moves forward in history and does not look back to dogmatic statist models that have been the ruin of so many.
The students were co-opted early by some of the most radical union and political elements in Quebec. The implication of the CSN, and elements of the PQ and QS, both financially and organizationally is no longer a secret. Most of the marchers we witnessed in over 20 demonstrations that paralyzed this city and cost us millions, were not students. This was nothing less than a consolidation of the radical left. For the PQ and the QS, political advantage was sought. For the CSN, this was a prelude to public-sector negotiations. Their aim, as one of their leaders said, was to “stop the economic engine of Quebec.” And our vote must be for those who will not let that happen. We need to hear where Marois and Legault stand on this. These tough questions, posed in this context, may not even be raised in a French debate.
We need to hear the leaders in English. It is our right as citizens. Unless Marois wants to incite a tax revolt. Her refusal not only disrespects our citizenship and equality, it speaks volumes about the democratic representation of non-francophones in a Pauline Marois-led Quebec.