Quebec, Ink: At least the PQ isn’t pandering

 There are a lot of people following this election campaign who don’t hesitate to describe Pauline Marois’s Parti Québécois as racist. That may be a bit over the top. But xenophobic? That’s a label that sticks to the PQ like poutine.

As we pointed out just two days ago in this space, the PQ is crying about the demographic likelihood that the proportion of French mother tongue on the island of Montreal is in decline. Mon dieu! What to do?

I accused the PQ of having no answers. But I was proven wrong Wednesday when Jean-François Lisée, nationalist propagandist and former-but-still-pretending-to-be-journalist, said the PQ would do … something. “We can try to come up with ways to make the decision to leave Montreal much more difficult,” said Lisée. Will they make an offer francos can’t refuse, or just ensure the island continues to be linked by bridges they’re afraid to cross?

Oh, Lisée added, and maybe the party would try to adjust the immigration system to encourage more francophones to emigrate here.

Really? The party that wants to ban all religious symbols except the crucifix from display in public institutions, that defines almost any accommodation of foreign culture that doesn’t involve serving it on a bed of couscous as unreasonable — that’s the party that wants to welcome more French-speaking immigrants to settle in Montreal?

* * *

Honestly, though, the PQ in 2012 at least has the merit of walking the walk. Or not talking the talk. Unlike her predecessors, from Lévesque to Landry, Marois doesn’t even bother to pretend she gives a damn about understanding or communicating with Quebec’s anglophones in their mother tongue. Her refusal to participate in an English debate did us all a favour, but it wasn’t her classiest move.

The Liberals, on the other hand, pretend damned hard. So hard, in fact, that it’s only when you read the meticulously bilingual campaign material of anglophone candidates in the West Island that you realize it was translated.

From French. And pretty poorly at that.

Yolande James, the Liberal incumbent in the Nelligan riding, had tens of thousands of campaign postcards distributed door to door this week. The English on it, as my francophone friends would say, “stunk of translation.”

In a list of her accomplishments, the glossy cardboard boasts “an urban boulevard in the grip of the future Highway 440.” Some grip. And then there’s “6,8M$ for the technological program of the pharmaceutical production at Gerald-Godin College.”

Admittedly, this is the kind of crappy translation anglophones have gotten accustomed to in Quebec. I used to get invitations to attend art exhibit “varnishings” where artists would “expose themselves” at public functions, so the above garble barely elicited a giggle. But it was truly shocking to see that an anglophone candidate in the heart of the West Island didn’t care whether a document she was sending to all of her constituents used proper, comprehensible English.

That, almost more than anything else I’ve seen in this campaign, defines Liberal arrogance. Any effort to communicate to the anglophone constituency is so low on the priority list that even the candidate in Nelligan – who got 72 per cent of the vote last election – doesn’t bother to read her English material before it goes to every door.

* * *

Charest seems to think that all he needs to do to keep anglos in line is bring out the referendum boogey man.

Well, we’ve had nationalist governments in power for almost 18 years since the PQ was first elected 36 years ago.

They aren’t the scary monsters we were told they’d be.

Anglo voters have other options than voting Liberal. We’ll discuss a few of them on Monday. ■

Peter Wheeland is a Montreal journalist and stand-up comic. His satirical observations about the city and province appear at least once a week in this space. You can follow him on Twitter at @quebecink

ENGRISH-IMMERSION: Photo by Peter Wheeland

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