What is it about February and language? That thought came to mind when the CAQ voted for a PQ motion last Thursday to expand Bill 101 into areas of federal jurisdiction and make it applicable to small companies of 25-49 employees. Now, it’s just a motion but it is still dangerous and disappointing. Dangerous because it opens the door to legislation. Disappointing because Premier Legault has said over and over that he didn’t want to reopen Bill 101 and he wanted his legacy to be one of business growth. He said it even in an editorial meeting with us at the time of the last election. And he has been succeeding. But this motion is destructive of his goals. And will hurt Quebec.
At the time of the last election, our Robert Frank asked Premier Legault in an editorial board meeting at our offices the following question: “Are you proposing the status quo on language?”
The Premier answered, “I will not give you any less nor any more than the Liberal Party. The priority is not language. That’s why I have no intention of changing the current situation. I want us to focus on the economy, education and health care. It’s good for anglophones. It’s good for francophones. It’s good for everybody. “
It is beyond comprehension why so many Premiers of all parties do not comprehend that our language laws prevent foreign investment. No company will invest here if their executives cannot send their children to the schools of their choice and if they have to spend excessive amounts of money complying with our corporate language regulations. Premier Legault himself has made the point over and over that our economy is not sustainable without foreign investment. He has underscored many times that our economy is not sustainable if we have to depend on record transfer payments that now total nearly $13 billion out of almost $19 billion Ottawa makes. Yet he orders his party to vote for this motion.
The reversal of this motion is compelled not just by the social, cultural and economic damage it will cause; not just by the civil rights — legislative and acquired — that are once again threatened; but by the sheer transparent political opportunism and prejudice that gave it birth.
We have had linguistic peace for the better part of seven years. There is no threat to French today, if there ever was. As an example, the OQLF’s own figures demonstrated just last year that some 90% of businesses in downtown Montreal serve customers in French. Even on the West Island, the figure is near 80%. Cultural communities, particularly the Italian and Jewish communities, are more than 85% bilingual.
This motion was nothing more than the PQ attempting a last gasp at relevancy. CAQ support for it is inexplicable. And the motion came at a time when the leading candidate for the PQ leadership, Guy Nantel, just said some 10 days ago that it was time to stop beating up on English. This motion is meant to raise once again the false spectre of fear of the “other.” The false demon of “assimilation.” It is meant to propagate once again the politics of division and discord at the lowest common denominator upon which the separatists have constructed so much of their political edifice.
This motion demands that small businesses of 26-49 employees face Francization. In an already stagnant economic environment, this would impose more burdens. Small business in Quebec, responsible for 80% of new job creation, now spends some 19 full working days a year dealing with government compliance issues. This motion, if turned into legislation, would raise that number. We cannot afford more destruction of productivity. We cannot afford some three weeks taken out of our economic cycle every year. And worse, Quebec cannot afford business closures due to the frustration of entrepreneurs with the suffocating statism of our bureaucrats.
And how exactly is Quebec going to expand Bill 101 into areas of federal jurisdiction? Does the government really think the banks — as an example — will stand for it? The bank industry with armies of lawyers will tie Quebec up for years and win in the end. But not before we — Quebec taxpayers — spend millions paying Quebec’s legal bills. Furthermore, communications is also federal jurisdiction. Would this government seek to affect English media like CTV and CJAD? Even Bill 101 guaranteed respect for, “English culture and institutions.” Is that promise also now to be broken?
This motion deserves a big, fat, NO and an apology is owed to all Quebecers — francophone and anglophone alike — for the National Assembly wasting our time and taxes.