Canada: Marois's selection for Parti Qu ébécois lan guage critic is an odd choice

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Fri Jan 16 14:22:21 UTC 2009

Marois's selection for PQ language critic is an odd choice

She picks the error-prone Curzi over the experienced Beaudoin

By DON MACPHERSON, The GazetteJanuary 15, 2009

Liberal Premier Jean Charest is not the only party leader who has made
some debatable lineup choices since last month's provincial election.
When Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois announced the official
opposition shadow cabinet last Friday, it was surprising to see that
she had not replaced Pierre Curzi as language critic with Louise
Beaudoin. Beaudoin was the minister responsible for language in the
Bouchard government from 1995 to 1998. It might have seemed much
longer to anglophones on whom she made such an impression that more
than 10 years later, she remains the Péquiste they most love to hate.

She has a long association with the current PQ leader, having served
with Marois in PQ cabinets since 1985 and having supported Marois in
the party's last contested leadership election, in 2005. Curzi, on the
other hand, was recruited by Marois's predecessor as leader, André
Boisclair. A member of the National Assembly since only 2007, he lacks
Beaudoin's experience and her political instincts, and in his first
term was prone to error. Last May, he was criticized for raising the
spectre of Quebec"s "social dismemberment" unless a tougher "new Bill
101" was adopted. On two other occasions, he was publicly disavowed by

The first time was a year ago, after Curzi and other PQ MNAs expressed
support for extending to the pre-school level Bill 101's restrictions
on admission to English primary and secondary schools. And only last
summer, after Curzi complained publicly about a show by Sir Paul
McCartney on Quebec City's Plains of Abraham to celebrate the city's
400th anniversary, Marois suggested that her MNAs check with her first
before taking public positions.

The McCartney incident didn't help the PQ in the electorally volatile
Quebec City region, where the party took only two of the 11 seats on
Dec. 8. Although Beaudoin was glad when she was relieved of
responsibility for language in the Bouchard government, it appeared
during the recent campaign that she might have it handed back to her
when she returned to the Assembly after a five-year absence.
It was Beaudoin, not Curzi, who presented the PQ's platform on
language, and who represented the party in a radio debate on the issue
with the outgoing Liberal culture minister, Christine St-Pierre.

St-Pierre had had enough trouble defending the government's language
policy against Curzi in the last term. So when Marois assigned the
stronger Beaudoin to the less sensitive portfolio of international
relations and la Francophonie instead of matching her up against
St-Pierre, Charest should have been relieved. That feeling might not
have lasted long, however. In the very first question period of the
new legislature yesterday, St-Pierre blurted out the startling
statement that the situation of French must be improved not only in
the "public sphere" but also in "private life," whatever that might

Marois's passing over Beaudoin for language critic is even more
surprising because of how important the issue might be in this term
for the PQ, internally as well as externally. The language issue has
often worked in favour of the PQ, the party of Bill 101, when it has
been in opposition facing a Liberal government considered weak in the
defence of the interests of French-speaking voters.

And it can provide an outlet for the nationalism of PQ members and
keep them occupied and united while the PQ is in no position to
achieve its primary objective of sovereignty. Yesterday's "private
life" remark by St-Pierre came in response to a question from Curzi
about a Statistics Canada report that only a slight majority of
Montreal Island residents, 54 per cent, most often spoke French at
home at the time of the 2006 census. Even so, there were more than
twice as many francophones as anglophones. And the francophones on the
island receive reinforcements every day from people coming in from the
surrounding suburbs.

But in politics, perception is reality. And a perception that French
is in danger in Montreal helps the PQ.

dmacpher at

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