«Non quia timemus non audemus, sed quia non audemus, timemus»
-(Sénèque)
«Ce n'est pas parce que nous avons peur que nous n'osons pas; c'est parce que nous n'osons pas que nous avons peur».

Offensive de charme de Lisée auprès des anglophones. Combien de votes espère-t-il recueillir, et combien en perdra-t-il chez les francophones ?

Lisée wants a smarter PQ that knows how to pick its battles to avoid dividing Quebecers

QUEBEC — As he heads into his first encounter with the membership, new Parti Québécois Leader Jean-François Lisée is proposing a policy shakeup — asking the party to put aside referendum talk and language nitpicking and focus on building a broad coalition.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Montreal Gazette on the eve of a weekend policy debate designed to reboot the PQ, Lisée outlined where he wants the party to go in the months leading to the 2018 election.

The tone was decidedly pragmatic, with Lisée saying the PQ he leads needs to be more mature and know how to pick its battles to avoid dividing Quebecers.

“My take is let’s not look at past debates, but what is more fruitful,” Lisée said over a coffee. “Let’s work on the fundamentals and let’s leave nitpicking aside.

“I’m not saying they (past feuds) were wrong. I’m saying in four years (in government) let’s do the most important work and the work that unites us best.”

He said he believes such a “fresh attitude,” will encourage minority communities to have another look at a party they have shunned for years in the belief a vote for the PQ was a vote against Canada.

Lisée said that rapprochement should be much easier now that he has promised not to hold any referendums until 2022, another policy element Lisée hopes the party rank-and-file approve.

His approach to language, for example, breaks with the PQ’s sabre-rattling past, perhaps a reflection of the years he spent actually debating and talking with anglophones as minister responsible for Montreal and the community.

Lisée said if the PQ forms the next government, it will not resurrect divisive language ideas such as taking away the right of allophones and francophones to choose to attend an English CEGEP.

Nor will it try and strip municipalities of their bilingual status. Those elements were part of the PQ’s old policy book adopted in 2011.

And the province’s current commercial sign law, which allows English wording as long as French is predominant, will not be touched because it represents a “historic compromise,” he said.

Instead of fighting those wars again, Lisée believes the way to improve the status of French is in the education system and better management of immigration.

In a package of proposals to be tabled “for debate” Saturday at a party national council meeting in Quebec City, the PQ proposes to require anglophone students to pass a French exit test to obtain their diplomas.

Under the current rules, a student in an anglophone CEGEP is required to pass two French courses to get a diploma but there is no formal exit test.

Lisée said that approach makes more sense because it’s in the interests of anglophones to boost their French skills to have a better chance in the Quebec job market. He quotes census data from 2011 showing between 25 and 30 per cent of Quebec anglophones age 18 to 40 describe themselves as unilingual anglophones.

That translates into a loss for Quebec because young anglophones hightail it to Toronto after graduation because their French isn’t good enough to find work.

Going a step further, the PQ would encourage anglophones to spend part of their college years — perhaps one session — in a French CEGEP to improve their second language skills. The same rules could be extended to francophone students who might want to study in an anglophone CEGEP.

“We want them (anglophones) in,” Lisée said “We want their full contribution. We don’t want to lose a single student. It’s not tough love it’s just love. We want them to succeed.”

He goes further saying the PQ would “open a dialogue,” with universities aimed at getting them to beef up their French-language teaching as well. He said it may come as a surprise but it is entirely possible that a student from California who has chosen to study in Montreal would be interested in learning a bit of French while here.

Finally, a PQ government would tackle a lack of French in the workplace by extending provisions of the French-language charter to medium-sized businesses with 25 to 49 employees. They are currently exempt.

But rather than the PQ’s old approach, which was to send in language bureaucrats to read company owners the riot act, smaller firms would be offered fiscal incentives to make the shift gradually.

The PQ would, however, apply the charter to federally-chartered companies such as banks and telecommunications companies and entrench the right to live and work in French in Quebec’s Charter of Rights and freedoms.

Finally, Lisée proposes all immigrants coming to Quebec be required to have an intermediate knowledge of French before they get on the plane. That measure would apply in the category of economic immigrants, not refugees.

“I don’t think we can ask people fleeing from bombs falling on their heads to stop at a Berlitz before coming here,” Lisée said.

Lisée also proposes to entrench anglophone rights in the party program for the first time.

There would be a commitment to designate a cabinet minister responsible for anglophone relations and recognition of the community’s fundamental rights in the context of a province where French is the official language.

The bilingual status of health and social service establishments, which are part of Quebec’s anglophone heritage, would be guaranteed.

And acting on his leadership promise, Lisée proposes the PQ scrap Article 1 from its program, which says a PQ government will hold a sovereignty referendum “at a moment judged appropriate by the government.”

It would be replaced by five paragraphs which would say, in a nutshell, that while the PQ’s fundamental task is to make Quebec a country, the immediate task is to restore good government after 15 years of Liberal government bungling.


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