For most readers of this column, this federal election campaign has probably been as much fun as high-school dances are for plain girls.
No candidates called or rang the doorbell to invite you to vote for them. Some candidates didn't bother sending you campaign material. One party, the Bloc Québécois, didn't even publish any material in English, even though sovereignist parties have done so in the past.
Is it because of them that you're so lonely at election time, or because of you? It's both.
The parties figure you're going to vote Liberal anyway, because that's what people in Quebec with non-francophone names usually do (although one poll, conducted Sept. 18-28 by CROP for La Presse, put the Liberals only three points ahead of the Conservatives in popularity among non-francophones, 35 per cent to 32). So the parties don't waste time or money trying to get your vote.
There are more francophone votes in this province, and there are always a lot of them up for grabs. And the parties are afraid that it will cost them some of those votes if they're overheard promising something to non-francophones.
That's why the president of the Quebec Community Groups Network, Robert Donnelly, wrote on this page yesterday that "in the so-called battle of Quebec, no party seems overly eager to reach out for anglophone votes, at least openly." Amid the hyperbole of a campaign, it's nice to see an understatement for a change.
Donnelly knows, because his organization had asked the four parties that elected members to the last Parliament what they would do for the English-speaking communities the QCGN claims to represent.
Specific areas of concern were: The under-representation of English-speaking Quebecers in the federal civil service; Funding for cultural and heritage activities for English-speaking communities across the province, and Education and other services for English-speaking youth, especially outside Montreal, so that fewer of them, would move away.
In addition, the QCGN complained that the federal government too often ignores the impact of its policies on the English-speaking minority. And it asked the parties to clarify their respective positions on guaranteeing access to quality services and fostering community development for English-speaking communities.
This was in letters to the leaders of the four parties that elected members to the last Parliament, sent Sept. 12. As of yesterday, only the Bloc (!) and the Liberals had bothered to reply.
In fact, the Bloc was first to reply, only four days after the QCGN sent its letters. But its own two-page letter mostly ignored the QCGN's questions and said in essence that anglophones would benefit along with other Quebecers from measures the Bloc had already proposed.
The Liberals didn't reply until Tuesday, in a one-page letter dashed off so hastily that it contained several typographical errors. It reiterated their commitments to official-language minorities in general, but, like the Bloc's letter, did not address the problems of Quebec's English-speaking communities in particular.
Neither the Conservatives nor the New Democratic Party had replied by yesterday afternoon. In the case of the NDP, this is especially surprising, since the QCGN asked specifically about its support for the Bloc's Bill C-482, which NDP candidates in non-francophone ridings in Quebec say has been misunderstood.
That's the bill that would have ended the equality of English with French in federal institutions in Quebec, as well as recognizing the right of workers in federal jurisdiction in this province to work in French.
Speaking to The Gazette this week, NDP candidate Thomas Mulcair said his party supported only the part of the bill on the right to work in French. And he referred us to his speech on the bill in the House of Commons in April.
But although Mulcair had obtained a legal opinion saying the bill might reduce the rights of English-speaking Quebecers, he did not mention this aspect in his speech in the Commons, let alone express reservations about it.
And the NDP had nothing to add on the subject to the QCGN. In fact, like the Conservatives, it apparently had nothing to say to English-speaking Quebecers at all.
Anglos are shunned or taken for granted
Political parties assume anglos will vote Liberal, so they don't woo their vote