Marois's shoddy bill is nothing but a marketing tool

PQ threatens social climate just to make electoral gains

Citoyenneté québécoise - Conjoncture de crise en vue

Pauline Marois's Bill 195 on identity and citizenship is a masterpiece of shoddiness and ambiguity. The problem is that one gets the impression this was done on purpose and with little regard for its impact on Quebec's social climate.
With Bill 195, Marois and her advisers used the oldest trick in the book to get the PQ back in the limelight: controversy. The fact every columnist, including this one, has written about it shows how effective this communications coup is. The tail of Bill 195 has succeeded in wagging the media dog.
While we're busy dissecting Bill 195, we're missing the forest for the trees: This is mainly a marketing tool whose content is secondary to the controversy it created to achieve its goals which are:

- To put the PQ in the driver's seat on identity.
- To show up Mario Dumont as someone who talks but doesn't do anything.
- To take the PQ's focus away from sovereignty as it jumps on the "autonomist" bandwagon with the Action démocratique's own proposal of a Quebec citizenship within Canada.
- To cater to those francophones who think the francization of newcomers isn't going as well as it could.
So far, according to yesterday's Léger Marketing/Journal de Montréal poll, it's working. A majority of francophones support Bill 195, especially in the regions where the PQ is neck and neck with the ADQ. Even though it was a quickie poll with a small sample and a relatively high margin of error, it's bound to comfort Marois's advisers.
If in future polls this translates into increased support for the PQ, expect Marois to stick to her Bill 195 guns. But at what cost?
Marois has compared the reactions to Bill 195 with those against Bill 101 in 1977. But that doesn't hold. Bill 101 was a major piece of legislation that was prepared by a stellar group of experts who aimed to bring about a profound change in the fabric of Quebec society. Bill 195 is none of those things.
Bill 101 was tabled by the government and intended to be adopted. Bill 195 is neither. The only thing they have in common is that they're quickly polarizing Quebec society. With Bill 101, this was inevitable at a time when anglophones and allophones rejected the imposition of French as the language of education, work and government. But with Bill 195, the controversy smells more like a tactical move intended for electoral reasons.
Still, Bill 195 is doing damage. The hot buttons it pushes are deflecting people from rational analysis to more emotionally driven reactions. This happens regardless of its actual content or the fact it won't see the light of day.
Some francophones will support it because they feel it's about time someone, anyone, stood up for the French language again. Some anglophones, including the English-language media across Canada, will denounce it as one more sign of the xenophobia they like to think Quebec harbours.
Certain lobby groups also will join the choir. Yesterday, B'Nai Brith called Bill 195 "extreme-right" and "ethnically based." It might be a lot of things, but extreme right and ethnically based it's not.
More francophones will surely feel insulted by these remarks. This, in turn, will provoke harsher reactions from all sides as all these nice people will feed on each other's emotions and prejudice with the ensuing artificial psychodrama created by a bill that will never be adopted.
This is how for the sake of marketing and pre-election vote hunting, Marois and her advisers are toying with loaded issues instead of promoting sovereignty as their answer to the so-called identity dilemma.
But there's also a chance enough people will see through this marketing tool and stay calm. Some will perhaps even search for an alternative, which could end up looking more moderate in comparison.

If Dumont stays above this fray, even though, ironically, he started the "identity" ball rolling, he could come to be seen as the moderate one. Stranger things have happened.
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