You'd think a longtime reporter and TV anchor would understand the importance of choosing le mot juste. But Christine St-Pierre, the former journalist who is now the Liberal minister responsible for the Charter of the French Language stepped on a mine last week.
In the National Assembly, she was reminded by another rookie MNA, the PQ's Pierre Curzi, that the government of Jean Charest had pledged to remain vigilant about language issues. We'll gloss over the fact there was no reason for Curzi's question in the first place other than to roil the waters on Bill 101, always the whipping-boy issue of choice for nationalists.
But St-Pierre didn't just take the bait. She swallowed it, hook, line and sinker.
She blustered truculently about "zero tolerance" for infractions to Bill 101, adding French "is the language of Quebecers. It is the official language of Quebec."
Well, she got it half right. It is the official language of Quebec. But it justifiably rattled anglophones that a) one of Quebec's periodic "crackdowns" on their language might be in the works and b) theirs is not a language of Quebecers.
St-Pierre later backtracked, assuring there would no crackdown or raids - a good thing given that reputable studies regularly conclude French has never been as secure in Quebec as it is now.
Let's hope St-Pierre has now digested the Quebec Politics 101 lesson: Don't be goaded into upsetting the hard-won delicate balance on language in Quebec.