Language an issue in Pierrefonds-Roxboro

Language is becoming an election issue in the borough of Pierrefonds-Roxboro on the West Island, the only borough in the City of Montreal to hold bilingual status.  

Outgoing councillor Justine McIntyre of Vrai Changement is running for borough mayor and she says one of her opponents is refusing to debate her in English while the other is unable to debate her in English. 

McIntyre says she can't understand why Valerie Plante's Projet Montreal would field a unilingual francophone for the mayor's job in the only borough with bilingual status.

"I think [it] demonstrates a lack of sensitivity to the English community," she says.

McIntyre is also disturbed that party leader Plante refused to clarify her stand on Quebec sovereignty during a recent interview.  

As for incumbent mayor Jim Beis, who is seeking re-election, McIntyre faults him for not being willing to directly address the anglophone community in a debate.

"He has refused to participate in any of the English language debates, so he is obviously not overly concerned with representation and the democratic process," she says.

No language issue at all: Beis

Beis, meanwhile, told CJAD 800 that he's not refusing to debate anyone for any reason — least of all because of a language issue. He says his focus is knocking on doors and meeting people on an individual basis and listening to their concerns, rather than on debating other candidates.

"I'm front and centre with the community, and I've been meeting with people on an everyday basis for many hours of the day," he says. "My debate is always with the individuals that I meet."

The trilingual Beis says there's no language issue at all in his borough, and that he's very conscious of the fact that he represents a multi-ethnic, multilingual community.

"We're in the public service industry, and we need to be able to serve the public in whatever language they address us in."

About half of the population of Pierrefonds-Roxboro speaks English at home.