Bill 96: some Conservative leadership hopefuls say yes, others say no to Quebec language reform
Several of the six aspiring Conservative leaders expressed their opposition to Bill 96 during a French-language debate in Laval on Wednesday night, but others shied away from the opportunity to express their views on the issue.
Brampton, Ont. Mayor Patrick Brown called the ruling CAQ party's reform of the Charter of the French Language "not right" while candidate Scott Aitchison said it was "divisive and wrong."
Roman Baber went the furthest, promising to use "all legal means" to counter the effects of Bill 96 to be sanctioned.
However, the man who is considered the leader of the race, Pierre Poilievre, did not take the opportunity during the official languages segment to speak out against Bill 96. He simply said that the French language was dear to him and that he wanted to promote it.
"Canadians have the right to receive all federal government services in both official languages," he said.
Former Quebec Premier Jean Charest also did not address the issue of Bill 96, recalling that the moderator's question was about bilingualism requirements for senior public servants.
"Those who assume the highest functions of the state must be bilingual, capable, at the very least, of communicating in both languages," Charest argued.
MIGRANTS AT ROXHAM ROAD CROSSING
The candidates had to indicate, in the first minutes of the debate, what they intended to do to curb the irregular arrival of migrants through Roxham Road.
"I am against illegal entries, but at the same time I am for immigration," Poilievre told the moderator, pointing out that his wife is of Venezuelan origin.
He indicated that he intends to conclude agreements with the provinces, if he becomes prime minister, so that the skills of newcomers are recognized within 60 days.
Charest stressed the importance of renegotiating the Safe Third Country Agreement. He later deplored the "too long" delays in the immigration department and said, "We need to clean up the department to make a decisive move."
Brown did not make it clear what he would do about illegal entries. While posing as a candidate for multiculturalism, he claimed to be "against illegal immigration because it makes it harder for people to do it legally."
Once again, Poilievre received a barrage from his opponents for extolling the virtues of cryptocurrency to protect against inflation.
"You're in the potatoes!" anti-abortion candidate Leslyn Lewis threw at him, which immediately triggered laughter in the room.
Charest also criticized Poilievre for his commitment to firing the Governor of the Bank of Canada.
OPPOSING QUEBEC'S BILL 21
Brown unsurprisingly brought up the issue of challenging the Secularism Act, having brought other cities into his financial crusade against the legislation.
He and Charest criticized Poilievre for avoiding indicating whether he would intervene in the challenge to Bill 21. Charest promised to intervene when the law is reviewed by the Supreme Court of Canada.
The debate is also intended to show the candidates' intentions on the environment and energy, trade and foreign affairs.
Wednesday night's debate is the last of those announced by the Conservative Party of Canada.
The candidates have until the end of next week to convince supporters to buy party membership cards. This will allow supporters to vote for the person they want to succeed Erin O'Toole.
The winner of the race, elected by preferential ballot, will be known on Sept. 10.
-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 25, 2022.