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Canada Robert Libman: For Quebec anglos, a disheartening federal election

20:16  17 september  2021
20:16  17 september  2021 Source:   montrealgazette.com

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Flip a coin? Spoil my ballot? Not show up? More than ever, voters seem to be facing this difficult dilemma for Monday’s federal election. Former MNA and federal Liberal MP Clifford Lincoln wrote a recent op-ed in the Gazette that gave voice to what many members of Quebec minority communities are struggling with. “What above all disturbs me most deeply,” he wrote,” is the (Liberal) government’s abandonment of minorities and fundamental rights through its blessing of Bill 96.”

Yves-François Blanchet et al. standing in a room: The National Assembly spent its first day back unanimously adopting not one, but two resolutions related to the English-language federal leaders' debate, notes Robert Libman. © Provided by The Gazette The National Assembly spent its first day back unanimously adopting not one, but two resolutions related to the English-language federal leaders' debate, notes Robert Libman.

For many Quebec anglophones, language and the constitutional debate are hot button issues that go to their core as voters. For generations, the reflex among a majority of anglophones has been to support the federal Liberals, but this time it seems many can’t bring themselves to do so. However, the other parties have been just as bad, if not worse, on these issues.

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Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole’s “contract” with Quebec would sell out the essence of the Canadian federation, transferring important powers without conditions. Promising to not intervene in any court challenges of Bill 21, the secularism bill, and Bill 96, the proposed language reform, in exchange for Premier François Legault’s blessing is shameful.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has also kowtowed to Quebec with his evasiveness and couching of answers regarding Bill 21, a law that would prevent him from being a police officer or judge in Quebec. Even Green Party Leader Annamie Paul, who some thought might question Bills 96 and 21, collapsed like a house of cards when pressed by the moderator in one of the French-language TV debates.

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This election has become increasingly disheartening for anglophones, unpleasantly spilling into provincial and municipal politics and showing how politically irrelevant our vote has become at all levels. Last week, the EMSB chairman was dumped as a candidate in the coming municipal election because of the school board’s opposition to parts of Bill 96. And this week — despite the pandemic, nursing shortage, economic challenges, among other pressing matters — the National Assembly spent its first day back unanimously adopting not one, but two resolutions related to the English-language federal leaders’ debate where the moderator, in a question to Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet, dared to refer to Bills 21 and 96 as “discriminatory.”

A Parti Québécois resolution called for a formal apology for the “hostile trial launched against the Quebec nation.” Another motion, sponsored by the Quebec Liberals, condemned the statement made by the moderator in her preamble. The Liberals also launched a petition against “Quebec bashing.” On the federal campaign trail, both Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and O’Toole agreed with these motions.

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It’s absurd that dissent, or deeming these laws “discriminatory,” is considered hostility or Quebec bashing. The moderator could have framed the question of discrimination differently or asked all parties to respond, or just put the issue out there and let the politicians debate it. But judging by the over-the-top reaction, it would likely have elicited the same incendiary reflex by nationalist opinion leaders.

This is a classic example of the perpetrator playing the victim, like a schoolyard bully who stomps all over his hapless victim and then is offended when asked to explain himself, and he and his acolytes indignantly demand an apology. “Discrimination” is an undeniable common denominator in both pieces of legislation. By proactively using the notwithstanding clause to shield the bills from both the federal and Quebec charters of rights, the CAQ government itself is announcing with a foghorn that these laws are discriminatory.

Dissent and the right to vote are fundamental aspects of living in a democracy. It’s shameful that exercising those rights has become so unpleasant. With just a few days to go before voting day, I’m still not sure what I’m going to do.

Robert Libman is an architect and building planning consultant who has served as Equality Party leader and MNA, as mayor of Côte-St-Luc and as a member of the Montreal executive committee. He was a Conservative candidate in the 2015 federal election.

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