Not since the Conservative party ran the famous 'crooked face' television ad mocking Jean Chretien's physical handicap, has a political manoeuvre backfired so badly as the concerted Anglophone attack on Louise Harel's lack of English proficiency.
Making the election into a French vs. English affair is a recipe for disaster and one that will backfire badly. Turning Harel into a victim of anglophone oppression may actually win her the mayor's job out of spite.
Considering the fact that ever since de-merger, the anglo percentage of Montreal population has dwindled to about 20%, the numbers don't add up for a language attack.
Harel's image has gone from a jack-booted, sovereignist, hard-liner, to a humble Chretien-like character being mocked for her inability to speak English, a failing incidentally, that is shared by most of the voters in Montreal.
If the Anglophone community wants to live to fight Harel on her record, they better back off and apologize for the language slur.
The nationalist forces are mounting a spirited and highly successful counter-attack and have already won the hearts and minds of the voters over this issue.
LCN, the French language news network ran a story in which sovereignists Gilles Duceppe (Bloc Quebecois) and Mario Beaulieu (Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montréal), defended Louise Harel's lack of English. See the Video
According to Duceppe;
"it's useful to speak another language, but not speaking English isn't a handicap."That simple statement is what this whole issue can be boiled down to. If speaking English is allowed to become the major issue of the election, than Harel will win. There are too many voters in the same shoes as Mme Harel.
Now for some silliness...
In that same piece by LCN, Mario Beaulieu dropped this doosy.
"it isn't a big deal, nobody makes a fuss about the unlingual English mayoress of Beaconsfield."That statement led me to do a double-take.-"Unilingual mayoress of Beaconsfield"?
Is he talking about Anne Myles who hasn't been mayor of Beaconsfield since 2005, when Bob Beneditti won the mayor's job?
When I looked back to check my facts and dates, I found this pearl of a comment in a CBC News report by then leader of the Parti Quebecois, Bernard Landry;
Commenting on the 2003 election win of Anne Myles as mayor of Beaconsfield, he said;
"You have seen the election of a unilingual person in a municipal council," he said. "That's not progress. A public person in Quebec, most of the time, must be fluent in both languages."Hmmmm. I wonder if he'd like top repeat that statement today....
Now, back to Mr. Beaulieu, who should probably hire a fact-checker before speaking.
If he did hire one, he'd know that while Myles is no longer around, there remains at least one unilingual English mayor in Quebec after all, a man who is presiding over town council in the small, wealthy and under the radar town of Hampstead.
That's right, Mayor William Steinberg can't carry on a conversation in French, in spite of being a life long resident. According to the mayor, it's because of a hearing disability. Hmm..
The tiny bedroom community of predominantly wealthy and highly educated Anglophones doesn't seem to mind his lack of French at all.
So I ask you, why should francophone voters in Montreal object to Harel's lack of English?
For those opposed to Harel's candidacy, it's time to re-group and re-think strategy, otherwise Montreal will be led by a sovereignist, unilingual francophone who will quickly revert to her nasty old self once the election is won.
Municipal elections boast notoriously low voter turnouts. The winner won't be the one who wins over converts but rather the one that can turn out his or her own constituency on voting day.
That's what the candidates should be concentrating on, getting out the vote by figuring what hot buttons to push that will inspire people to vote.
Up to now, it's 1-nil for Harel.