And so Christmas comes early, the proposed law promising months and months of language controversy, the mother's milk of the sovereignty/language movement.
Mario Beaulieu, president of the Société St-Jean-Baptiste has already waded in, ominously warning Quebeckers, à la croquemitaine, that nothing less than the future of the French language is at stake. Already dozens and dozens of scathing articles are populating the sovereignist web sites as well as the mainstream press. I caught Mongrain this morning where Brent Tyler was given quite a rough ride.
For those of you from out of the province, let me bring you up to date;
The Quebec government finally came up with it's response to the ruling by the Supreme Court that Quebec's Bill 104 was illegal.
That law closed a 'loophole' whereby children, ineligible to attend English school by virtue of the infamous Bill 101, could circumvent the measure by attending an unsubsidized English private school for as little as one year. They then could transfer over to the publicly run English system, claiming a 'history' of English education, one of the pathways into public English education.
Bill 104 made that practice illegal, but the law was struck down by the Supreme Court, calling it overly restrictive.The Court did however, delay the judgment for a year, giving the Quebec government time to draft a more acceptable law.
The proposed law that does so, is Bill 103 (only in Quebec, can a Bill 103 replace a Bill 104) and in many respects is even more convoluted then its predecessor, harking back to the early days in the 1970's of language restrictions brought in by Premier Robert Bourassa , where five and six year-olds (mostly Italian) were tested for English proficiency by government inspectors.
I'll give the proposed law a thorough analysis next week, but my first reaction was to ask myself what in the world Premier Charest was thinking about in making such a controversial proposal.
He could have invoked the "Notwithstanding Clause (Canada's version of a "Get out of Jail Free Card") to override the Supreme Court ruling, something that would have engendered a week or two of controversy and then would be over and done with.
But seeing the reaction in Parliament and on the talk-show circuit, his presentation of Bill 103 may just be the most brilliant political manoeuvre that he has ever pulled off.
Listening to Pauline Marois' blistering attack on the proposed bill in the National Assembly and Mr. Charest's spirited defence, it occurs to me that the PQ has fallen for another political trick.
And so the construction industry and corruption debate is shelved. The PQ, who were holding all the aces in that debate, stupidly asked for and received from a willing Charest, a re-shuffle and re-deal of the issues before the public.
The issue of the defence of the French language is so powerfully attractive to the PQ, that the separatist Parliamentarians displayed a reaction akin to that of a drug addict being shown a vial of heroin.
The grin on Mr. Charest's face yesterday morning in the Assembly, as he defended his language position, should have been a signal to the PQ that they should back off and continue to press the fight on corruption, but Madame Marois and her party cannot resist.
Like I said.....
The language debate is one where the Liberals can not only hold their own, but can actually win, with over 60% of Quebeckers opting for free choice in education in a recent opinion poll.
If the public debate returns to language and sovereignty, the PQ will find themselves back where they were when they lost the last general election.
The public has indicated that they are over 80% in favour of a public inquiry into corruption. Why the PQ would choose to veer away from an issue where they were absolutely destroying the government is a testament to poor decision-making and inexperienced leadership.
That's the attraction of...
Madame Marois is squandering it all. Someone in her political coterie should have slapped her in the face, but the problem for the PQ, that as ideologues, they lack political judgment. Military commanders are trained to ignore a diversionary attack and are disciplined to keep their eye firmly on mission objectives.
With only five more days until the summer recess, you can be sure that Bill 103 will occupy the Assembly for the balance of the term, a dream come true for Charest. It will lead to a summer of language debate and by the Fall who knows where we shall be politically. For Mr. Charest, anywhere else is better than where he was just days ago.
I'll say it again, Marois had Premier Charest down and out and instead of finishing him off by continuing to hammer away at him with punches to his weak side, she opted to go after his strength.
And so Premier Charest has a sneer of confidence on his face for the first time in months. His guilty-dog demeanour is gone and an aggressive and confident Charest has reappeared in the Assembly.
I can only imagine the words going through his mind......
"Language? Sovereignty? ----Bring it on, bitch!"