TORONTO - Big Deal. Hard to be impressed by the fact that “all the parties” will be at the TVA French language debate tonight. All of them except the Green and the People’s Party of Canada.
Justin Trudeau will be there, though. He couldn’t make the first English language debate – when was that? last year? – and the Monk debate on global affairs had to be cancelled because he wouldn’t attend. This one is different. It is in Quebec … and in French; in fact, one of two scheduled. He has accepted to be present at both.
Why not? The others, if invited (Green and PPC were not for this debate) are peripheral players in Quebec. Their leaders are little more than add-ons, foils to highlight Trudeau’s “favourite son” status. Their language skills in French will not match his own. It will not matter; the audience is tuned to a different “dog whistle” anyway.
It’s an “old stock” audience, Francophone version, primarily resident in small and mid-sized communities outside the big centres of Montreal, Quebec City and the Gatineau-Hull (i.e.., the National Capital Region -Greater Ottawa Area across the river from Ottawa proper).It constitutes approximately 3.5 million of the 5.5 million Francophonesresident in Quebec.
They are “comfortable in their own skin”: courteous but stand-offish. Their centre of political gravity is the provincial capital, Quebec City. Language issues are fundamental. Immigration is anathema. Foreign relations are all about the Northeastern USA and Florida. Provincial rights and jurisdictions are pre-eminent. There is no such thing as a Canadian agenda.
It is a Bloc Quebecoisgarden:economically protectionist, socially “insular and “nationaliste”. These are the themes that will be debated. Premier Legault, is the real representative of that “nation”. But he can’t participate, so the Bloc Quebecois Leader will.
Brush up on your French if you want to know how your future is being decided.
The second French-language debate – next week –is designed to target the “more urbanized” Francophones who migrated to the three large urban centres mentioned above. Aside from filling airtime for the CBC and other networks how will those debates advance a better understanding of a Canadian agenda going forward?
And what of the 7.2 million Allophones who are vying for the ear of the potential Prime Minister?