Anglade says Quebec Liberals are fighting CAQ ‘politics of division’

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As support for his party dwindles among non-French-speaking Quebecers, Dominique Anglade is extending an olive branch to minorities.

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QUEBEC CITY – Liberal leader Dominique Anglade concedes that Quebecers, including English-speaking citizens, do not know her well.

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As a consequence of the long COVID-19 pandemic, which has prevented regular politicians from connecting with voters and party members, Anglade has only recently been able to up his political game on the pitch.

Over the past few weeks, as health measures have gradually eased, Anglade has taken advantage of the extra time she has to crisscross the regions of Quebec, meet with Liberals and voters who she says have never had the chance to see what motivates her.

Over the past seven weeks, her diary shows that she has traveled to Mauricie, Estrie, Drummond—Bois-Francs and the Outaouais, in addition to visiting the South Shore riding of Marie-Victorin, where will hold a by-election on April 11.

“Every time I meet people they say, ‘Oh, we didn’t know who you were,'” Anglade said in a wide interview with the Montreal Gazette on Wednesday. “That’s why I need to constantly meet people, so that they can get to know me, learn what I stand for, what my values ​​are, where I come from, what motivates me.

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But these are tough times for the Quebec Liberals and Anglade, the 48-year-old former minister who replaced Philippe Couillard as leader in May 2020. She is the first female leader in the Liberals’ 150-year history and her first chief. of a visible minority.

The most recent dose of bad news for the party came on March 11 when it learned that its support was not only stagnating across Quebec and among Francophones, but had plummeted in Greater Montreal and among non-voters. French speakers.

A Leger poll produced for the Journal de Montreal showed that the Liberal share of the non-Francophone vote in Quebec – a traditional stronghold – fell by 13 percentage points between February and March.

According to pollster Jean-Marc Léger, this is the first time in the many years of his poll that the vote of non-francophones for the Liberals has fallen below 50%. Support is now set at 46%.

Léger said the Liberal attempt, under Anglade’s leadership, to position the party as more nationalist in the current language debate, to counter the appeal of the Coalition Avenir Québec, is likely to blame.

Instead of courting French-speaking voters (the Liberals are dead last in this category), he scared away non-French speakers.

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The same poll also seemed to confirm that the Liberals’ bid to woo more left-progressive voters with the November passage of Project ECO, its new pro-environment energy platform, has also been a failure.

But it is the discontent of English-speaking Quebecers that apparently no one in the party saw coming.

There are reports that Eastern Townships language rights activist Colin Standish is testing the waters to form a new minority rights political party to rival the Liberals and tap into Anglophone angst.

Sitting in her office on the second floor of the legislature and with artwork of her children adorning the walls, Anglade said there will be plenty more polls ahead of the Oct. 3 general election, so she’s not panicking.

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She says she doesn’t get the same reading of voter mood.

“What I’ve heard are people saying they’re tired of a government that not only doesn’t listen, but constantly divides Quebecers,” Anglade said.

“At the end of the day, I am a proud francophone from Quebec who can also speak English. I can identify myself with being a minority.

She said she knows Anglophones are angry at what they see happening under the CAQ government.

“I myself am angry at what is happening right now (with the government), but the alternative we have is the Liberal Party,” Anglade said. “I am a modern person. I am an open person. I am inclusive.

Explaining the drop in support, Anglade said some minorities may not have grasped the fight the liberals have waged since the CAQ came to power in 2018, over the government’s immigration and secularism policies. and, more recently, on the overhaul of the Charter of the French language by Bill 96.

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Anglade said they entered the process of passing Bill 96 in hopes of changing the legislation during the clause-by-clause analysis stage, which is currently underway.

Instead, the government marched through amendment after amendment making the bill “tougher on the people”, including trying to apply Bill 101 to the CEGEP system without actually saying they do, Anglade said.

On the other hand, the Liberals have given mixed signals on the linguistic file, starting with the presentation in April 2021 of their own 27-point plan to consolidate French, which has ruffled the feathers of Anglophones. Members of the Liberal Party never voted on the plan in plenary session.

During clause-by-clause study, the Liberals on the committee abstained on certain amendments, which English-speaking Quebecers found in bad taste. It was a liberal idea to suggest that all students in the Anglophone CEGEP system be required to take three of their courses in French, and the CAQ went along with it.

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In the end, the Liberals failed to block the enrollment freeze in the Anglophone CEGEP system, with Anglade announcing during a February 23 visit to Dawson College that the Liberals would not be able to support The law project.

Columnist for the Journal de Québec Antoine Robitaille wrote that the move spelled the end of the Liberals’ flirtation with nationalism under Anglade and they are now trying to shore up their base of non-French-speaking voters.

Anglade also fought to maintain the Dawson expansion project, which the CAQ canceled. She appeared this week at a press conference in the Legislative Assembly with students who presented a petition with nearly 20,000 names urging the government to reverse its decision.

Anglade, however, said that despite the current political outlook, she was ready to fight, attacking the government’s “we know best” attitude, which she finds undemocratic and paternalistic.

“It is certainly not a benevolent government. It is a populist government,” Anglade said. “This is a government steeped in divisive politics. It’s French against English, it’s the immigrant against the non-immigrant, it’s the regions against the metropolis.

“François Legault says: ‘I govern for a majority of Quebecers.’ I will govern for all Quebecers.

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