Liberals want to change Bill 96, but more French in English CEGEPs will stay: Anglade

The Liberals have also found their candidate to replace retired David Birnbaum, the MP for D’Arcy McGee’s riding, in the fall general election.

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A Liberal government would make changes to Bill 96, but clauses mandating more French classes or more French-as-a-second-language classes in English-speaking CEGEPs will not be dropped, Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade said Saturday.

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The Liberals have also found their candidate to replace retired David Birnbaum, the MP for D’Arcy McGee’s riding, in the fall general election.

Senior Liberal sources told the Montreal Gazette on Saturday that Izabel Czuzoj-Shulman will carry the party banner in the riding, which is considered one of the safest Liberal seats in Quebec.

A graduate of McGill University and a lawyer, Czuzoj-Shulman is currently director of operations in the office of federal Liberal House leader Pablo Rodriguez, who is also Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Quebec lieutenant.

But in the halls of a Liberal General Council meeting in downtown Montreal on Saturday, the language issue was the hot topic of discussion, with Anglade defending his party’s handling of Bill 96.

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Describing what she would do with the legislation, Anglade said the Liberals would not repeal it or the CEGEP clauses.

“They’re staying,” Anglade said when asked about the controversial changes to the English CEGEP curriculum that the Liberals themselves squeezed into Bill 96. “But we would work with everyone involved in order to make sure everything is done the right way.

“The question is how do we work with the community, how do we sit down with them (to explain the clauses) and that’s what we did.”

Anglade made the comment to reporters after explaining that if elected in the Oct. 3 election, a Liberal government would make changes to Bill 96 revising the Charter of the French Language.

Bill 96 was passed on May 23. Liberal and Parti Québécois MPs voted against for different reasons. The Liberals said it was going too far and the Parti Québécois not far enough. The ruling Coalition Avenir Québec government had enough votes to pass. Québec solidaire also voted in favor, but had to deal with its own internal conflicts after making this decision.

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By passing the bill, the clauses that the Liberals themselves inserted into the bill at committee stage became law. Initially, the Liberal amendment would have required students in English CEGEPs to take three of their regular courses in French. This would be in addition to the two basic French as a second language courses they are required to take.

At the last minute and in the face of an angry reaction from the Anglophone community, the Liberals succeeded in convincing the Minister responsible for French, Simon Jolin-Barrette, to amend the bill to say that Anglophones in CEGEPs would have a choice. : either the three French courses or three additional French as a second language courses.

The Liberals offered a mea culpa for their performance with the bill, but some members of the English-speaking community and the CEGEP community are still angry. Minority community support for the Liberals plummeted, and the party has since attempted to mend relations.

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Arriving for the council, the first party meeting in Montreal in a long time and which drew 400 people, the Liberal MPs elected in ridings with a high concentration of English-speaking voters conceded on Saturday that they were inundated with calls after the CEGEP decision.

“A lot of calls,” said deputy Robert-Baldwin Carlos Leitão. “As we talk to these people and let them know our position, I am able to air those concerns. At the end of the day, personally in my constituency, I don’t feel as strong a headwind as you seem to suggest.

Pressed that the liberals inserted the clauses into the bill, Leitão said: “We recognize that this was not necessarily our finest hour. We recognize that and have taken steps to correct that and lessen the blow to that measure.

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“Law 96 is much more than the CEGEP question. What I’ve said all along that any bill that states in its preamble that it’s invoking the notwithstanding clause preemptively…that’s a major reason for me to vote against this bill.

Asked about competition from new minority rights parties that have begun to sprout in Quebec, Leitäo said, “We live in a democracy. If other political parties want to get in the ring…we live in a democracy.

One such party, Bloc Montreal, organized by former mayoral candidate Balarama Holness, won official recognition from Elections Quebec last week. The second party, the Parti canadien du Québec, organized by Eastern Townships language rights defender Colin Standish, is expected to follow shortly.

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Both plan to field candidates to compete with the Liberals, primarily in the Montreal area.

While Leitão has announced he will not run again this fall, Jacques-Cartier MP Greg Kelley is. Kelley told reporters he also received many calls from citizens.

“Absolutely,” Kelley said. “And I spoke to every single one of them. As I said, there are many parents who have said “we are not against having more French in CEGEP, we want our children to be more bilingual, we want them to improve their French”, but the way it is done, there are concerns about how their R-scores will be impacted.

Kelley added that if the Liberals took office, they would adapt the clause problem, perhaps removing the three additional French lessons from the core course load, which would mean that grades would affect the R score by one. student who is essential for university admission.

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Released later in the day, the Liberal platform for the next campaign details what the Liberals would do on the language issue and Bill 96.

The platform says the Liberals would give all students the right to attend the CEGEP of their choice, which means caps on access to the English network included in Bill 96 would be removed.

The Liberals would also eliminate the six-month deadline for immigrants to communicate with the state in a language other than French.

The Liberals would also drop the CAQ’s use of the notwithstanding clause to shield the bill from challenge.

And following the Legault government, which offers checks to Quebecers to fight inflation, the platform indicates that the Liberals would put in place a tax cut for the middle class.

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There would be a 1.5% tax reduction for Quebecers who earn less than $46,295 per year and also for those who earn between $46,295 and $92,580. The reduction would mean an extra $1,000 in the pockets of these taxpayers. The measure would cost the government $2 billion a year.

On the other hand, the Liberals would create a new tax bracket for Quebecers earning more than $300,000 a year. They would now be taxed at the 27.75 per cent level.

“The cost of living issue is on everyone’s mind,” Anglade told reporters, noting that the CAQ’s check system does not solve the long-term inflation problem. “We recognize that there is a crisis now and that this crisis will drag on forever.”

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