In a radio interview in Montreal, Duceppe said Harper’s comments serve to illustrate the “double standard” that exists when it comes to Canada’s official languages.
Canadians demand that French political leaders speak English fluently, but English-speaking leaders can get away with mangling French, he said.
Norman Spector has offered the obvious rejoinder: that Canadians elected Jean Chrétien, notwithstanding his barely-comprehensible English, to three straight majorities.
I’ll add another: it was English-speaking Canadians who did so. Francophone Quebecers largely turned their back on him, with Duceppe’s hearty encouragement, for sins that included… his French. How many times has one read how Chrétien’s crude, backwoods French, strewn with grammatical errors and anglicisms, was an embarrassment to sophisticated urban francophones, how it made them cringe?
English-speaking leaders can get away with mangling French? Can they? Could Preston Manning? Stockwell Day? Kim Campbell? Joe Clark? How’d that work for John Crosbie or Belinda Stronach’s leadership bids? In fact, no leader who was not fluently French-speaking has carried Quebec since Lester Pearson in 1965 — and since 1930, with one exception, no leader has won a majority in Parliament without carrrying Quebec. The exception? Jean Chrétien.
As Norman says, “nobody does humiliation better than Duceppe.” Or hypocrisy.
ENCORE: Deux Maudits Anglais has another take.
ENCORE DEUX FOIS: Just to complete the circle, I seem to recall seeing a quote from Duceppe somewhere at the conclusion of the English debate observing how Dion was “really struggling” in English, or words to that effect. Ten points to the reader who can supply the link.
ENCORE TROIS FOIS: Duceppe, whose own English is accented to the point of absurdity, is often declared the winner of the English debates, by English-speaking commentators.
ENCORE QUATRE FOIS: In point of fact, Harper never criticized Dion’s English, or suggested it explained his difficulties answering the question. Tory bloggers, alas, have not been so restrained, nor was Mike Duffy (or so I’m told: it doesn’t show up in the clip).