Calgary MP deplores overemphasis on bilingualism in Conservative leadership race
Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner speaks to reporters as she arrives for a Conservative caucus retreat on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
OTTAWA -- A Conservative elected official in Alberta deplores the fact that the French language is taking up too much space in the nascent race for the leadership of her party.
Calgary Nose Hill MP Michelle Rempel Garner believes that, so far, "the whole debate has been on (the) French language" and wonders why the difficulties in Western Canada have not caused more ink to flow.
The next party leader's fluency in both languages received a lot of attention this week in the English-speaking press.
Former publisher Ken Whyte published an op-ed article in the Globe and Mail, where he argued that it is time to review the need to be bilingual to become a party leader or prime minister.
The reply came quickly from the former Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser, in the pages of the same newspaper. He said there is a word for non-bilingual leadership contestants and political leaders: 'loser.'
The only two major candidates for leadership of the Conservative Party who were bilingual withdrew this week. They were the former Premier of Quebec, Jean Charest, and the current Member of Parliament Pierre Poilievre.
Reacting to the criticisms of his colleague Michelle Rempel Garner, Poilievre said that "we must speak to Quebecers in their language" and that "it is one of the founding languages of our country".
The Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, Mélanie Joly, had a more succinct response: "Bienvenue au pays."