Quebec Conservative Party (CPQ) leader Eric Duhaime took dead aim at the provincial Liberal party base on Tuesday by courting the English-speaking community.

In a less than subtle pitch, he spoke in Montreal about the benefits of bilingualism behind a rostrum with a banner reading "Bill 96" with a slash through it.

"Anglophones should not be taken for granted by the Liberals anymore," he said.

Duhaime spoke about how he benefitted from being bilingual as a child.

"At an individual level, we also have to recognize that bilingualism is a huge richness," said Duhaime, who spoke about growing up as the only person in his family who could speak English.

"When we were travelling in summer, and I was eight or nine years old, I would be the one to go negotiate for the motel in Maine or to read the menu at a restaurant," he said. "My parents made a huge sacrifice to make sure I knew more than they did... They understood that being bilingual as a person is a richness, and I think that all the parents listening to us today do understand that reality as well."

Duhaime pitched a "new paradigm" that promotes French in Quebec via immigration policies in addition to honouring historic English-speaking rights by repealing Bill 96.

The Conservatives want to change three things in relation to immigration and French:

  • Repatriate all immigration powers from the federal government in a non-partisan, non-sovereigntist way.
  • In the selection process, make sure there are more French immigrants or those who can learn French quickly.
  • Enhance inclusive programs for new immigrants in Quebec.

Duhaime had a message for the anglophone community, which historically has favoured the Quebec Liberal Party.

"There's a new reality coming in Quebec, and October third could be a great historic election," said Duhaime, who said he grew up living in a "yes" (Parti Quebecois) and "no" (Liberal) Quebec paradigm.

Polls show both parties struggling to maintain their relevance, and Duhaime thinks his party can be an option for either.

"Times are changing," said Duhaime. "Those two parties could end up in very bad shape on October 3rd. For the new paradigm, for the new reality, for the integration of both our communities, that could be really good news."

LISTEN ON CJAD 800 RADIO: Éric Duhaime on Bill 96, stance on independence

Polls show Duhaime's CPQ is in play in four ridings, none of which have significant English-speaking communities: Beauce South, Beauce North, Chauveau, and Lotbinière-Frontenac.

Duhaime called the choice between the CAQ and Liberals a lose-lose for English-speaking Quebecers and is hoping to shave off votes for his Conservative party.

"A minority does not have an advantage of being hostage to one single party because when that happens, and it did happen with the Liberals, they take you for granted, and they betray you like they did on Bill 96 on the one hand," he said. "On the other hand, the CAQ, the government, doesn't even want to talk to you."