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Q&A: Liberal MNA Greg Kelley on his party's future, CAQ's relations with anglophones

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The minister responsible for relations with English-speaking Quebecers is on the defensive.

Éric Girard is facing questions about CAQ policies and their impact on anglophones. It comes as part of an annual review of government spending after the unveiling of the provincial budget last month.

Greg Kelley, the Quebec Liberal Party's critic for relations with English-speaking Quebecers, spoke to CTV News about how the CAQ has been handling the English file and what's in store for his own opposition party.

This article has been edited for length and clarity. Watch the video above for the full interivew. 

CTV: So you were questioning Éric Girard yesterday at a parliamentary committee meeting about the decision to increase tuition fees for out-of-province students, and he acknowledged there's dissatisfaction at English universities here in Montreal, and in the English community in general. But he says the government made compromises, for example, by reducing the hikes and making a special exception for Bishop's University. What's your response to that?

KELLEY: The minister compromised with himself because clearly, you know, the institutions of McGill and Concordia are not satisfied because they are going to court. I don't think anyone in the English-speaking community is satisfied with this so-called compromise.

Let's be frank; when I even did bring up this whole idea of will it cover the costs for the French universities that are underfunded? Of course, the answer is no. Whenever you bring that up with the government, they still remain underfunded. So the whole underlying purpose for this policy is to try to create more an equal system. It's just not the case. By taking away from McGill, they haven't done anything to really help the French network. In all honesty, we know both need to be supported because all of our higher education institutions serve all Quebecers. It's not really a question of linguistics, in my view. We just need to invest in higher education. So I didn't accept the minister's response that it was a compromise. Far from it.

CTV: We've been reporting quite extensively on this information session for English parents of special needs children that was held in French. Only the slides were presented in English and English questions were taken after the presentation. This is raising concerns about the impact of Bill 96. What will the Liberal Party do to make sure English-speaking Quebecers continued to have access to services in English?

KELLEY: This is one case, again, that clearly the government had no idea what they were supposed to do and how they were supposed to manage it, which is why they seem to have walked back a little bit saying the presentation should have been made available in English. And it could be.

And the one I brought up yesterday was that story of somebody who was dealing with a Ministry of Natural Resources land transfer, who had to have a death certificate from one of their family members, that was given by the government of Quebec in English, then translated in French to respect Bill 96. And they had to pay for it.

Cases like this keep multiplying and building up. And it's not really what is necessarily written in Bill 96. Or, again, how can the government better roll out regulations to ensure this doesn't happen? So as an opposition, we have a duty to the community to get out there and get in front of the minister. If it's Mr. Girard or if it's Mr. Roberge, yes, the law is being followed, but at the same time followed to the sense that people are not being restricted or any services or access to services from the government.

CTV: I suppose you could say the Liberal Party is in a period of transition right now – you don't have a permanent leader. The leader won't be chosen until next year. If you focus too much on the rights of anglophones, can that alienate the francophone vote you need to win more ridings in the next general election in 2026? It seems you have to walk a fine line here.

KELLEY: I believe that it's important to always stand up and talk about the rights of all Quebecers and that will always include the English-speaking community. It's really important to remind all your viewers that the notwithstanding clause suspends the rights of everyone. Nobody in Quebec can go before the courts to contest some of the impacts of Bill 96 on businesses, whether you're a francophone or an anglophone.

It's having a message like that, that we're here for the rights of all Quebecers, that we do believe that the English-speaking community has a place here, they should feel welcomed. They're equal to all other citizens. It's something that has always been part of the Liberal DNA. It's something that we've always spoken about, and I expect the next leader of our party to have that same message.

We always have to be conscientious about protecting and promoting the French language and I always think that the best way to make sure our French language and our culture is strong here in this province is investing in our education system and making sure that our kids are learning French, mastering French as best as possible and also being introduced to the wonderful French culture that we have here in Quebec.

There's recipes for success on these debates around language and it doesn't always have to be a zero-sum game or divisive, as we've seen from the CAQ and, of course, as the PQ and Quebec solidaire often brings up on this file.

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