Thursday, May 07, 2009

Pardon my French but this Toews story is dumb

The Globe’s Lawrence Martin saves me from having to blog too much about this tempest in a Toewspot by publishing a column today I can just post a link to and say I largely agree with:

Just when we thought we were well beyond the age of angst over French on cereal boxes and the like, in steps Vic Toews with the heavy linguistic lumber.

In a fit of pique - uggh, that's a French word - the President of the Treasury Board charged that the Liberals view unilingual Canadians as second-class citizens. "It's clear," he harrumphed, "that the Liberal Party considers those of us who speak one official language to be less Canadian."

The truculent Mr. Toews is responsible for language policy in the federal public service. He blew his anglophone gasket - Quebeckers will not be overjoyed - in a committee hearing on the Official Languages Act when Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez had the audacity to ask whether, given his duties, the minister should be bilingual.

His skin growing thinner by the millisecond, Mr. Toews shot back: "I should feel free to be able to speak the language of my choice, and for you to even ask that question is an insult."

Let me say that I don’t care too much if Toews can speak French or not. I can’t, but then I won’t be responsible for implementing official bilingualism in the public service anytime soon. Nevertheless, its not a biggie for me.

Nevertheless, it was a perfectly legitimate question for Pablo to ask, given the specific nature of Vic’s ministerial responsibilities, which includes responsibility for the civil service's official bilingualism policy. If Vic was, say, agriculture minister, it would have been less relevant. And it would have been perfectly fine for Vic to reply his inability to speak French has absolutely no bearing on his job, and to calmly explain why. And point out Liberals in his job haven't always been bilingual. All legitimate debate.

But this feigned outrage and insult by Toews is absolutely ridiculous, as is the piling-on by the Cons and their Web supporters. Particularly as this is the party that make so much of Stephane Dion’s accented English.

It was Vic Toews’ party that ran a smear campaign against Dion, mocking his language ability, saying his accented English made him unsuitable to be Prime Minister. They were nasty and personal. It was an organized, multimedia smear campaign ran by the Conservative Party based on Stephane’s language ability, saying it disqualified him from being a national leader.

So, I’m sorry Vic, but your feigned outrage over a measured question in a committee hearing is absolutely asinine. Maybe if you kept better company I’d be more sympathetic, but when your party was smearing Mr. Dion and his language ability I don’t recall you uttering a peep.

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Tanya said...

Ugh... This is one of my (many) beefs with the Conservatives. I am not a fan of Vic Toews for many reasons, mostly for his track record as former Justice Minister. But even if I thought he was fit to be a Minister, there's no way that as a unilingual he is qualified for his current position.

Same can be said for James Moore. When originally appointed the Ottawa Citizen had a big splash about this "bilingual" BCer who would be Minister for official languages. I've since heard him speak several times, and question his bilingualism when, as a francophone, I don't understand a word he says (and it's not just accent - it sounds like he can't pronounce or understand half the words that are written for him in his speeches).

Thanks for the opportunity to rant. It's not like any of it will change: it's all just oh-so-Conservative.

Barcs said...

I think it is kind of neat how 2 MP's from the only province in Canada to declare itself Unilingual are up in arms about someone who cannot claim to be fluent in both official languages. (Apparently speaking 3 (Tri-lingual is that like bilingual?) languages is not enough to guarantee that the man knows the value of linguistic skills and will implement policy surrounding them properly)

So will the liberal party in its next campaign to become the government commit to forcing Quebec to become bilingual?

But really I am just as annoyed at the shot those MP's took at me and millions across Canada (all of Canada) who speak only one of the official languages of Canada, English or French. Apparently we are unfit to hold office.. or atleast the higher offices. (that doesn't sound like discrimination does it??)

How high up in Mr. Pablo's view does the office have to be to require his special brand of bilingual-ness? Will he publicly commit to smearing Mr. Goodale's time as finance minister? Will he fight his installation again should Iggy decide that's who the post should go to? Is Goodale the only unilingual member in the liberal party? or is Pablo marginalizing and discriminating against others?

And finally Dion. Is there no difference in your view between someone that acts in domestic affairs and is only rarely in the media (like Toews?) and someone who aspires to lead the country and be seen and heard across the country and the world all the time? You don't see a difference in the skill set required between the 2 jobs? Is Tanya's rant about Moore any different than the "oh-so-conservative" view of Dion's English? Maybe it isn't as "oh-so-conservative" as she claims.

And in the end it is comforting to know that the liberals as Iggy says do not play regional politics like this.... Given things like this happening and being said, one might accuse them of same. So its a good thing they don't.

Loraine Lamontagne said...

I have no problem with a minister not speaking French - and I have no problem with a French-speaking politician that speaks a heavily-accented English seeking to become prime minister. This is nothing new.

I do agree with Lawrence Martin - the minister doth protest too much. Toews was asked legitimate questions and he should have responded according to his knowledge of the official languages act.

sandra said...

I find is very funny that Toews represents Provencher, the riding once represented by Louis Riel,with towns such as Taché, Ritchot, Ste. Anne, La Broquerie, De Salaberry, Alexander, Lac du Bonnet and will moan that it's too hard to be bilingual. He has to have worked very, very hard NOT to speak French and represent Provencher.....

lance said...

What do:
Art Eggleton
Pat Carney,
Don Mazankowski,
Herb Gray and
Reg Alcock
Vic Toews

have in common?

(aside from the fact that they all had to deal with gutter-snipes)

They were Unilingual Presidents of the Treasury Board.

Pablo is a doofus.

lance said...

So hard, Sandra, that he won all the francophone polls last election and all but one the election before.

Some said...

Okay not wanting to delve into Lance's raging hardon for Vic Toews, did anyone else notice Daniel Lessard's brushing off of Toew's temper tantrum as a smokescreen for not knowing his file? Maybe its just me but I'd get fired if I didn't know my job at this point. Then again I never had a boss who didn't fire the most incompetent.

Loraine Lamontagne said...

Thank you, Lance, for providing this information regarding past presidents of the Treasury Board which proves that the Liberals know the parameters of the Official Languages Act while Toews does not. If Toews did undertand the Official Languages Act he would answered no (I don't speak French) and no (I don't think it's preferable to be fluent in Canada's two official languages to occupy this position). Instead, Mr. Toews lost his composure and failed to prove that he does understand the intent of the legislation he is mandated to implement in his department.