frandroid: Head of Jack Layton photoshopped onto a very muscular man wearing a sleeveless NDP t-shirt (ndp)
People criticize Dewar for his French (I haven't watched that debate yet), but they seem to forget that aside from his accent, Jack's French was pretty bad when he won the leadership in 2003.

When I dropped by Jack's leadership campaign headquarters in August or September 2002 (i.e. his house), I was immediately invited for dinner with Jack and Olivia. Jack was super curious to know more about the current state of Québec's progressive scene, and boasted of his past credentials (such as attending the McGill Français demo back in the day) but he was the typical Montréal exile who had all but left the province behind when he moved to Toronto. He was really disconnected from present-day Québec. I mentioned a few names to him, and he hadn't heard of them. (Léo-Paul Lauzon ended up running for the NDP a couple elections later...) He tried out his French on me but it wasn't impressive at all, except for his accent, which was surprisingly as working class than mine. So he had good Québec roots, but he had to dig through some earth to find them again. In spite of that, it was clear right away that he took Québec's potential very seriously, and it lead to where we are today. His French improved, but Harper's improved even faster.

The Sherbrooke declaration was the most intelligent thing Layton pushed early on, essentially telling leftist PQ members that they had a second federal home. It was a master stroke of political ambiguity, the place where you want to live in order to pick up the broad middle (in this case, the middle being soft-separatists giving a federalist party a chance). Already after May 2nd we saw the ambiguity get clarified with some light blowback that has fallen by the wayside with Jack's disease and subsequent death.

So while the expectations of French fluency are higher today, what matters more to me is how much do the candidates understand Québec. Mulcair can school them all, obviously, and he's the master of ambiguity, when he's calm. I suspect that Topp is good too, having been part of the team maintaining this ambiguity, but I haven't really seen him in action. (I really have to go and watch the debates I missed!) Dewar, as a monolingual Ottawan, puzzles me. His job today is to demonstrates that he 'gets' Québec as much as the two Québec candidates, and even put forward some original policy position on one thing or another. Peggy Nash just tried that, even though she has a lot less to prove on Québec...
frandroid: We are the Canadian Borg. Resistance would be impolite. Please wait to be assimilated. Pour l'assimilation en français.. (canada)
If you think you will ever want to lead a federal political party, start learning the other official language now. The opportunity to run will present itself when you expect it the least, and when that happens, it'll be too late to learn a new language.

(Especially if you're from Ottawa... You get no pity whatsoever.)
(Even Pauline Marois of the PQ has had to face criticism on her trying English!)

*** ETA: A comment on Facebook also reminded me that the next leader of the Liberal Party will be either Bob Rae or Dalton McGuinty, both Ottawa-born politicians who are perfectly bilingual. It's not just Harper we'll be facing off...

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