This is one of those issues that I know will excite many Neandercons but, accepting that risk, I will try to address the (important) issue of language skills raised in the Huffington Post. The Huffington Post says that “Conservative MPs say it’s imperative their new leader speak French, but how bilingual that person must be or by what time fluency is required remains a source of disagreement among caucus members … [and] … Calgary MP Michelle Rempel told reporters Tuesday it is important that the leader be fluently bilingual and be able to understand the nuances of the language at a colloquial level. “I think that somebody stepping into the race right now has to be functionally fluent,” she said.”
The same report quotes “Quebec MP Gérard Deltell, a well-regarded and influential figure regionally, [who] said speaking French is an absolute requirement, but it’s also very subjective. “Being able to do a debate with [Prime Minister] Justin Trudeau will happen in three years, so a person has to be able to debate in three years” … “Now,” he added, “French can’t be learned in three years, so a person still needs to have a base. Today, what we are asking for is for a candidate to be able to express themselves in French in a press conference, answer a few questions in French.”“
It seems to me that last phrase about being able to express themselves in a press conference and answer a few questions in French describes the two candidates who, I mentioned earlier, might be waiting to see how the 2019 campaign goes:
My answer to the question is, in two parts:
- IF, prospective CPC leader, you have a firm base in the party, IF you have an outgoing, friendly (with a “common” touch) pleasing personality, IF you are a great campaigner and IF you are incredibly thick skinned then your French needs to be about as good as his English; but
- IF you are an introvert, IF you’re a newcomer or an outsider, IF you’re young and IF, being a social moderate, you actually have a realistic chance against Justin Trudeau then you need to be able to hold your own, comfortable, in this sort of a debate, and that, as many will recall, was of a very high standard.
So, there we have it: the “low end” of the standard is Jean Chrétien, who, as the ‘tit gars de Shawinigan, actually exploited his fractured English to project a warm, folksy, friendly image in a way that
fooled enough Canadians worked for him. The “high end” is, indeed, as M Deltell says, to be able to stand, toe to toe, with Prime Minister Trudeau, in 2019, and debate policy with him, clearly and coherently, in French, in front of a massive French audience.