An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
SO FAR, PETER MACKAY’S FRENCH is the biggest issue to come up in the federal Conservative leadership “race.”
Thank goodness there’s something to add interest to this snoozer.
As far as I can tell, MacKay has a pretty good French accent but he has trouble with some of the words. Does this make him ineligible to lead a federal party, or to be prime minister?
Polling shows most Canadians think federal leaders should be able to speak French, though, understandably, it’s an opinion held less strongly in the West.
The ability to speak both official languages has long been a point of contention. Learning a second language is a fine thing. It expands the mind, helps us to learn about other cultures, and can even be useful in finding employment.
Millions who had to take French in high school, however, have had absolutely no use for it, and remember very little of it other than “Bonjour” and “J’entre dans la salle de classe.”
We get along just fine without it, so why should a prime minister have to be fluent?
Certainly, it’s helpful. It’s also often painful — try listening to Andrew Scheer or Stephen Harper or any number of other political leaders massacre the language and you’ll know what I mean.
It works in reverse, as well, by the way. How we squirmed every time Stephane Dion struggled with English.
So, yes, they should try but let’s keep in mind that only 18 per cent of Canadians can speak both French and English. Maybe it’s expecting too much of a federal leader to be one of the 18 per cent.
There are a lot more important things than that — such as what they think about pipelines, climate change and World War Three.
I’m Mel Rothenburger, merci beaucoup.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He writes five commentaries a week for CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.