Asian kids and religious symbols: just another day on the Quebec campaign trail

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

The issues being debated on the hustings of the Quebec election seem to be all over the map.

Day 14, for example, included a discussion of "Asian kids" versus "Quebec kids" and a proposed ban of overt religious symbols in public service.

That's right, instead of discourse about the economy, healthcare or government corruption — the so-called top-of-mind issues — leaders were left discussing frivolousness.

On Monday, Coalition Avenir Quebec leader Francois Legault waded into the subject about Asian kids during a chat with an 85-year-old man.

According to The Canadian Press, the older man had lamented the work ethic of today's youth, and Legault eagerly responded.

Legault said it was the opposite in Asia where, he said, parents want their kids to become engineers and actually need to stop them from studying at night because they nearly work themselves sick. He said if people in Asia keep working so hard while young Quebecers just want "the good life," our society is in trouble.

[ Related: Montreal mayor wants promises from provincial parties ]

On Tuesday, Legault defended his comments.

"If you have kids they'll tell you [the Asian students] are always first in class. One of my sons was telling me, 'Yes, but they have no life,"' Legault told reporters according to CP.

"There's maybe an extreme there but, here, in some cases we're a little bit at the other extreme."

He said he doesn't blame young Quebecers at all. He said he blames older Quebecers, and parents, for not transmitting the values of hard work to youth.

The CAQ leader wasn't the only one raising eyebrows on Tuesday.

One day after causing a national firestorm about toughening Quebec's language laws, Parti Québecois leader Pauline Marois announced her party's plans to introduce a secular charter that would ban all civil servants from wearing or exposing overt religious symbols.

The Catholic crucifix displayed in the province's National Assembly, hypocritically, will remain in place.

[ Full election coverage: Quebec election 2012 ]

According to the Postmedia News, Marois said the PQ government would adopt the charter as soon as possible after being elected, despite the fact it could violate the right to freedom of religion, protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"If it's contested, we'll fight that because we think it's necessary," Marois said.

Meanwhile, Liberal leader Jean Charest was in Quebec City, Tuesday, talking about capital infrastructure projects and creating jobs.

Ummm, maybe he didn't get the memo. Those things seem a little too 'normal.'