Is an English election debate a sign of French language decline in Quebec?

Is an English election debate a sign of French language decline in Quebec?

Does the mere existence of an English-language leaders' debate send the message that Quebec is a bilingual province?

That's the concern pushed forward by Mouvement Québec français, a French-language rights group, which is calling for Quebec's provincial party leaders to reconsider their involvement in the debate.

"What message are our party leaders sending?" asks Maxime Laporte, spokesman for the Mouvement Québec français.

"Quebec is not a province that's officially bilingual … There's only one official language in Quebec, and that's French."

Laporte added he's concerned about the precedent the debate is setting, and worries that now Anglophones will expect to have an English-language debate every election.

Historic debate 

For the first time in Quebec electoral history, there will be a televised English-language leaders' debate.  

It will be held on Monday, Sept. 17 — two weeks before Quebecers head to the polls on Oct. 1.

The leaders of all four parties with seats in the National Assembly will take part in the 90-minute debate.

Mathieu Bock-Cô​té, a columnist for the Journal de Montréal, agrees with Laporte. He has written two columns — one in March 2014 and the other last May — opposing the idea of an English debate.

"It's simply the proof that the principle of French language as the common language is less and less defended in our society," said Bock-Cô​té.

Complaints 'overblown'

Quebec City resident and ESL teacher Taylor Ireland says he believes the complaints are overblown.

Ireland said watching leaders debate in their second language could be revealing.

"Sometimes you can see a little more of their character in their second language because sometimes it is a little bit harder to skate," he said.

With files from Cathy Senay