PQ leader Pauline Marois, August 20, 2012
MONTREAL - Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois is hammering a familiar target once again - English Quebecers and their language.
She says that if elected Sept. 4, her separatist party will require all non-francophones to be proficient in French if they want to run for public office.
On a campaign stop in Montreal, the PQ leader said she plans to reintroduce a bill on Quebec citizenship that sets out clear rules about who has the right to run in municipal and provincial elections.
Anyone who doesn't have an adequate knowledge of French might be barred from running, whether they're a recent immigrant or a longtime English Quebecer who hasn't mastered French.
"In Quebec, French is the common language, the language of the majority," said Marois.
She added that the citizenship bill would apply to all candidates, even those in English municipalities or native communities, many of which are English-speaking.
But Marois was vague about precisely how a PQ government would assess French proficiency.
She had kicked off her campaign earlier this month by inviting English-speaking Quebecers to vote for her party - something few have ever done.
Marois later changed her tone, promising to create a new language law that would force companies with more than 10 employees to conduct business entirely in French.
Even French Quebecers would be ensnared by the beefed-up language laws, which would bar francophones from attending English-language junior colleges.
Premier Jean Charest criticized Marois for the language-proficiency plan during their face-to-face debate on Monday evening, saying she's curbing anglophone voters' rights.
He has previously accused the separatist leader of kowtowing to language zealots on the fringe of her party.