Conservative Debate: Fiery Bill 96 Exchange, 3 Other Notable Moments

Canadian Conservative Party leaders Scott Aitchison, Roman Baber, Patrick Brown, Jean Charest, Leslyn Lewis and Pierre Poilievre appeared at the party’s second official debate Wednesday night in Laval, Que.

Contrary to some expectations, given the revived conversation about firearms laws in the wake of the Texas mass shootings, there was no substantial argument about gun control during the debate. Instead, the candidates sought to differentiate themselves on inflation, official language, and foreign policy.

From a few heated exchanges over hot policy filings, to candidates’ varying levels of French proficiency, here are some key moments from the French debate.


It’s no surprise that two controversial bills in Quebec, Bill 96 and Bill 21, sparked a huge amount of debate Wednesday night.

The move to assert that Quebec’s only official and common language is French and to ensure that French is exclusively used in workplaces and cities, was approved by the National Assembly on Tuesday. The latter regulation prohibits certain types of workers, including teachers and policemen, from wearing religious symbols while on the job and was passed in 2019.

Brown argues that Proposition 96 goes against Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He and Charest accused Poilievre of changing his opinion of Bill 21 based on who he was talking to, sometimes in favor of it, sometimes against it.

Poilievre denied this, saying he had consistently opposed the bill and would vote against it if introduced in the House of Commons.

Charest said the federal government should not take a neutral stance on this.

Attorney General David Lametti told reporters on Wednesday that Ottawa is ready to intervene in both cases, as the bills reach the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile Lewis said Proposition 96 is a “bad” bill and “not a good approach” but added that learning French is a personal pleasure and that the next leader of the party is little should commit to learning it.

Baber and Aitchison also expressed their concerns with the bills.


Speaking of languages, it is clear that not all six candidates have the same level of French.

While Charest and Poilievre were largely able to engage without looking down, making their point and stating their position when faced with the opponent they were talking to, throughout the night it was common to see Aitchison, Lewis and Babe refer to their notes while replying and receive no response. in many open debates.

Brown found himself somewhere in between, keeping himself in conversations in French, while also referencing his notes at times.

During the opening ceremony, Baber admitted his lacking French skills, begging some forgiveness.

He said he knew how important it was for the prime minister to be able to speak both English and French, and said that for the past three years he had been learning French almost every morning.

Later, when the topic of official languages ​​came up, Lewis said she was committed to continuing to learn and the process so far, according to the English translator, has been “a wonderful experience.”


Wednesday’s event is the last scheduled debate the party has scheduled for this leadership race, although it has suggested it’s possible another debate could be convened in the months ahead. next.

Without taking any chances, the French-language debate saw candidates taking advantage of every opportunity they could to differentiate themselves from their opponents. And this time, no sad trombone whistle stopped the contestants from skipping over the question at hand. This leads to more pointed attacks coming from candidates.

At different times of the night, both Charest and Brown attempted to guide their critiques of Poilievre and his positions.

At one point, Brown accused him of overturning his stance on a carbon tax, and later he suggested opposing vaccine mandates had only really become his position since the controversy. elected leader, said that during the pandemic he tweeted thousands of Poilievre refuting the duties of the COVID-19 vaccine but not the mission of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Poilievre isn’t keeping his punches either, suggesting that Brown cannot be trusted given his time as PC Ontario leader, and will struggle after Charest’s record as prime minister of Quebec. Few, if any, of the evening’s attacks targeted the other three candidates on stage.


Disputes also had the opportunity to share how they believe Canada should navigate its precarious relationship with China, including whether it, like the Liberal government, should ban Huawei from its 5G rollout Canada or not.

Brown leads the way, arguing that exporting clean energy and helping China reduce emissions is one way to improve relations with the superpower, which he says have been fractured since the Harper administration. It was another way to sneak into a sneak attack of Poilievre, who served as a cabinet for the former prime minister.

Brown also accused Poilievre of being the only candidate to have the backing of a Huawei executive, referring to Vice President of Corporate Affairs Alykhan Velshi.

Poilievre, meanwhile, said Canada can both balance economic interests and defend our democratic values ​​and principles in the face of China. Similar to the English debate, he called on Charest to disclose how much he was paid to serve as an adviser to Huawei after leaving provincial politics.

His question received a resounding applause from the audience.

Charest countered, noting, as he had previously done, that he was not working on any matter with the company that could jeopardize Canada’s national security interests. He also advertised his involvement in helping to free Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor from detention in China.

Returning to Canada’s relationship with China, Charest argues that Canada should review its entire security law related to telecommunications.

He also suggested that Canada was not invited to join the new Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity because of its poor standing globally. “We are lacking in action,” he said.

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