Liberal MNA Geoffrey Kelley, shown in March 2017. Christinne Muschi / Montreal Gazette
Liberal MNA Geoff Kelley says his West Island constituents shouldn’t read too much into his support for a motion in the Quebec National Assembly that calls on merchants to scrap the “Bonjour-Hi” greeting in favour of a simple “Bonjour.”
The provincial legislature in Quebec City. Jacques Boissinot / THE CANADIAN PRESS
The motion, sponsored by the Parti Québécois, was passed unanimously in the legislature Thursday after haggling over the wording was hammered out between the Liberal government of Philippe Couillard and the opposition.
Kelley, who represents the predominantly anglophone riding of Jacques-Cartier, called the headline-grabbing debate a “tempest in a teapot.”
He said it was fuelled by opposition parties trying to score political points over language issues heading into next year’s provincial election.
“The PQ would desperately like to revive the language debate and divide Quebecers,” Kelley said. “They presented a motion on the welcome customers are given. We voted a motion that said it is a good idea to say “Bonjour.” The motion is not binding, and I am sure that common sense will prevail.
“At the end of the day you end up voting on something urging people to say “Bonjour” to people who come into their store. It’s very hard to vote against that,” he added.
While “Bonjour-Hi” might seem like an innocuous bilingual greeting, Kelley said voting against the motion might’ve stirred Quebec’s language pot even more.
“At the end of the day, I understand where my constituents are coming from, but to vote against inviting people to say ‘Bonjour’ didn’t make much sense, either.”
Kelley said the “Bonjour-Hi” debate should be seen as a sign the PQ is struggling to gain traction with francophone voters.
“We know that their sovereignty referendum idea is going nowhere, so let’s go back to the old faithful, the language debate, and try to divide Quebecers,” he said.
“If the polls are right, the PQ is in third place. So they’re trying to get back in the game. They’ll try anything. Two weeks ago we had a debate about kirpans. Kirpans, to my way of thinking, are not a problem in Quebec society. We’ve had long discussions about women in burkas as if there were thousands of women in the streets of Montreal wearing burkas.
“I find this whole effort by the opposition parties to divide Quebecers very unfortunate,” Kelley added.
Voting against the “Bonjour” motion would’ve played into the hands of the opposition parties, he noted.
“As I say, the PQ is trying to provoke a sense of crisis — but if you start dividing your caucus or voting against, then you’re in opposition to the people sitting next to you.
Scene in front of Pointe-Claire city hall. Allen McInnis / Montreal Gazette
“Is it perfect for the streets of Pointe-Claire? Not necessarily, but why I’m always proud to be a Liberal is we’re the only party that at the beginning of an election tries to win all 125 ridings. And we try to come up with messages we can use in every riding in Quebec.
“If I look at the Parti Québécois or the (Coalition Avenir Québec) CAQ, what goes on in Jacques Cartier riding they don’t really care. I don’t think either of the opposition parties care very much about the non-francophone vote.”
Asked if he should have abstained from voting, Kelley said: “Then you’re offside as a team player. In a way, you’re playing into the PQ’s hands, provoking some kind of issue. Then you talk about how people did or didn’t vote for another 24 hours. You’re just adding into the storm. I just think it’s better to let it slip away.
“By standing outside of your caucus, even if it’s abstaining, you’re just feeding into the frenzy.”
As for greeting customers, Kelley said the “best welcome when one walks into a store remains a smile.”
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