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Conservative says not enough French in Parliament

David Akin, Parliamentary Bureau Chief
Jacques Gourde. (File Photo)

Jacques Gourde. (File Photo)


A Conservative backbencher is whining that the Opposition NDP doesn't speak enough French in the House of Commons.

And Jacques Gourde - the only Quebec Conservative MP who isn't in Stephen Harper's cabinet - went so far as to say things were better in Parliament when the Bloc Quebecois held a chunk of seats because at least they spoke French all the time.

"It is an insult to our identity as Quebecers to see the NDP MPs from Quebec put half their questions in English," Gourde said this week before one of the daily question period sessions.

"When the Bloc Quebecois was there, they asked all their questions in French and it brought a certain proportion of French in the House of Commons," Gourde said.

The NDP said Gourde was scraping the bottom of the barrel with his complaining.

Andrew MacDougall, the chief spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, would not comment about Gourde or his complaint, saying only that the government "is pleased to answer questions ... in either of Canada's two official languages."

In fact, according to Hansard, the official record of what was said in the House of Commons, it's Gourde's own Conservatives who spend less time speaking French.

New Democrats have asked questions in French during question period nearly 46% of the time since the election of Thomas Mulcair as their leader.

On the other hand, when the government is asked questions in French, Conservative ministers have answered in English 57% of the time. By tradition, answers are normally given in the language in which they are asked.

Gourde is also his party's parliamentary secretary for official languages and yet he can only speak one official language -- French.

"I think the prime minister made an appalling lack of judgement when he appointed a unilingual MP," said Liberal MP Stephane Dion.

The unilingual Gourde wasn't backing down on Thursday.

"What I miss in the House [of Commons] is French. Fewer and fewer people speak French in the House and we're not respecting the previous ratios."

- With files from Jessica Murphy, Dominique La Haye, and Daniel Proussalidis