Will the CAQ suffer the same fate with Bill 96 as the PLQ with Bill 22?

If you have lived in Quebec long enough, you may have come to realize that language and sovereignty are two issues that are never resolved here and probably won’t be hundreds of years hence.

While some Quebecers may have been hoping that the two issues would be behind us by now, others with a little more insight may well have figured out that the scenario shaping up over Bill 96 is yet another example of history repeating itself.

Basically, the CAQ government is in a similar position to that of the Liberal Party of Quebec when the PLQ introduced Bill 22 in 1974.

For those who may recall, Bill 22 was the PLQ’s belated response to mounting discontent among the French-speaking majority of Quebec over the declining status of their language and culture within Canada and North America.

In spite of the Liberals’ best intentions, Bill 22 failed to go over well, and the PLQ government fell in the 1976 election, in large part because the French-speaking majority saw Bill 22 as an insufficient measure.

Following the general election that year, the Parti Québécois formed a government for the first time, and in 1977 they introduced the Charter of the French Language, which was much more comprehensive than Bill 22, while raising greater objections than ever from Quebec’s anglophone and allophone minorities.

Forty-four years later, the CAQ government faces an ironically similar dilemma. Too little too late for some, the proposed law doesn’t quite manage to please others, leaving both sides alienated. Which is exactly what split the vote and led ultimately to the Liberals’ defeat.

If historical patterns prevail, and the CAQ government fails to please anyone in the revived language debate, Quebec’s October 2022 election may see the current government leaving behind a permanent legacy as a one-hit wonder that held promise at the outset, but fell while trying to please too many people.

In the meantime, the Parti Québécois is waiting in the wings to begin beating an even more nationalistic drum, in anticipation of a renewed surge like the one that helped them form their first government in 1976.