As always, Quebec is working through some complex feelings about language and culture this election cycle. Especially in light of the relatively new Bill 96, the parties have strong incentives to take a public stance on the future of French in the province.
After all, when we say "language," what we mean is French: its role in Quebec identity-making, its importance in business and in the public sphere. The issue also touches on immigration, especially attitudes toward immigrants with other language skills, as well as relations with minority language groups.
The parties have competing approaches to language policy, so here's a guide to the primary parties' stances and what they're promising should they win.
Coalition avenir Québec
Unsurprisingly, the CAQ's platform on language begins with a bit of self-congratulation on the passage of Bill 96, which it terms "the biggest advancement for the protection of the French language since law 101 in 1977."
The party pledges to continue the work they began with Bill 96, calling it "just the beginning" of a massive linguistic push intended to inspire further expressions of the CAQ's idea of québécois identity.
Among the party's plans for their next term, which they're predicted to win with near certainty, is an initiative that would support French-language, Quebec-made content for young people.
The party sees a "real danger" of young people "losing contact with their cultural identity" and wants to prevent this perceived crisis with programming that is "100% in French" and "well anchored in the québécois reality," which the CAQ does not well define.
For the CAQ this election, French is a priority, but their specific plans to follow up on Bill 96 are still forthcoming.
Parti conservateur du Québec
The PCQ dedicates little space to the issue of language in its platform: just one line promising to launch a project fighting illiteracy and "promoting" the "quality of the French language," whatever that means.
The platform otherwise doesn't mention the French language at all. In public interviews, Éric Duhaime has come out against Bill 96, including in a conversation with CTV News in late September.
Whether the PCQ is courting non-francophone votes or simply prioritizing other issues, the sparseness of language-related proposals makes the party stand out.
Where the PCQ gave very little space to French and its role in the province, the Parti Québécois dedicated over 800 words of its platform to the subject, calling the project of maintaining French "Quebec's constant challenge."
The PQ considers French to be at the heart of the national identity and the key to Quebec's international relations. An optimistic trajectory, but one the PQ is prepared to fight for.
Among the party's 24 promises related to the French language are pledges to institutionalize the right to live, work and study in French, as well as require all businesses (regardless of size or industry) to operate primarily in French.
The PQ also aims to require immigrants to speak French before they arrive in the province, proposing long-distance French courses to prepare each prospective Quebecer for their new life en français.
The PQ wants the government to communicate exclusively in French with allophone communities and to reserve English-language services for the "historic anglophone minority."
Nestled between goal after goal relating to uplifting and preserving French, the PQ has one line promising to support the preservation and learning of Indigenous languages.
In the workforce, the PQ notably wants to forbid employers from requiring English "where it is unnecessary."
Parti libéral du Québec
Like the PCQ's platform, the "Liberal Playbook," as the PLQ's platform is called, is available online in English, unlike the CAQ's, which is only available in English by request, and the PQ's, which is exclusively French.
For Dominique Anglade's party, the French language is "the focal point" of Quebec society and nationhood. The PLQ proudly asks us to "recall that it was a Liberal government" that gave French its status as the official language of Quebec.
However, the PLQ staunchly opposes Bill 96, which it criticizes as "too far-reaching to be considered constructive." The majority of the liberals' promises relating to language are focused on rolling back moves made by Legault's government, including a promise to restore students' ability to choose their CEGEP freely, without a cap on the number of students that can attend English-language schools.
The PLQ vaguely promises to "dispel any concerns about access to health care and social services," which arose following the passage of Bill 96. They also promise to eliminate the rule that requires the state to start communicating with immigrants in French six months after their arrival.
Finally, the PLQ wants to remove the evocation of the notwithstanding clause in Bill 96, which it asserts was established "without guidelines," and to evaluate the "administrative burden" that Bill 96 has imposed on businesses.
Québec solidaire has published their platform online in French and English, as well as seven Indigenous languages.
QS staunchly supports the implementation of the Charter of the French Language, promising to apply it to all businesses with ten or more employees and, like the PQ, "limit the unnecessary requirement to speak English" to get a job at some companies.
The party wants to confirm French as the sole official language of Quebec and vows to "finance and support" Indigenous "language initiatives." Additionally, QS promises to increase funding to the francophone higher education network in the province to make it more attractive to non-francophones.
For artists and media workers, QS wants to "support" non-francophones who produce and share their work in French. It also promises to provide resources for new arrivals in order to integrate them into francophone québécois culture.
Finally, the party wants to facilitate increased usage of Quebec sign language (LSQ), as well as promote the teaching of LSQ throughout the province.
The QS platform doesn't directly address Bill 96, which they supported.