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Prime Minister Stephen Harperand Conservative MP Maxime Bernier tour a college science lab in St-Georges de Beauce, Que., on October 23, 2009. (MATHIEU BELANGER/REUTERS)
Prime Minister Stephen Harperand Conservative MP Maxime Bernier tour a college science lab in St-Georges de Beauce, Que., on October 23, 2009. (MATHIEU BELANGER/REUTERS)

Morning Buzz

Does Harper back Bernier's stand on Quebec language law? Add to ...

1. Critics pounce on maverick's musing. The Liberals and NDP are suggesting there is more to Maxime Bernier's controversial comments opposing the province's language laws than simply a rogue Tory MP speaking his mind.

Was he put up by the Prime Minister to say Quebeckers don't need Bill 101? The Liberals wonder whether that's the real position of Stephen Harper's Conservatives.

And deputy NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, who has the party's only seat in Quebec, told The Globe on Monday morning that "Mr. Harper can't avoid the issue and has to say clearly whether Mr. Bernier's continued presence in his caucus means he actually agrees but is just using Mr. Bernier as cover."

Mr. Bernier, the former foreign affairs minister, told a Halifax radio station last week that the French language will survive in Quebec without having laws that restrict people's linguistic freedom. He took a swipe at Bill 101 - the famous provincial law brought in 1977, considered by many in Quebec to have saved their language by limiting English on street signs as well as access to English public schools.

"French will survive if Quebeckers cherish it and want to preserve it; it will flourish if Quebec becomes a freer, more dynamic and prosperous society," he wrote on his blog this weekend, explaining his remarks.

Still, the quip has caused a furor in the province. Many observers have condemned Mr. Bernier, who is known to be outspoken about his strong libertarian views, as a result.

Can this be helpful to Mr. Harper's election prospects in the province? The Prime Minister's Office is not embracing his remarks, saying it "respects provincial jurisdiction."

But this isn't good enough for Michael Ignatieff's Liberals, who are also struggling to make their own inroads in Quebec.

"Distancing isn't good enough. Mr. Harper needs to be clear in denouncing Bernier's comments," a senior Ignatieff official told The Globe. "Or is this the real Conservative position being floated out the back door by a convenient spokesperson?"

Mr. Mulcair, whose New Democrats introduced four new candidates in Quebec on Sunday added: "By musing about getting rid of these protections, Mr. Bernier is playing with fire in an effort to increase his own popularity with the hard right wing of his own party and it's a shame.

"For over 30 years a large degree of language peace has been achieved by a law that gives the right to receive consumer information in French, the right to work in French and the ability to ensure that immigrants who choose to come to Quebec will learn French first and foremost."

2. Are you ready for some football? There was some Canadian content to Sunday's Super Bowl match-up between the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers.

First, there was Steelers place kicker Shawn Suisham. The 29-year-old from Wallaceburg, Ont., missed badly on a 52-yard field goal - a mistake that helped give the victorious Packers some momentum.

Then a Super Bowl ad featuring Detroit rapper Eminem prompted Industry Minister Tony Clement, who was cheering for the Packers, to ponder his government's billion-dollar bailout of the auto industry. "Loved the Eminem/Detroit/Chrysler ad! Maybe we'll get our money back sooner now," he said on Twitter.

Finally, what would be a hard-hitting sporting contest without some political content? The Harper Conservatives ran one of their anti-Ignatieff ads - "Michael Ignatieff, he didn't come back for you" - about an hour or so into the Canadian broadcast of the Super Bowl, spurring many to wonder why a party that professes to be uninterested in an election would shell out for such prime ad placement.

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