We might get to hear Kevin O’Leary speak French, after all. The Conservative Party leadership favourite will attend a bilingual debate in the Montreal area on February 13th. O’Leary has so far not spoken a word of French in public, conspicuously announcing his candidacy the morning after the only mandatory French debate.

He and ten others confirmed they will take part in a debate in Pointe-Claire, organized by the local association of Lac–Saint–Louis and Pierrefonds–Dollard. Since it’s not officially set up by the Conservative party of Canada, it is on a voluntary basis. It will start at 7pm at the Holiday Inn. According to CBC, the central themes of the debate will be the economy and national security.

The other implicit theme will be how well can each candidate connect with French-speaking Quebeckers. The French debate on January 17th showcased the cringe-worthy language skills of most conservative candidates. Although the Montreal debate is advertised as bilingual, it is not clear how much of it will be in French or whether all questions will be translated.

Parlez-vous Français?

Despite being a Montreal native, O’Leary has never been fluent in French. When Tout le monde en parle host asked him “Parlez-vous français?” in 2014, he replied: “No I don’t. I left here when I was six years old and I am very ashamed of that. If I had been able to stay longer, I probably could have done it.”

He sang a wildly different tune in more recent interviews. One year ago, he told David Akin, host of Everything is Political on SiriusXM Canada Radio that learning French was not necessary to be Prime Minister. He said he was amused by politicians who thought they could score some points in Quebec by learning French in accelerated classes. “I know what Quebec wants in Canada because that’s where I came from,” he claimed.

He refused to be shamed for blatantly avoiding the French debate, retorting instead that he spoke the language of jobs and economy. On January 18th, he told Global News: “There’s three official languages in Canada: There’s English, there’s French, and there’s the language of jobs.” He added that Trudeau will never be fluent in jobs. He has nonetheless promised to get better at French too.

Ten days later, his campaign associates are very confident about his French skills. “Let’s just say that I’m pretty sure that he’s going to surprise a lot of people,” said O’Leary’s Quebec organizer, Norm Vocino, in an interview with CBC.

His press secretary Ari S. Laskin told FTB that O’Leary has been working on his French on a daily basis for several weeks and that “he will be able to hold his own in a debate against Justin Trudeau.” Laskin assures that “it is a priority for him to be able to engage with the entire country in both national languages.”

He denies that O’Leary has ever been flippant about the importance of French: “I don’t think French wasn’t a priority. He was born in Montreal and has incredibly deep respect for the bilingual culture.”

O’Leary still on top

As to how O’Leary will appeal to the notoriously anti-Tory Montrealers, the language of jobs and economy still seems to be his favourite answer. According to his press secretary, Quebeckers are as tired as the rest of the country of Trudeau’s “platitudes” in that area. “What Mr O’Leary wants is to make sure that we have a strong economy and jobs created on a daily basis,” he said.

O’Leary has been called Canada’s Trump. Like him, he is a Reality TV star with a flourishing financial empire and he is leading the race despite the fact that he has no political experience.

While he doesn’t share Trump’s radical views on immigration and same-sex marriage, he is known for his inflammatory statements. He infamously claimed that the global concentration of wealth in the hands of the few richest people on earth is “fantastic news” and a source of inspiration.

He is currently the top candidate for the leadership of the party with 26% of the votes. His closest competitor, Maxime Bernier, polls at barely 11%.  The leader of the Conservative Party will be elected on May 27th.

* Featured image: screengrab from CTV News

ForgetTheBox wants to welcome a new music site to the Blogosphere: www.Laboitamusique.info. This new site is being run by IndieMontreal and will focus on cool shows and concert going on outside of Montreal. We don’t normally publish much french content on FTB but we thought you should know, so here is one of their first articles. They will also be operating an awesome listing section to find out what hot bands will be playing in le banlieue!

C’était dans l’optique d’attirer davantage de jeunes au festival que Sherblues a ajouté bon nombre de spectacles folks et indie à sa programmation cette année. Pari réussi pour l’organisation, si on se fie à la fourchette d’âge des spectateurs présent au spectacle d’ouverture, mercredi soir au Granada, qui ne dépassait pas la jeune vingtaine ! Un assez bon spectacle dans l’ensemble avec Plants and Animals, Little Scream en première partie et, oh surprise, Mauricio, un groupe blues-folk arrivé de Québec et s’étant greffé à la dernière minute au spectacle.

Le groupe surprise, Mauricio, a d’ailleurs donné une performance très respectable avec ses airs blues-folk aux saveurs de la Louisiane, principalement centré autour d’une chanteuse à la voix puissante et mélodieuse, supportée par une troupe de musiciens jouant guitare, basse, percussions et musique à bouche.

J’ai toutefois été un peu déçu de la performance de Plants and Animals, qui sans nécessairement avoir donné un mauvais show, semblait manquer en spectacle de la subtilité musicale que j’avais apprécié lors de l’écoute de leur albums. Mettant en avant plan les deux talentueux guitaristes Warren Spicer et Nic Basque qui ne se gênaient pas pour improviser à la suite de plusieurs des chansons, j’ai trouvé que les interprétations s’étiraient trop en longueur, alourdissant le spectacle. À quelques exceptions près, j’ai d’ailleurs souvent eu l’impression durant la prestation d’assister à une longue improvisation, ou les musiciens se laissaient aller sur leur instrument sans trop se préoccuper du résultat final, comme lors d’un gros jam entre amis.

En résumé, beaucoup d’intensité, mais, au risque de me répéter, peu des variations et de la subtilité que je leur connaissais. La jeune foule ne semblait par contre pas de mon avis, ayant envahis l’avant scène, s’ébrouant avec rythme et acclamant bruyamment lors de chaque pause entre les chansons. Peut-être n’était-ce que moi, finalement, qui soit déjà rendu trop vieux pour ce genre de musique…

Little Scream
Little Scream – photo by Mike Cicchetti

Pour balancer le tout, j’ai par contre beaucoup aimé la prestation de Little Scream (cf. Interview), groupe indie mettant en vedette la charmante Laurel Sprengelmeyer, accompagné pour l’occasion de Marcus Paquin à la guitare et Adam Luksetisch (il me semble) à la batterie. N’ayant pas particulièrement accroché lors de l’écoute de son album (The Golden Album) que j’avais trouvé un peu trop « gentil » à mon goût, j’ai adoré la prestation qui avait beaucoup plus de chien que ce que j’avais anticipé (décidément, c’est le monde à l’envers!).

Une Laurel Sprengelmeyer de toute évidence très à l’aise sur scène, qui parle et blague avec son public entre ses pièces tantôt plus douces et langoureuses, tantôt beaucoup plus rocks et rythmées. M’avouant intérieurement mon manque de flair quant au groupe, je me suis promis de réécouter ce premier album de la chanteuse de l’Iowa, quoi qu’avec peut-être un peu plus d’attention cette fois!

J’ai d’ailleurs eu la chance d’interviewer la dite Laurel après son spectacle, interview que vous pouvez retrouver dans la section XX du site.

Morale de la fin: ne vous fiez pas trop à votre première impression!

Writen by: Félix-Antoine Desrochers