The NDP wants the 10 most important positions in parliament filled by bilinguals.
The ten key positions, all highly-paid, include the Auditor General, the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), the Privacy Commissioner, the Access to Information Commissioner, the Ethics Commissioner and the Commissioner for Lobbying.
Currently only Auditor-General Michael Ferguson, recently appointed by Stephen Harper, is not bilingual. Ferguson was given a year to learn to speak French. All the others are fluent in both official languages.
This New Democratic Party initiative comes after Official Languages Commissioner Graham Fraser criticized the appointment of the unilingual Ferguson in his last report.
Fraser goes further. He accused the Harper government of "violating" the Official Languages Act by appointing Ferguson, a unilingual Anglophone after being clearly warned not to do so. Harper is not the sort of guy who appreciates being criticized openly.
New Democrats have quickly learned a few Machiavellian tricks, mainly how to get the conservatives bouncing up against themselves.
The NDP legislation has the potential to divide conservatives into two camps - those who favor bilingualism for holders of high positions as officers of Parliament, and those who are satisfied to continue the pattern of unilingualism so prevalent in Ottawa in the past which usually favored, in Ottawa, almost always an English-speaking person.
Indeed, this is precisely what happened. Minister Max Bernier quickly proclaimed that he is in favor of the NDP legislation favoring bilingual officers. Bernier is proud Beauceron who speaks excellent French as well as English. He is also close to the Montreal English-speaking business community.
"Very good bill," said Bernier. "I can tell you that personally I will support it and I hope that my government will support it."
Is that clear enough?
Bernier added: "We are in a bilingual country, and officers of Parliament should be bilingual from their appointments."
James Moore, from British Columbia, who is a fully bilingual, and happens to be the first French immersion graduate from B.C. to make it to cabinet, surprised many by speaking out against the NDP legislation on bilingualism.
If there is a minister who would expect to support bilingualism for parliamentary officers, it would be the minister who answers for official languages in Parliament.
That's the perplexing predicament in which Harpers finds himself. One minister is for the NDP bilingualism, one against. So which way does Harper go? And don't ministers have to all agree - cabinet solidarity and all that?
Ah, those wicked NDP. They've learned the game of politics awfully fast and are about to stick it to Harper no matter which way he turns.
So which minister is going to pay for it with his job, or will one of the two have to eat crow? Is there a cabinet reshuffle in coming?