Conservative Party candidates learning French to gain support in Quebec

Kevin O'Leary speaks during a Conservative Party of Canada convention. Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press

After the French-language debate in Quebec City last week, the federal Conservative party is admitting many of its leadership candidates struggle with speaking French.

Nevertheless, the party said it recognizes its candidates are going to have to improve their language skills if the party is to gain support in Quebec.

Candidates for the party’s top job agreed that the person to replace Stephen Harper should be bilingual.

READ MORE: Maxime Bernier under fire at Conservative French-language debate

“It’s easy to take out some clips of some mistakes with grammar and some candidates who struggle a bit more,” said Andrew Scheer, Conservative leadership candidate, when asked about the French-language debate last week.

READ MORE: Kevin O’Leary officially enters Conservative leadership race

Both Lisa Raitt and Kellie Leitch insist they’ve been taking classes since January of last year and most recently, wealthy businessman and TV celebrity Kevin O’Leary has said he is learning the language.

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“In the beginning, he said I don’t need to speak French: ‘I don’t need to learn French, I’m speaking the language of jobs,'” said Maxime Bernier, Conservative leadership candidate.

“So, now he said, ‘no, I think it’s important to speak French.'”

READ MORE: Kevin O’Leary accused of delaying Tory leadership bid until after French debate

The party argues it’s an important asset if the Conservatives plan to beat the Liberals in the next election.

READ MORE: Exclusive: Kevin O’Leary Conservatives could pose threat to Justin Trudeau Liberals in 2019: Ipsos poll

“We have 12 members of parliament coming from the Quebec region and the province of Quebec,” said Bernier.

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“For the next election, that will be a big battle ground for us. We want to increase the number of seats in Quebec.”

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