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End the unfairness of official bilingualism. Stop wasting our tax dollars.

24 July 2017

Bill S-209

We received a heads-up from a reader who gave us the link to a private member's bill in the Senate:

https://sencanada.ca/en/Content/Sen/chamber/421/debates/033db_2016-05-05-e#47

Throughout the nearly 50 years that the Official Languages Act has been in force, changes have been made to strengthen the hand of French-speakers in Canada's government.  Every change has made it easier for French-speakers to get into senior positions & made all Canadian parents think that the knowledge of French is imperative for employment & the demand for French Immersion has risen all across Canada.  Years of French Immersion education in N.B. has proven that F.I has not produced more bilingual graduates, able to pass the stringent governmental language tests.  Yes, they have learnt enough French to absorb the historical revisionism of Canadian history that French is a founding nation (even though every Canadian knows the lost the war). 

Despite all the efforts made by the Francophones & Francophiles in power, the French are still not satisfied.  They have found that, despite bringing in immigrants from French-speaking countries & deliberately keepimg out immgrants from Britain, the French-speaking population has not increased substantially enough.  The Ontario government gave in to the demands of the powerful Language Commissioner to consider all people who can speak French as Francophones, thus increasing their proportion in the population & the necessity to provide service in French.  So, if you're bilngual (in English & French), you're now a Francophone.  The same tactic is being employed by the Senator who championed this bill.

We acknowledge that the CPC under PM Harper's terms in office tried to stop the expansion of the OLA but his government was not successful.  We know that the courts stood in the way of every attempt but in the eyes of many English-speakers, the CPC has to wear that failure.  It could also partly explain their failure at the last election as many English-speakers have felt betrayed.

We consider Bill S-209 to be another blatant attempt to Frenchify Canada, an effort that has already cost billions of taxpayer dollars that could be used to improve the lives of ALL Canadians, not just a select linguistic group; jobs & promotions have been denied to well-qualified Canadians because they are not linguists & more French is not going to improve the economic or poltical position of Canada as a country.  French power in the world has been on the decline for years; the US will not consider us more valuable because our government officials can speak French & let me assure you there are mor Chinese learning Enaglish than there are learning French.

Our appeal to the CPC under the leadership of Andrew Scheer was sent three (3) days ago.  We hope to get a reply in the near future.  Losing votes because more English=speakers are now aware of the growing problem may be a reason to pay attention to this complaint but only if enough Canadians will take action & voice their concerns.  Ignore it as an irrelevant issue & don't be surprised if the issue is also ignored by all politicians.  Please contact your own MP - ask them to pay attention to this issue.

Kim McConnell


Letter to CPC Leader, Andrew Scheer

July 20, 2017

House of Commons

Ottawa, Ontario

K1A 0A6

Attention:   Mr. Andrew Scheer

                  Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada

Subject:    Bill S-209: An Act to amend the Official Languages Act

Dear Mr. Scheer,

As you likely are aware, Bill S-209: An Act to amend the Official Languages Act (communications with and services to the public) is currently proceeding through parliament.

Our understanding of Bill S-209 is basically that it would expand the federal government’s delivery of bilingual communications and services to the public by revising the method used to justify the need for the delivery of bilingual services.

We read with interest the web page of The Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer regarding the cost estimate for Bill S-209 (http://www.pbo-dpb.gc.ca/en/blog/news/Bill_S-209) as well as their report at the link given on that page.

After reading their report, we addressed several questions to The Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, and have received a reply from Mr. Peter Weltman, Sr. Director, Costing and Program Analysis.  (for copy of his reply, see below)

Unfortunately, Mr. Weltman’s replies raise other issues/questions as follows:

1.      The proposed change to the method for determining the need for bilingual service delivery is fundamentally flawed

In his email, Mr. Weltman states: “The Official Languages Act requires that bilingual services be made available where demand warrants.  Demand is determined using a methodology for estimating First Official Language Spoken in a census area, which considers knowledge, mother tongue, and language spoken at home.  S-209 proposes enlarging that demand calculation to include those who indicate on the census that they have knowledge of the minority official language of their census area, regardless of whether or not they speak it at home, or whether or not it is their mother tongue.  For example, if a person speaks English normally but has knowledge of French, they would be included in the calculation under S-209, but not under the existing law.”

We believe that the new inclusion of “knowledge of the minority language of their census area” in the demand calculation is a completely unreasonable, unnecessary and expensive expansion. 

We believe that any reasonable person knows that Canadians will request services in their mother tongue or language spoken at home, not in the minority language of which they may have some limited knowledge.  I have some knowledge of French but would never ask for services in French as this could lead to misunderstandings either on my part or on that of the government employee.

Would you agree?

2.      The Cost Estimate is incomplete and misleading to the public

The Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s report provides a cost estimate of $147 million for implementation costs (one-time) and $9 million ongoing costs (annually), all of which is related to implementation for language training and the ongoing bilingual bonus and second language maintenance training.

But, this cost estimate is for only 535 newly bilingual offices, not for all of the 1,664 newly bilingual offices!

In his email, Mr. Weltman states: “The biggest impact/costs would be incurred by Canada Post, but we are not allowed to publish those details because they were provided to us in confidence.  The total number of newly bilingual offices (1,664) less those belonging to Canada Post, (1,129) leaves 535 offices.”.

If the report’s cost estimate excludes “the biggest impact/costs” regardless of the reason, then it is grossly incomplete and misleading to the public.  This cost estimate completely lacks transparency and voids the current government’s election promise of more open and transparent government.

Simply factoring the costs for the 535 newly bilingual offices to cover all of the 1,664 newly bilingual offices would mean that the total costs could be $457 million for implementation costs (one-time) and $28 million ongoing costs (annually).  This is a huge and unnecessary amount especially when the current government is already running $30 billion annual deficits and projects a debt reaching $1.5 trillion before achieving a balanced budget.

Would you agree?

3.      The Potential Social Costs

We believe that there may be significant social costs related to Bill S-209 that may not have been considered (or are being hidden), especially as they relate to Canada Post which according to Mr. Weltman has “The biggest impact/costs”.

The stated purpose of the bill is to increase primarily front line bilingual services.  In the case of Canada Post, this likely means the clerks that serve the public at Canada Post outlets.  

Many (probably most) postal outlets are now located in various shops and stores (grocery stores, drug stores, corner stores etc.) across the country, and the employees are hired by the stores, not Canada Post.  What happens now to a unilingual French employee at one of these outlets in a drug store in Quebec when the "office" is now designated bilingual - is he/she fired?  And, the same for unilingual English speakers elsewhere in Canada.  Is Canada Post going to pay for language training for these employees - we suspect not.  Are some small family-owned corner stores going to lose their postal outlet (and the income from it) because no one in the family is bilingual, or will they be forced to hire a bilingual person that they cannot afford. 

This entire issue is being completely hidden under the guise of confidentiality.

         Would you agree?

Mr. Scheer, as you can see from the forgoing, we have some very serious concerns about Bill S-209, both financial and social, especially when this bill is completely unnecessary and yet another example of wasteful spending by the current government.

We believe that these concerns need to be fully addressed for all Canadians in an open and transparent manner by all government entities including Canada Post.

We look forward to your taking up this challenge on the behalf of all Canadians, and await your response.

Yours sincerely,

Kim McConnell

President

__________________________________________________________________________

Our email to the Office to the Parliamentary Budget Officer:

July 13, 2017

Dear Sir/Madam:

Subject:    Request for Information re Cost Estimate for Bill S-209: An Act to amend the Official Languages Act (communications with and services to the public)

Dear Sir or Madam,

I have read with interest your report entitled "Cost Estimate for Bill S-209: An Act to amend the Official Languages Act (communications with and services to the public)" dated 17 August 2016, and I have a few questions:

  1. Can you please tell me what are the current demographic rules for designating an office bilingual?
  2. Can you please tell me what will be the new demographic rules for designating an office bilingual if Bill S-209 is passed into law?
  3. Your report indicates that there will be a total of 1,664 newly bilingual offices (KMOL) - demographic rules across Canada.  Given this, can you tell me why your cost estimates are based on only 535 Newly Bilingual Offices which is less than one third of the total newly bilingual offices

I look forward to your response,

Yours sincerely,

Kim McConnell

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­____________________________________________________________________________

Reply from Peter Weltman, Sr. Director, Costing & Program Analysis

From: peter.weltman@parl.gc.ca [mailto:peter.weltman@parl.gc.ca]

Sent: July 18, 2017 9:38 AM

To: kimlian@bellnet.ca

Subject: RE: *Request* Bill S-209

Hi Kim,

Happy to help in any way that I can.

First off, we are not subject to the Access to Information and Privacy law because we are considered a parliamentary organization (Parliament is exempt from this Act).  However, as a matter of course, we always provide information to anybody that asks, unless that information has been provided to us in confidence.  And there is no charge, but you don’t get a nice letter on letterhead- just an email from me.

The Official Languages Act requires that bilingual services be made available where demand warrants.  Demand is determined using a methodology for estimating First Official Language Spoken in a census area, which considers knowledge, mother tongue, and language spoken at home.  S-209 proposes enlarging that demand calculation to include those who indicate on the census that they have knowledge of the minority official language of their census area, regardless of whether or not they speak it at home, or whether or not it is their mother tongue.  For example, if a person speaks English normally but has knowledge of French, they would be included in the calculation under S-209, but not under the existing law.

This would take the number of Canadians qualifying for bilingual service from 2 million to almost 6 million.  The geographic distribution of this population would determine where and how many extra points of service would be required.  If half of those people lived in metropolitan Montreal, for example, it is unlikely that departments would need to add new offices- they would likely simply need more bilingual staff.

The Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) has a model that is used to determine required bilingual points of presence.  Individual departments calculate their own costs of complying with this determination.  The biggest impact/costs would be incurred by Canada Post, but we are not allowed to publish those details because they were provided to us in confidence.  The total number of newly bilingual offices (1,664) less those belonging to Canada Post, (1,129) leaves 535 offices.

I hope this helps.  Please do not hesitate to ask if you have any further questions on this or any of our work at the PBO.

Best regards - Peter

Peter Weltman

Sr. Director, Costing and Program Analysis | Dir. Principale, analyses des coûts et des programmes

Bureau du directeur parlementaire du budget  |  Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer

Bibliothèque du Parlement |  Library of Parliament

Ottawa, ON  K1A 0A9

Peter.Weltman @parl.gc.ca    

office 613.992.8044

cell     613.218.1854

Twitter   @dpb_pbo


From Beth Trudeau, Spokesperson from CLF:

Dear Mr. Scheer,

Further to Mrs. McConnell's letter, I have attached a commentary that also pertains to this subject that you should be aware of.

Sincerely,

Beth Trudeau


Hi Jason, member of the media:

Thank you for the opportunity to state our concerns on behalf of Anglophones across Canada.  Based on the Analysis of Complaints section of the 2014/2015 report from the Office of Official Languages, there were only 550 complaints total for the year.  

http://www.clo-ocol.gc.ca/en/publications/annual_reports/2014-2015

According to Stats Canada, in 2016 there are 164 staff total working in the six (6) Official Languages Offices with salaries and benefits totaling over $18 MILLION annually.  Based on 550 complaints, that means each staff handles 3.35 cases PER YEAR!!!  

http://wwwtbs-sct.gc.ca/psm-fpfm/modernizing-modernisation/stats/ssa-pop-eng.asp

And now they want to set up another source to do what they are receiving over 18 MILLION dollars to do already to handle a whole 550 complaints?  The government would be much wiser and LESS DISCRIMINATORY if they used that same 18 MILLION dollars to instead invest in automatic translators, such as the following; 

http://www.toptenreviews.com/electronics/family/best-electronic-translators/ectaco-500al-multilingual-review/

At a cost of $200 per device, the government could hand out 90,000 translation devices to government workers and the need to hire based on language instead of merit, would disappear forever.  The ability for any person of any language to assist another person of a different language would be possible.  We DO have the technology.  

There would also be less government workers on stress leave as many suffer such ailments because of the language testing and the continual threat of losing their jobs, and that will result in more savings for taxpayers.  We know this because Canadians for Language Fairness DO listen to Anglophone complaints, unlike the Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser who refuses to hear complaints from the majority.

The savings to taxpayers by going the technology route instead of the same old discriminatory, unaccountable route are huge in a time when so many are having to choose between heating, eating and paying their hydro bill.

Sincerely,

Beth Trudeau

Canadians for Language Fairness

 

 



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