Just in case you missed it, the Chrétien Liberals (AKA the Government of Canada) are floating a potential policy change, which, if implemented, will create one more aggravating division between Canada’s two solitudes. Just what we need!
First, some background. Over the past 30-years or so, the policy of the Government of Canada has been to reserve an increasing number of Federal public service positions for those who are competent in both French and English. Although this was initially intended to ensure the delivery of government services in French, it has in fact amounted to a program to provide jobs to Francophones.
As a result, Francophones who comprise about 25 percent of the population of Canada, now occupy something like 35 percent of the jobs in the public service. However, despite this favourably disproportionate Francophone share, Lucienne Robillard, President of the Treasury Board, wants to introduce a policy whose effect will be to increase the Francophone share (especially among senior managers) to about 75 percent!
This, despite the fact that the dominant language within the public service has been, is, and will remain English. Clearly, if this policy is implemented, the Federal public service will consist of an Anglophone proletariat and a Francophone upper crust. And how does the clever M. Robillard justify this proposed 180-degree transformation from the pre-Trudeau era when Anglophones ran Ottawa?
Since the current federal language policy is an obvious crock (Anglophones allegedly bilingual are generally incompetent in French), she intends to end the charade. For example, to qualify for a bilingual position, one must obviously speak both languages.
At present, however, if the incumbent, or candidate, is not currently bilingual, he/she will be sent to language school at government expense to acquire the required competence in the other language. Moreover, when that “now bilingual” individual completes his/her program, and returns to the job, Francophones find themselves in an Anglophone environment with ample opportunity to improve their newly acquired language skills.
Their Anglophone classmates, on the other hand, are left “high and dry” in an environment with few opportunities to speak French. Thus, over time, Francophones become increasingly bilingual while Anglophones steadily lose their tenuous grip on French.
As a result, only about 30-percent of Anglophone candidates for senior positions currently possess the required competence in the other language, versus over 90 percent of Francophones.
Hence, M. Robillard, concluded correctly in my view, that language training was a waste of taxpayers’ money. Alors, she faced a dilemma. If she canceled language training, she would save taxpayers millions of dollars. However, unless she concurrently arrested the growth of bilingual positions, she would also put at risk the jobs of about 70 percent of (unilingual) Anglophones.
But, since arresting the growth of bilingual positions is politically sticky, that option may be difficult for all but the politically courageous. Since that seems to exclude M. Robillard, she is faced with the option of doing nothing, and continuing to waste money in the interests of national unity, or of endangering national unity in the interests of saving taxpayers’ money.
And, M. Robillard’s choice?
Keeping a very straight face, she says it is only fair that the incumbents of bilingual positions be bilingual from day-one, a decision I support in theory. But, if you do the math, and do not concurrently control the growth of bilingual positions, this means that Anglophones will eventually be confined to the bottom of the hierarchy, while Francophones rule the roost, a situation few democrats would support.
Those who think that Anglophones will swallow this new state of affairs meekly, are sadly mistaken. The complaints we hear now about poor job prospects for non-Francophones in the public service will rise appreciably as frustrated people become increasingly isolated from the federal bureaucracy.
Feeling cheated, Anglophones will gradually wash their hands of Ottawa, as they identify increasingly with their provincial governments. Relations between the two solitudes will become more venomous, and divisive issues related to national unity will arise more frequently, all because the Chrétien Liberals want to provide jobs for their Francophone constituents at the expense of Anglophones.
What else would you conclude from M. Robillard’s proposal?
Please read Ed Arzounian’s commentary tomorrow on the pandering of the Montreal Gazette.