Proposed Law to Promote ‘Substantive Equality’ Between French and English Could Cost $240M in Compliance Costs: Budget Watchdog

The federal government has underestimated by a huge margin the costs needed to extend French-language rights to federally regulated businesses in its proposed changes to the Official Languages Act, according to a report by the parliamentary budget officer (PBO).

Published on June 2, the report found that the government’s push to promote “substantive equality” between French and English will incur costs far beyond what their finance ministry had budgeted last year.

“We expect private compliance costs to implement these rights to be $240 million in one-time costs plus $20 million each year in ongoing costs,” the report said. “These costs arise primarily from language training and bilingualism wage premiums for managers in designated bilingual regions outside Quebec.”

In the 2021 Economic and Fiscal Update, the Liberal government said they would allocate $16 million in 2022–23 to support the implementation of their proposed Bill C-13, an act that seeks to strengthen the state of French in public institutions and expand the use of French in the federally regulated private businesses, upon royal assent.

“[This amount] is not intended to support the implementation of the bill in its entirety, but rather to fund immediate implementation of the key legislative changes in the bill that will, upon Royal Assent, result in direct costs to the federal government to carry out its new responsibilities,” said the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, one of the fund’s recipients, in response to PBO’s inquiries, stated in the report.

In other words, the funding allocated is likely not sufficient to cover the ongoing costs arising from Bill C-13, the PBO office said.

Other recipients include the Commissioner of Official Languages, Canadian Heritage, and Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada.

The PBO requested details on how the money is currently being spent.

“The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages (OCOL) indicated in response to our inquiries that it has not yet been advised what portion of the $16 million provided for C-13 it will receive,” the report said.

The budget watchdog did not receive a satisfactory answer from the remaining three government departments.

“In response to our inquiries, the Treasury Board Secretariat, Canadian Heritage, and Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada refused to disclose their planned expenditures pertaining to the changes set out in C-13, either as a share of the $16 million for initial implementation or in terms of ongoing expenses,” said PBO Yves Giroux in a release.

“Departments provided limited detail regarding the specific tasks they planned to undertake and no detail regarding their anticipated resources requirements for those tasks.”

Despite a “lack of cooperation” from the responsible departments, the PBO estimated that federal administration costs to implement those rights will rise by at least $2.9 million per year.

The Epoch Times reached out to the three departments for comment, but did not hear back by publication time.

The PBO said the report was prepared in response to a request from the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages, to provide an independent analysis of the financial cost of Bill C-13. The bill passed second reading in the House of Commons on May 30, and the Senate committee proceeded to pre-study it the next day.

If adopted, the bill would apply to Quebec immediately, and later extend to “regions with a strong francophone presence” such as New Brunswick, Ottawa, and some parts of Eastern and Northern Ontario.


Isaac Teo is an Epoch Times reporter based in Toronto.

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