Quebec: Marois is making promises she knows she can't keep

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sat May 3 13:12:15 UTC 2008

Marois is making promises she knows she can't keep
PQ is playing party supporters for suckers by promising to expand the
reach of Bill 101

The Gazette

Thursday, May 01, 2008

It's bad enough when politicians contribute to public cynicism about
themselves by not keeping their promises. It's even worse when they
make promises they know they won't be able to keep. In promising that
a Parti Québécois government would bring in a radical new Bill 101, PQ
leader Pauline Marois is duping the members of her own party in
particular. That's because with her considerable experience in
government, Marois should know that as pleasing as her proposed new
language restrictions might sound to Péquiste ears, they are

Marois would subject all Quebec businesses, not only those with at
least 50 employees, to some form of "francization." Even a business
with only one employee would have to use French to some unspecified
extent in its operations, depending upon the number of employees and
their "direct relations" with consumers. Marois proposes to use
incentives such as tax credits at first to persuade the smaller
businesses to use French. But, she said on the weekend, her new law
"will have teeth," and "we won't hesitate to impose fines, if things
don't change."

By subjecting firms with fewer than 50 employees to some form of
francization, Marois would go where no previous PQ government has
dared to go since the first one adopted the original French Language
Charter in 1977. Even PQ governments of which Marois was a member
realized it would be too costly for smaller businesses to comply with
the requirements, and too difficult for the government to enforce
them. According to the most recent annual report of the Office
québécois de la langue française, in 2006-07 there were 5,640
businesses with 50 or more employees that were subject to the
francization requirements. And even nearly 30 years after the
introduction of the requirements, nearly 20 per cent of these larger
firms were not yet in full compliance.

The OQLF estimates there are at least 175,000 businesses in Quebec
with fewer than 50 employees - of which at least 150,000 have fewer
than 10.
So Marois would multiply the number of private businesses subjected to
some form of francization by more than 30 times. If the OQLF's
francization and complaints branch expanded to keep pace with its
increased workload and ensure compliance, its staff would grow from
about 100 in 2007 to more than 3,000. And its budget would swell by
more than a quarter billion dollars.

And that's not all. In addition to the francization requirements,
"every employer" that requires the knowledge of a language other than
French for a job would have to "demonstrate" its necessity. Marois
hasn't said where she'd get the money to pay for this, or for the
French courses that she would make "available and compulsory" for all
"newcomers" (not immigrants) to Quebec. And that's only one of the
questions about her new language policy that she has yet to address.
She would also make French the language of relations between the
government and individuals as well as businesses.

Marois has already become the first PQ leader to propose to punish
individuals explicitly for not speaking French, by denying newcomers
who don't the right to seek electionm even to an English school board.
Would she also deny government services in English to those who need
them? Or would she deny them only to non-anglophones? If so, how would
a civil servant know whether an individual is entitled to be served in
English? Marois hasn't said. It's probably not a coincidence that
Marois promised her new Bill 101 at a rally for her party's candidates
in three by-elections to be held May 12. Having indefinitely shelved
sovereignty, she is left with only language with which to mobilize PQ

If anything, Marois's proposals demonstrate that the practical limits
of language legislation have already been reached. But that's
something PQ members don't want to hear. So instead, Marois raises
expectations she can't fulfill. And it's mainly her own followers that
are being played for suckers.

dmacpher at
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