Canada: The Fraser Institute: Governments Spending Up to $1.8 Billion Every Year to Meet Federal Bilingualism Requirements

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Thu May 7 18:56:07 UTC 2009

The Fraser Institute: Governments Spending Up to $1.8 Billion Every
Year to Meet Federal Bilingualism Requirements

MONTREAL, QUEBEC--(Marketwire - May 6, 2009) - Canada's federal
government and other bodies subject to the Official Languages Act
spend up to $1.8 billion annually providing French-language services,
according to a new study released today by independent research
organization the Fraser Institute. The peer-reviewed report, Official
Language Policies at the Federal Level in Canada: Costs and Benefits
in 2006, measures how much the federal government spent on
implementing bilingualism policies in 2006 and estimates how much it
would have cost the private sector to offer French translation of
federal services instead. The complete report is available in English
at and in French at

"The annual cost of providing federal services in French as well as
English was between $1.6 billion and $1.8 billion in 2006. While the
cost is not very high in relation to the economy, it is still
substantial and we should ensure that it is money well spent," said
Francois Vaillancourt, Universite de Montreal economics professor and
co-author of the study. Under the current system, all Canadians pay
for the provision of French-language services at an estimated cost of
$55 per Canadian. But if the private sector were responsible for such
translation services, only those requiring access to government in
French would pay the associated costs.

"Using the private sector to provide translation and language services
and moving to a user-pay model may be more sensible from an economic
perspective," Vaillancourt said.

"However, this would be a major change in public policy that may not
be acceptable, given the support shown for official bilingualism by
the Canadian population."

The study notes the main benefit of offering federal services in both
official languages is that it allows Francophones to interact with the
federal government in French. Between 7 million and 7.5 million
residents in Canada are likely to interact in French with the federal
government, given their mother tongue and knowledge of official
languages, according to the 2006 census.

Other benefits accruing from the federal government's ability to
interact in both French and English appear more nebulous.

"Canada may be a slightly more attractive destination for
French-speaking tourists and foreign students. But the idea that
Canada will have increased access to world markets because of the
Official Languages Act is not borne out," Vaillancourt said.

"Canada has few French-language trading partners. Almost all exports
of Canadian goods and services are made using English, mainly because
more than three quarters of our exports go to the U.S. market and
because English is the language of international trade."

In addition to measuring the costs of implementing bilingualism
policies, the study details the history of the Constitution and legal
framework with respect to Canada's official languages. The report also
notes that French language rights have indeed expanded since the
execution of the Official Languages Act 40 years ago.

Official Language Policies at the Federal Level in Canada: Costs and
Benefits in 2006 is the first in a series of forthcoming studies on
language policy from the Fraser Institute.

The Fraser Institute is an independent research and educational
organization with locations across North America and partnerships in
more than 70 countries. Its mission is to measure, study, and
communicate the impact of competitive markets and government
intervention on the welfare of individuals. To protect the Institute's
independence, it does not accept grants from governments or contracts
for research. Visit

For more information, please contact

Universite de Montreal - Media Contact
Francois Vaillancourt
Professor, Economics Department
(514) 343-7314
francois.vaillancourt at

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