Federal budget boosts minority language funding, but raises concerns
Peter Black (QCT) /
Peter Black, Local Journalism Initiative reporter
The body representing many English-language organizations in Quebec is expressing concern about how new money for minority languages in last week’s federal budget will be used.
The Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) said in a March 28 news release it “is cautiously optimistic about the federal government’s new Action Plan on official languages” which includes an additional $1 billion in investments over five years.
A QCGN official said the current Action Plan budget is $2.7 billion. With the extra funding, it jumps to $3.8 billion.
A budget documents says, “The Action Plan for Official Languages, 2023-28 will implement the federal government’s commitments to ensure the equality of English and French, help to increase the demographic weight of francophones and restore the size of francophone communities, increase the rate of bilingualism, and better support official language minority communities.”
Despite the budget bump, QCGN director general Sylvia Martin-Laforge said, “We remain concerned. How much English-speaking Quebecers will benefit from the official language investments in this budget is an open question. We hope to see robust measures to support our community when the Action Plan is released in April.”
QCGN president Eva Ludvig said, “This budget, unfortunately, in our view, is another step toward implementing a new federal policy on Canada’s official languages about which the QCGN and English-speaking Quebec have expressed serious concerns.”
She added, “We are steadfastly opposed to the federal government drafting a law that would incorporate by reference Quebec’s Charter of the French Language. This law, as amended by Quebec Bill 96, now operates notwithstanding the fundamental rights and freedoms of Quebecers.”
Apart from concerns in Quebec’s English-speaking community, the federal budget, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s third, contains reams of measures and extra spending on several fronts.
The three main themes of the budget are making life more affordable, investing in a green economy and improving health services, including extending the next phase of the dental care program at a significantly increased cost, now totalling $13 billion over five years.
The Quebec government wants to negotiate with Ottawa about the next stage of implementing the dental plan. Finance Minister Éric Girard said the province would seek some $3 billion in compensation, since it already offers a partial dental plan to residents.
Many Canadians will get a tax break to help cope with inflation, mostly through a doubled GST rebate that would benefit low-income families most. The one-time rebate will put about $470 in the pockets of families and provide up to $255 for seniors.
There are several spending measures to combat health issues, such as $359 million over five years for programs to address the opioid crisis and $158 million over three years for a suicide prevention hotline.
On the green front, the budget offers a sweeping array of tax incentives totalling about $20 billion over six years to encourage development of clean industries, especially hydrogen energy. The measures are seen as a response to generous incentives in U.S. President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act.
One of the more intriguing items among the dozens aimed at making life more affordable is the federal government’s vow to “work to implement a right to repair, with the aim of introducing a targeted framework for home appliances and electronics in 2024.”
A budget document says, “When it comes to broken appliances or devices, high repair fees and a lack of access to specific parts often mean Canadians are pushed to buy new products rather than repairing the ones they have. … By cutting down on the number of devices and appliances that are thrown out, we will be able to make life more affordable for Canadians and protect our environment.”
Federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland delivered her third budget last week.