March 27, 2003

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The Deputy Speaker

The House will suspend to the call of the Chair. The adjournment debate would have taken place at 6:15 p.m., so as soon as we are able to get the parties involved here in the House, then we will proceed.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   User Fees Act
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The House resumed at 6.02 p.m.


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The Deputy Speaker

The Chair needs a motion to see the clock as 6:30 p.m.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   User Fees Act
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LIB
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The Deputy Speaker

Is there consent that we see the clock as 6:30 p.m.?

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   User Fees Act
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Some hon. members

Agreed.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   User Fees Act
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CA

Jim Pankiw

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Jim Pankiw (Saskatoon—Humboldt, Ind.)

Mr. Speaker, I will begin by putting the issue into context by way of statistics.

Francophones hold 78% of all federal jobs designated bilingual throughout Canada. Last year they received 68% of promotions and 71% of all bilingual positions. What this amounts to is systemic language discrimination. In fact, Canada's bilingual policy is really a divisive affirmative action program for francophones that discriminates against anglophones. Not only that, it violates the merit principle with respect to hiring, which states that people should be judged solely on their qualifications, experience and ability and not superfluous or irrelevant considerations. It also violates the quality of opportunity because it puts in place an artificial language requirement which denies people the opportunity to be fairly considered for a job and therefore denies equal opportunity.

The result of the government's policy is that since 1978 in the national capital region the number of federal civil service jobs designated bilingual has increased 12% and we have seen a near corresponding decline in the participation rate of anglophones of 10%.

It begs the question of why the government is forcing through these policies. In fact, effective March 31 it will have even stricter and more rigid artificial language requirements. The reason is that enforced bilingualism is a federal initiative to appease francophones and Quebec separatists.

The reality, however, is that enforced bilingualism is discriminatory and divisive and reveals the anti-English sentiment and agenda of the Liberal government.

Former Liberal Prime Minister Pearson promised that the careers of public servants would not be negatively affected by enforced bilingualism, but that was a lie and a fraud.

First, a study conducted by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada found that an overwhelming majority of respondents who indicated that bilingualism negatively impacted their careers were English. This March 31 deadline to which I referred will see some public servants demoted or replaced simply because they are not bilingual, even though speaking a second language is not a legitimate requirement of their job.

The government's recent announcement of an additional $750 million to be spent on more bilingual programs begs the further question of why. The reason is that the government is now shifting from the initial purpose of bilingualism in the sense that unilingual Canadians, be they French or English, could access government services in either language. It is moving away from that toward a system in which the objective is not to provide frontline bilingual services but to ensure that French is spoken in the workplace.

The cost aspect, therefore, is twofold: first, hundreds of millions of dollars to taxpayers and private industry and, second, an incalculable social cost of lost opportunity or opportunity denied by unilingual Canadians, mostly anglophones.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   User Fees Act
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LIB

Tony Tirabassi

Liberal

Mr. Tony Tirabassi (Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, we should remember that bilingualism is rooted in Canadians' deeply held values of inclusiveness, tolerance and respect for others. Bilingualism is part of our heritage. It is what this country was founded on and it is what we continue to evolve toward.

The respect we show to our colleagues, public servants and fellow citizens must bear witness to this fact.

It is a principle that is widely recognized and accepted by Canadians, who expect bilingual services from public servants where bilingual services are mandated in regions designated bilingual.

Serving the public in both official languages comes down to a matter of respect for the public, a principle that the Public Service of Canada upholds. This is shown in the study entitled “Attitudes Towards the Use of Both Official Languages Within the Public Service of Canada”, which was carried out last year among more than 5,000 federal employees. Of these 5,000 federal employees, 92% of these public servants consider that it is important for them to serve the Canadian public in both official languages.

The results of this study not only confirm that official language are strongly anchored in public servants' day to day working lives, but also show that most federal employees are prepared to make an effort to encourage bilingualism.

The Public Service of Canada reflects the Canadian population and conveys Canadian values. In this perspective, the federal government endeavours to promote bilingualism in the public service.

What the government is promoting is not radical, but a progressive approach to ensure, as a first step, that Canadians in regions designated bilingual can exercise their right to receive federal services and communicate with the federal government in the official language of their choice.

To this end, the government must start by making sure that all federal employees who provide services to the public in these regions can do so in both official languages; in other words, that they are bilingual. Second, the government must ensure that these employees can communicate with their managers in the official language of their choice; in other words, that these managers too are bilingual.

This is how bilingualism has become one criterion among others for appointment to bilingual positions in the Public Service of Canada in bilingual regions. These positions account for only 37% of all positions in the federal public service.

The Official Languages Act nevertheless emphasizes that the language requirements of a position must be established in a spirit of objectivity. Consequently, no federal institution may arbitrarily establish language requirements, and language requirements that are established must be truly necessary for the performance of the duties of that position. Moreover, all federal government staffing policies with official language implications are rooted in the Official Languages Act.

The statistics clearly show that overall the government has been successful in fulfilling its commitment on this issue. The workforce of the various federal institutions does tend to reflect the respective presence of the two official language communities in the population as a whole without resorting to filling positions by the quota system or reserving positions for one language group in preference to another.

We must recognize success where it occurs. Where bilingualism is concerned, the government's practices are exemplary. Let us acknowledge and appreciate that fact.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   User Fees Act
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CA

Jim Pankiw

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Jim Pankiw

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member mentioned Canadian values of inclusiveness, tolerance and respect. I could not agree more, but when government policies do not respect the merit principle or equality of opportunity, then those principles of inclusiveness, tolerance and respect are thrown out the window.

The hon. member mentioned a couple of things: serving the public in both official languages and allowing members of the Canadian public to communicate with the federal government in the official language of their choice. That was supposedly the initial concept behind bilingualism, but what is taking place is that the government is shifting away from providing front line bilingual services to requiring that both languages be spoken in the workplace.

He said that it is not a quota system. In fact, it is a de facto quota system because what it does is put unilingual Canadians, and anglophones in particular, at a disadvantage. They are not being treated fairly or equally.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   User Fees Act
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LIB

Tony Tirabassi

Liberal

Mr. Tony Tirabassi

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member I am sure is aware, this country was really founded on two distinct cultures and languages and it has evolved with two official languages. If we are to be just that, then for the services that we provide to Canadians, that is, the federal public service, which provides a multitude of government services to the public, we have to establish certain criteria. In regions where there is bilingualism, then obviously the service that is provided to Canadians in those regions must be in the two official languages, but there are certain regions where the numbers just do not justify offering services in two languages.

I can tell the House that the official languages commissioner appeared in front of the government operations committee and attested to the fact that indeed that is not the case; that there are opportunities in the English language or in the French language within the public service.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   User Fees Act
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The Deputy Speaker

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:11 p.m.)

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   User Fees Act
Permalink

March 27, 2003