Sudbury MPs critical of French-language cuts

Sudbury MPs critical of French-language cuts
François Legault urges Doug Ford to reconsider cuts to francophone services
OTTAWA — Blindsided by the Ontario premiers decision to cut French services, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheers camp is hoping that Doug Ford realizes hes set off a national debate that could hurt Scheer in next years federal election.

“We are associated to a decision that we did not help make, that we were not aware of — we learned this at the same time as everybody else when they made their announcement — and now, its like, as if by association, we are OK with that decision,” a frustrated member of Scheers team told HuffPost Canada on Sunday.

Premier Doug Ford and the Ontario PCs campaigned on signing no additional energy contracts, Simon Jefferies said in an e-mailed statement, adding that Ontario has its own surplus power, which it is selling at a loss to several Northern U.S. states. We have no intention of moving forward on this proposal from Quebec for the time being, as it is not of any benefit to Ontario residents.

Quebec plans to match Ontarios promised corporate tax cut, Legault says

In a fiscal update Thursday, the Ford government announced it was backing away from its election promise to fund a French-language university in Toronto and was eliminating the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner — moving some of those responsibilities to the provinces ombudsman.

Mr. Morneau has signalled that while he is not likely to cut corporate or personal tax rates, Ottawa is open to new tax breaks for business investment. This could be done by expanding what is known as the accelerated capital cost allowance, an incentive that lets companies deduct capital expenses more quickly rather than gradually over the life of buildings, products or machinery.

The provincial government painted the decision as a cost-cutting move, though it did not reveal how much money it expected to save.

“The road ahead is not an easy one and will require difficult decisions,” Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli said. “Everyone across the province will be required to make sacrifices, without exception.”

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has been accused of being one of the most divisive politicians in Canada, but he has inspired one remarkable feat of togetherness—uniting both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Scheer with his planned cuts to French language services in Ontario. “I was deeply disappointed by the decision of the Ontario government to cut services and protections for the francophone minorities in Ontario,” Trudeau said over the weekend. Meanwhile Scheer said he has “expressed my concerns” to Ford about the cuts and said he told Ford “as prime minister in 2019 I would absolutely work with premiers across the country to ensure that French-language services are not affected by any kinds of changes.” The Ontario PC’s economic update cancelled a planned French-language university in Toronto and eliminated the position of French language services commissioner in the province. (CBC, Canadian Press)

Scheer was not consulted on the decision or given any advanced notice, the source said. It was also clear from Fords teams initial response that they had given no thought to what the decision might mean for the federal Conservative leader, he added.

Nixed French university robs nearly 10,000 London students of opportunity

When Scheers office called them Friday morning, “it was like [we were] coming from Mars,” the source said. “Life and politics, it is not just numbers.”

But in the lead-up to the big day, officials continue to stress that the update will not include equivalent tax measures. The Finance department estimates that matching Trump’s corporate tax cut and capital spending write-offs would cost Canada $70 billion over five years. Besides, one official told the Toronto Star, Canadian companies had already enjoyed a tax advantage over the U.S. and that didn’t result in more business investment, just bigger payments to shareholders. (Toronto Star)

Premier Doug Ford defends pulling funds from planned francophone university

At a press conference Sunday, Scheer said he conveyed “concerns” he heard from people, including members of his caucus, to Ford directly on Saturday when the two met at the Ontario PC convention in Toronto.

Ford defended the measures again on Monday, saying the university was not feasible in light of the provinces deficit, which his government has said now sits at $14.5 billion. Critics have disputed that figure, however, saying it includes spending promises made by the previous Liberal regime that the current government has scrapped.

Quebec Premier François Legault says he's "disappointed" by Doug Ford's decision to cut services to Ontario's French-speaking population.

Ford's government announced last week it would abolish Ontario's Office of the French Language Services Commissioner and scrap plans for a new francophone university in a bid to cut costs.

"I have asked him to reconsider the decisions," Legault said Monday following the meeting.

At a separate news conference later in the afternoon, Ford indicated he has no plans to back down, saying the previous Liberal government left Ontario saddled with a deficit that made such moves unavoidable.

Having a French-language university would be the final link for those within the Francophone community, who have spent decades pushing to first increase the number of French-language schools across the province, independent French school boards and French-language community colleges.

The two premiers met Monday at Queen's Park in Toronto. Interprovincial trade and Legault's hopes to sell hydroelectric power to Ontario were on the agenda, but those issues were overshadowed by the growing controversy over French-language rights.

The new campus — at a cost of around $80 million — was scheduled to open in downtown Toronto in September 2020 with an initial enrolment of up to 400 students. A president and board of governors for the post-secondary institution were already named and in place.

Language issues overshadow talks between Doug Ford and François Legault

The cuts have been criticized by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and a number of politicians in Quebec, where the preservation of the French language remains a hot-button issue.

“I am shocked, disappointed and disgusted by the Ford government’s decision to scrap the French language services commissioner and to cancel the francophone university in Ontario,” he said. “It’s a constitutional right to have your higher education in French in Canada, because there are two official languages.”

Trudeau said Sunday at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Papua New Guinea, that he was "deeply disappointed."

The Ford government, which has vowed to find billions in efficiencies each year, has said the university was not a financially viable project, though it could not say how much would be saved by scrapping it. Nor could it say what savings would come from combining the watchdog offices.

"The protection of official language minorities, the French language, French communities across our country is something that is extremely important to me and to my government," Trudeau said.

“This took us by surprise. It is the last thing we expected,” said Jean-Pierre Cantin, executive director of the francophone community centre in London. “It’s a really sad day not only for the francophone community but also Ontario and all of Canada.”

"When I studied in North Bay in Northern Ontario many years ago, I discovered a strong and vibrant Franco-Ontarian community," Plante wrote.

Following the closed door talk, Legault said he was "disappointed" with Ford's decision to abolish Ontario's Office of the French Language Services Commissioner and scrap plans for a new francophone university to save money.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, meanwhile, said he has "expressed his concerns" to Ford.

Plans for the new university were announced in July 2017 by the province's previous provincial government.

Ford said his government inherited a $15 billion deficit, making the new university, along with three new English post-secondary institutions, not feasible right now. Legault, he said, "understood that."

The language office designed to serve as a watchdog and ensure Ontario's more than 600,000 francophones are able to access services and support in French. The language office's work will be folded into the Ontario ombudsman's office, Ford's government said. 

Ronald Caza, an Ottawa lawyer and advocate for francophone rights in the province, said prior to the meeting he is hopeful Legault will be able to show Ford "how linguistic minorities need their institutions to survive."

Caza said cancelling the planned university sends the wrong message to young francophone Ontarians hoping to preserve their language.

“By eliminating the French Language Services Commissioner’s office and the Francophone University of Ontario, the Ford Conservatives are telling us clearly that we do not count, that our constitutional rights to be served and educated in French are unimportant,” said Bourgouin.

"We already had high school kids from across the province getting ready to go there and then boom, the decision is made," he told CBC Montreal's Daybreak.

Geoffrey Chambers, president of the Quebec Community Groups Network, which represents English-language groups in the province, said there are important parallels between the struggles of Quebec anglophones and those of francophones in Ontario. 

Both require institutional support to ensure their communities can thrive, he said. Chambers had a simple message for Ford's government: "reverse these cuts."

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