Bilingualism is good for Island business

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Martin Marcoux, president of RDÉE Prince Edward Island

The president of the provincial francophone economic development council says bilingualism is good for business.

In a seven-page brief presented to the province’s pre-budget consultations, Martin Marcoux, president of RDÉE Prince Edward Island, explained the annual contribution of francophone and bilingual businesses to the provincial economy is literally in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

“The Francophone community has come a long way over the years, to the point where it is now an undeniable driving force within our Island’s economy,” he said.

“Today, we see our Acadian communities from Tignish to Souris contribute greatly to the overall development of our province including from a language, cultural, tourism and overall economic perspective,” he said.

Marcoux said the French presence on P.E.I. has become an indispensable tool in attracting francophone tourists to the Island and, more importantly, for the business community of the Maritimes, of Canada and elsewhere to consider P.E.I. as a privileged economic partner or as a strategic location to set up shop.

“What we’re asking of you today is to keep providing us with the proper economic atmosphere so that we can keep promoting our beautiful Island way of life and its economic prosperity.”

He noted that, alarmingly, several organizations that contribute to the economic development of the province and of the francophone community have seen their federal funding completely eliminated in the past year. Among these are both the English and French co-op development councils along with the Baie Acadienne Development Corporation. There are also no guarantees for the RDÉE’s core funding.

He said the RDÉE feels that now is definitely not the time to eliminate or reduce support to the economic sector. Instead, it suggests, government should be investing more money into the sector to stimulate the creation of more long-term, year-round, permanent jobs especially now with all the major changes being made to the employment insurance system.

RDÉE made a number of recommendations on behalf of the province’s francophone and bilingual sector. It asks that government:

- keep supporting the province’s Rural Action Centres, including the officially designated provincial bilingual centre in Wellington;

- further promote and support the immigration of francophone and bilingual professionals;

- keep supporting the co-operative development sector;

- keep investing in tourism development and promotion;

- keep investing in education, including French first-language and French immersion, as well as in postsecondary education and skills retraining through support to all schools and institutions, including the Collège Acadie Î.-P.-É.;

- keep supporting career exploration opportunities for high school students and internships for postsecondary students (including the PERCÉ program);

- keep supporting communities (such as Souris) in their efforts to “bilingualize” their services so they can capture a greater portion of the francophone and bilingual tourism market, particularly from Quebec and New Brunswick;

- hold off on raising taxes for small businesses and citizens;

- finally proclaim the French Services Language Act.

Organizations: French co-op, Baie Acadienne Development, French Services

Geographic location: Iceland, P.E.I., Tignish Canada Wellington Quebec New Brunswick

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  • Robot Gizz
    February 26, 2013 - 11:50

    Apparently it wasn't worth keeping english in Que,so why would I want my tax dollars going to french programs here on PEI.If you want to prepare for the future learn Arabic or Chinese.These are the forces of the world that you want be able to talk to!!

  • cromwell
    February 24, 2013 - 15:04

    According to the 2011 Census, less than 4% of Islanders would claim French as their 'mother-tongue', as compared to more than 94% who claim English. I fail to see how this massive disparity is worth anything, let alone the '....the hundreds of millions of dollars' claimed by Mr. Marcoux. In fact, I would suggest that the cost of maintaining French on an equal footing with English probably costs PEI far more than is gained. In truth, the French language in the Maritimes started to decay shortly after the French military forces left Canada for the last time in 1763. Given today's changing demographics, it would appear that if there was a perceived need for Islanders to gain a second language, then Chinese or Arabic would be likely be more appropriate.

  • Nicholas
    February 24, 2013 - 11:09

    We agree Canada's French heritage is special and worthy. But we are more concerned with a larger issue directly effecting the quality and survival of island heritage itself. And we wonder if any else is noticing. PEI's authentic heritage uniquely offers value to everyone. To maintain our private historic home, we operate a small tourism business. We are asked each year to pay higher mandatory provincial tourism fees. We trusted the explanations that promotional costs continue to rise. We believe we in turn deserve the benefit of provincial tourism promotion and are dumbfounded to discover a new policy no longer allows the inclusion of a small image of our property with our mandated information. Where is our tourism industry representation? In prior years, our customers recognized a historic property by our accompanying image and booked with us. We paid an extra but affordable fee for that "extra." Now, only the larger corporate properties with large budgets can afford the larger published images, the ONLY provincial tourism print option. Small operators no longer are offered our only affordable opportunity of inclusion of an image in the only official printed guides for which we fund. It is not fair. Apparently, provincial tourism leadership does not care about the small properties, historic or otherwise, which offer genuine charm and character of what many agree keeps the island special. Such properties now are listed in a generic column ONLY. Why? It makes no obvious sense unless you follow the money, of course. It benefits the corporate tourism businesses. Say your good byes now to the smaller family businesses that have offered the genuine pride of ownership service and value. Not because we want to leave but because we are not supported, we are assessing our plans to close. We love caring for and sharing our historic rural property. It is the reason we moved here. But barely surviving financially, we will relocate to a more progressive province that appreciates and supports its heritage. As the trend plays out, islanders will be left with the large corporate hotels and chains that offer the generic sameness from coast to coast. Nothing against the Deltas and Rodd Resorts and fine Murphy properties but it will only be these big players calling ALL the shots as opportunities shrink for small operators. We all understand nothing stays the same. Just please pay attention to who is making the changes and why. It is generally a board of directors or wealthy family devising ways to usurp more market shares. In PEI, these interests ARE your government officials evidently. No thank you. As these larger interests usurp the smaller family business shares to grow their empires, they'll employ minimum wage employees to do what we currently chose to do with great sacrifices. There are ever less frequent "good" tourist seasons and losing family run B&Bs won't add to island charm. Everything changes, yes. Who benefits as corporate interests grow? Stockholders, at the price of every community's loss of small-family-pride-of-ownership. Seems to be a Maritime theme. Back to topic. Including more French now may indeed help maintain diversity: vive la difference! The loss of any family business is an unnecessary shame and like many things not be missed until gone. Stepping down from my soap box. Thanks for reading.

  • Wayne MacKinnon
    February 24, 2013 - 10:26

    We need more information to make a proper decision on this topic. What are the costs to implement this? What is the return on investment for this program? Can our micro economy afford to make this investment at this time?

  • SPA
    February 23, 2013 - 18:47

    Yes, especially if it is Chinese or Spanish

  • charlie brown
    February 23, 2013 - 16:00

    Maybe for some but the cost to maintain this duality ,is it worth it? Not in my opinion and i know it won't be received well! Twice the cost to protect a dying language ,why? once again the squeaky wheel or the vocal minority ,whatever it's called costs the Canadian taxpayers "billions" every year.

    • Kathryn
      February 23, 2013 - 21:25

      A benefit for who? If you want more debt thats the way to go. Dual costs for everything, look at N.B.'s costs - unbelievable.