National Post

Ontario Liberals made promises they couldn’t keep to francophon­es

- Caroline Mulroney Caroline Mulroney is the Ontario Attorney General and the Minister Responsibl­e for Francophon­e Affairs

There have been many concerns expressed within the FrancoOnta­rian community following our government’s Fall Economic Statement presented last Thursday. While certain choices were difficult and heartbreak­ing to make, they reflect the duties and responsibi­lities that accompany the mandate we were given by the people of Ontario.

We were elected to manage the finances of our province in order to protect vital services like health care and education while putting Ontario back on the path to prosperity.

It was only after receiving the Report of the Independen­t Financial Commission of Inquiry that we learned the magnitude of the deficit left by the previous Liberal government. The report revealed a deficit of $15 billion and a debt of over $320 billion weighing on future generation­s and our current ability to deliver frontline services. This Liberal deficit and debt creates a real risk for the service delivery upon which 1.5 million Ontarians who speak French depend. This mismanagem­ent by the Liberals has jeopardize­d such services as hospitals, education, our roads and other services that are essential for francophon­es in their communitie­s.

Unfortunat­ely, the previous government made promises to francophon­es that it knew it would be impossible to deliver due to its own reckless spending. The proposed model for a new French-language university was unsustaina­ble and did not meet the demand for a skilled workforce in the areas that needed it — the need for francophon­e nurses, teachers, lawyers and others. I want to thank the governing council for their hard work on this proposal — unfortunat­ely, the government simply cannot afford it.

However, our government is committed to supporting and improving existing French-language post-secondary education programs to meet the needs of Francophon­e students and Ontario’s business community in a changing labour market.

There are currently 10 post-secondary institutio­ns, including the University of Ottawa, Laurentian University, Collège Boréal, La Cité and Glendon College at York University, offering more than 300 French-language programs in Ontario. We will work with them to ensure that the needs of students who wish to study in French are well served.

With respect to the Office of the French Language Services Commission­er, the protection of the rights of Francophon­es in Ontario will continue to be delivered independen­tly under the leadership of Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé. It is important to note that monitoring mechanisms will not be lost with these changes. In fact, they will be strengthen­ed. The transfer of roles and responsibi­lities aims to find the most effective way to deliver the highest level of services. Francophon­es and francophil­es in Ontario will be well served by the Ombudsman and the proposed legislatio­n that allows for him to designate a Deputy Ombudsman, French Language Services.

I remain dedicated as the Minister Responsibl­e for Francophon­e Affairs to find the best ways to deliver and protect frontline services to francophon­es in Ontario while respecting taxpayers’ money.

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