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Evidence of meeting #11 for Official Languages in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was alberta.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Dolorèse Nolette  President, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta
Paul Heppelle  President, Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise
Denis Simard  Director General, Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise
Denis Perreaux  Director General, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

It's not a point of order. The rules indicate that I have the discretion to allocate time to members. You had eight minutes, and he's just gone over seven minutes right now.

Finish your point, Mr. Galipeau.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Conservative Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Pardon me, Mr. Chairman. I lost my train of thought as a result of that point of order. However, I may have other opportunities to meet with these people, who I think are very nice.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

Thank you.

Mr. Menegakis, go ahead, please.

November 3rd, 2011 / 9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'd like to thank all of you for being here today.

Mr. Heppelle, in your opening remarks you said you had very little notice for being here. Well, let me tell you, your presentations were professional, informative, very thorough, and one wouldn't know you had short notice. So thank you very much for your presentations.

Certainly I learned a lot. I confess, I really haven't focused much on the French communities in Alberta and Saskatchewan, so I found your presentations very informative.

It really is very difficult to ask all the question I'd like to ask in the five minutes I'm allotted. I'm going to really focus my questions on the road map.

Madame Nolette, I heard very carefully your presentation as well, and your four recommendations at the end in particular. The first one on the list was the renewal of the road map.

This is a question for all of you. Could you elaborate a little bit on what you would like to see more in the road map--how the road map has helped you and where you'd like us to focus with the road map. It's a priority for our government, it's a priority for the ministry, and it's something we'd like to get your feedback on as we move forward.

9:40 a.m.

President, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta

Dolorèse Nolette

I believe the road map is vital for our communities, and for our French-speaking community in Alberta in particular. As I expressed in answer to the other questions, one of the basic ways we would like to see the road map move forward would be an inclusion of more ministries involved in the different protocoles d'entente.

Excuse me, we'll take it for granted that there is translation here.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

No, I understand. You can speak to me in French. I understand French.

9:40 a.m.

President, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta

Dolorèse Nolette

Oh, I can speak in French. Okay. I am Albertan, so when I'm spoken to in English, I feel I need to respond in English.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

No, you can speak to me in French.

9:40 a.m.

President, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta

Dolorèse Nolette

Very well. I'll continue in French. Thank you.

We would like to see an increase in the number of departments that are concerned by the Roadmap and whose obligations should be much clearer with regard to the delegation of authority to provincial governments. That aspect would be very important for us in the extension of the Roadmap.

Since I'm aware that time is marching on, I will give the floor to others who would like to speak.

9:45 a.m.

Director General, Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise

Denis Simard

I'm going to answer in French as well.

It's absolutely clear to us too that adding other departments to the Roadmap would be a key factor.

Moreover, it goes without saying that we would like this agreement, this Roadmap, to be enhanced. That means more money invested by certain key departments. That would be vital for us. I am thinking more particularly of the Department of Canadian Heritage and of the collaboration agreements. They really promote the development of our communities.

Again in connection with the Roadmap, the way funding is allocated also has to be clearer. We need a clearer idea of what the process is.

For example, we can talk about the allocation of funding for the Roadmap. With regard to the economic sector, it took 18 months simply to determine how the reports were going to be made and what the funding priorities were. That hadn't been established in advance. So we wasted 18 months of investment because we weren't prepared. This absolutely must not be the case under the next Roadmap.

9:45 a.m.

President, Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise

Paul Heppelle

We should also ensure that future agreements are multi-year agreements. It is really very difficult to work when funding is provided on an ad hoc basis or on a project basis. How do you motivate someone working in the immigration field when he doesn't know whether he'll have a job on April 1? It's very complicated. This is a deficient aspect.

Certain budgets should also be reviewed. The education transfers, under various bilateral agreements, clearly do not offer enough money to enable the francophone school divisions to carry out their mandates. It's not because they don't know how to manage their budgets. However, they are all taking a series of academic and community measures that are not necessarily recognized under the provincial funding agreements. The province asserts that it has no legal, moral or other obligation to fund that.

How can we let go dozens or hundreds of young children in Saskatchewan, or who settle in Saskatchewan, simply because there isn't any funding or the government doesn't recognize that on the funding forms?

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

Thank you, Mr. Heppelle.

Mr. Aubin, go ahead, please.

9:45 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Thank you.

Good morning to the four of you. Thank you for being here.

Thank you especially for the quality of your presentation, despite the short timeframe you were given. I await your brief with interest. You are making a major contribution to my education on the linguistic communities, since I was elected very recently.

The answers you've provided since this morning seem very relevant to me. However, they also raise some questions in my mind. Apart from this morning's meeting, a mid-term process is currently underway to assess the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality. Incidentally, the 15 departments involved are in the process of evaluating the performance of that Roadmap.

Were you consulted by one or more of those departments to gather your impressions or to evaluate the various programs? If so, how was that evaluation conducted? Was it by means of a questionnaire, a telephone interview or a report that you will have to prepare? Could you give me some information on that point?

9:45 a.m.

Director General, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta

Denis Perreaux

I can tell you that one of the reasons why we were unable to submit the brief immediately is precisely that it is very difficult to make a connection between the investments under the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality and the ultimate results. It's difficult particularly because we aren't in the departments. The programs are often matched with other programs that are not part of the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality. Ultimately, when we consider the departments' proactive disclosure, it's very difficult to determine what money comes from what source.

Consequently, our approach is different. When we see that one of our organizations has received funding from a department under the Roadmap, we contact those people directly and ask them what results they've manage to achieve. So that's a somewhat more extensive survey.

As regards the departments as such, there was a dialogue, more than a consultation, with the Official Languages Secretariat in September. It was very general and concerned themes. None of the 15 departments consulted us about the evaluation as such.

9:50 a.m.

Director General, Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise

Denis Simard

We agree. Officially, no, we were not asked to answer questionnaires or evaluations. Unofficially, people simply asked us whether things were going well or poorly.

I also agree with my colleague, who said it is often very difficult to know, when you look at the reports from the various departments, which amounts are attributed under the Roadmap, to whom they were attributed, how, and whether it was under a bilateral agreement.

Even at the provincial level, when these agreements are reached, we often wind up with budgets that are inflated by the provincial department, which says it has allocated money to the francophone community whereas it has gone elsewhere. Essentially, it has received the amounts from the federal government and handed them over to the provincial level. Ultimately, it has not evaluated the impact of those investments because it has ultimately signed a document to say it was simply relaying the money. However, it seems to have a very big budget for investment in our community, whereas these are fundamentally bilateral agreements.

9:50 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

All right, thank you.

I understand that we have a substantive problem regarding the evaluation since there should currently be a summative evaluation of the various departments. It should be completed in February and be followed by a horizontal summative evaluation of all the programs.

You aren't involved in this entire exercise. So, unless I'm mistaken, your only voice in the matter is the voice we've heard this morning during the time you've had with the committee.

I'm going to take this opportunity to ask you what departments not currently involved in the Roadmap you think should be involved in the next one. You emphasize that you were interested in seeing more departments take part in the next Roadmap.

9:50 a.m.

President, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta

Dolorèse Nolette

I'm going to respond by not responding.

Ultimately, the needs of Alberta francophones are the needs of Canadians.

9:50 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

So it's the entire government.

9:50 a.m.

President, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta

Dolorèse Nolette

Choosing one would be tantamount to saying that we are different, whereas we are ultimately Canadian citizens.

9:50 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Thank you.

9:50 a.m.

President, Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise

Paul Heppelle

You're really asking us to make a Sophie's choice. It's as though I were being asked to keep eight of my 10 fingers; perhaps I might keep my 2 thumbs.

The other problem is that we have to acknowledge who are the ones who know the terrain in Saskatchewan or Alberta. I'm saying that's us. The federal government may have an overall picture of Bellegarde, but we know exactly what goes on in Bellegarde.

It seems to me that, if we intend to judge the impact of some investment, no one is better prepared than we are to tell you where to work, how to do it, with whom and sometimes against whom.

That's not an easy answer.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Michael Chong

All right.

Thank you, Mr. Aubin.

Mr. Weston, go ahead, please.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

John Weston Conservative West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Thanks to our witnesses.

I'm from British Columbia. I know that we are together in the community of francophones, francophiles and those from the west who want to speak French. It's a growing community.

It strikes me that some people are afraid of having yardsticks or of knowing the results of the government's investments. However, you aren't afraid of that. You want yardsticks. You want those kinds of instruments to be in place. So can you tell me the two or three benefits of having a clearer idea of the impact of federal investments and of knowing, for example, how much money is really received from the federal government at the provincial level?

We have five minutes together.

9:50 a.m.

Director General, Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise

Denis Simard

Perhaps I can take the liberty of providing an answer on that point.

One of the major things that is key to our communities is that we really consider ourselves as partners in government investments. So if we have the opportunity to be more informed about those investments, we can also be of greater service to that department and to the Government of Canada in serving the needs of our community.

Some citizens in the four corners of the province may not even be aware of the existence of funding because they don't know that an investment has been made under the Roadmap in relation to such and such a department. By being able to know those aspects, we can inform our community. We can ensure that it is equipped and that it makes specific requests in connection with those issues. We are part of a continuum.

We are important to the process because we are the spokespersons of our communities. We absolutely have to be kept informed of those decisions; we have to know who is making those investments and how they are being made.

9:55 a.m.

Director General, Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta

Denis Perreaux

I'm going to address the question a little differently and tell you about the 2005 early childhood agreement. The investment was there and dialogue with the province was open. However, the province remained a partner even when there was no more investment. It is still funding early childhood today.

The advantage of being informed about agreements and investments under the Roadmap is that, somewhat as Denis said, we can ensure that the demand for service is maintained. If people don't know there are services in French, they get organized, but in our case, because we were informed, we worked together with the department to establish an action plan for early childhood in French. This represents a small amount for the department, but for us it's enormous. This is quite an effective investment. It isn't just a matter of money; sometimes it's a matter of exercising community, federal and provincial influence.