Madam Speaker, I rise again in this House today on another matter: to decry the end of official language training at the Canada School of Public Service.
After cutting the number of translators at the Translation Bureau, now this Conservative government is attacking second language teachers. With the end of French and English second language courses at the School of Public Service, nearly 200 teachers are losing their jobs.
From now on, federal institutions will have to rely on the private sector for language training and miss out on the specific expertise the government has developed over the years. The Conservatives' main argument to justify this draconian change to these government services is, of course, you guessed it, the supposed cost savings resulting from this change.
According to this government, the private sector can offer the same services at a lower cost. We are starting to get used to the Conservatives' broken record, which, more often than not, just does not add up. Before accepting this Conservative dogma for absolute truth, let us start by looking at the facts.
First of all, every department is responsible for ensuring that its own employees receive language training. Each department will therefore select the institution with which its employees will do business and which second language program they will take. Decentralizing language training to such an extent makes it very difficult, if not almost impossible, to obtain information on the real cost of language training in this context.
But frankly, should we really be surprised at the lack of disclosure and the unavailability of information from this government? The Conservatives have a strong tendency to hide figures, and this is not going to change anytime soon. Moreover, an article in the Ottawa Citizen last December reported an increase in the cost of language training at the Treasury Board Secretariat over the past few years. Between 2006 and 2010, the average fee paid by the department apparently increased from $429 to $943. We are talking here about $2 million every year.
In this case, clearly, using the private sector to try to cut spending has failed miserably. With the end of language training by the Canada School of Public Service, questions may well be asked about the quality of the courses that will be offered by the private sector. As I mentioned earlier, over the years, the Canadian government has developed expertise and specific standards in language training.
In the private sector, there is none of this standardization, and this raises a number of concerns. First, how is the market regulated? Are the services provided by private institutions evaluated somehow? Even though the Public Service Commission still monitors the evaluation of public servants’ language skills, it does not evaluate the quality of the courses given. If the training received by public servants falls short of the mark, they will just have to spend more time in the classroom to reach the bilingualism level required for the job, and this will just drive up costs over the years.
In addition, on May 10, the Commissioner of Official Languages appeared before the Standing Committee on Official Languages, of which I an a member. In his testimony, Mr. Fraser announced that his office would be conducting extensive research into the changes made by this government to the way in which language training is provided to Canadian public servants. The commissioner too has a number of concerns about maintaining the quality of language training for government employees. During his appearance before the committee, the commissioner said:
I decided that we have to see what the outcome of those changes has been and whether language training continues to be as effective. I admit that I have a certain bias. I still believe that some people pass their exams but are not able to communicate, whereas others are able to communicate, but cannot pass their exams.
Even the Commissioner of Official Languages is concerned about the potentially negative impact of eliminating the language training offered by the Canada School of Public Service. Will the Conservatives also try to discredit him because he does not share their twisted vision of Canadian bilingualism? That would not be surprising. Unfortunately, ever since the Conservatives became the government, it has become clear that bilingualism is at the bottom of their priority list.
How can the government justify cutting 200 good jobs, when there is no guarantee of savings? How can it justify the privatization of an effective public service that Canadians need to receive proper services in the language of their choice?