Parlez-vous economic development?

CBC Radio took a gentle poke this morning at the long standing tension that runs just under the surface here in Moncton regarding language. There are some in the anglophone community (across New Brunswick) that think you have to speak French to get a job and that the best jobs are reserved for those that speak French.

There are a three points that need to be made here, in my humble opinion:

  1. Being able to speak French is an important skill in New Brunswick and particularly Moncton. So is having a university degree. So is being able to write articulately (no comments from the peanut gallery on this one, please). So is having a specific job-related skill. As I have pointed out elsewhere, the bilingual nature of Moncton is a key and unique advantage and unique advantages can be an anchor for a community’s long term economic development. So anlgos should look at speaking French as a life skill just like any other and get with the program (myself included here). Any attempts to put the genie back in the bottle on this would do serious harm to the economic and social potential of our community.
  2. Enforcing the requirement for French in all jobs and positions in the community is a tricky business considering that the majority of people that are moving here are doing so from non-French communities. That’s right, the much heralded exodus from the Acadian Peninsula has brought less people to Moncton than from Anglo communities in Nova Scotia, PEI, Ontario, etc. In addition, the migration data proves that Québécois have limited interest in moving here. As well, Moncton is a community that does business in a global market. Out manufacturers distribute products in the U.S. and beyond. Our call centres take calls from Texas. We need to attract immigrants from Ontario, Alberta and India. Limiting the flow of people into Moncton from just French-speaking regions would also do serious harm to the economic and social potential of our community.
  3. Except in the government sector, there is little evidence to support the claim that the ‘best jobs’ are only filled by folks that are bilingual. They are filled by the person with the most skill for the job of which language is an important component.

In summary, we need to be vigilant and support the development of this region as a bilingual one. We need to encourage immigrants (and migrants) to learn French and to put their kids in French Immersion.

But we do not want to be seen as a closed shop.