The President of the AMBM and Reeve of the Rural Municipality of La Broquerie, Mr. Ivan Normandeau, issued the following statement following the release of the Action Plan for Official Languages (APOL) 2023-2028:

At the outset, I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the Honourable Ginette Petitpas-Taylor, Minister of Official Languages, the Honourable Dan Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs, Minister responsible for Prairies Economic Development Canada and Minister responsible for the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, as well as to the other ministers who are partners in this new Action Plan for Official Languages (APOL) 2023-2028. This plan will result in the injection of nearly $1.3 billion in additional funding over five years.

We recognize the enormous amount of work that goes into producing such a roadmap. The AMBM was part of the consultation process conducted by the Minister following the development of the Plan in 2022.

During these consultations, the AMBM stressed the importance of announcing clear measures to support the delivery of municipal services in both official languages and to support government leadership and increased cooperation between all orders of government (municipal, provincial and federal) in the area of official languages.

The new APOL announces support of up to $98.2 million over five years for “an expanded offering of essential services to citizens, such as legal services, integration services for newcomers and health care for aging individuals, in collaboration with provincial governments. These amounts also include increased funding for the Ministers’ Council on the Canadian Francophonie and the promotion of the Canadian Francophonie across Canada.”

While the federal government remains unclear in this regard, we remain confident that the support for bilingual government services (through the provinces) mentioned in the Plan will also include municipal services.

We also appreciate the funding of $208 million over 5 years (starting in 2023-2024), and $54 million per year thereafter to Employment and Social Development Canada to assist local organizations that specialize in providing employment assistance services such as our subsidiary, the Economic Development Council of Manitoba Bilingual Municipalities (Conseil de développement économique des municipalités bilingues du Manitoba, or CDEM. The CDEM will also benefit from the announcement of an additional $20.5 million over 5 years in the Enabling Fund for Official Language Minority Communities to better support economic and human resource development in AMBM member communities.

This investment gives us the means to carry out economic and community development and to create the conditions for accelerated implementation of the Economic Recovery Strategy for Manitoba Bilingual Municipalities. However, we would like to reiterate that the funds will have to take into account the needs and realities of our rural communities, from a development and growth perspective.

We also welcome the progress made by the Trudeau government, through the new APOL, on the following issues:

  • Immigration: We are pleased that the federal government is moving towards restoring the demographic weight of Francophones. In particular, the injection of $18.5 million over 5 years to increase efforts to promote and support the recruitment of French-speaking or bilingual workers in Official Language Minority Communities (OLMCs) echoes the Francophone and regional lenses applied by the AMBM in its new Strategy 2022-2025 to Support Economic Immigration in Manitoba’s Bilingual Municipalities. This measure also supports the recruitment efforts deployed by its subsidiary, the CDEM, as part of its Francophone immigration mandate, within a partnership with the Province of Manitoba. In the same vein, we also appreciate the integration of the Francophone lens in economic immigration programs in OLMCs (improved selection mechanisms for Francophone and bilingual immigrants) and supported by an investment of $3.5 million over 5 years. Finally, we welcome the federal government’s investment in the consolidation of the Francophone integration pathway ($50 million over 5 years); this will help strengthen the reception capacities of our communities.
  • Support for educational and community infrastructure: up to $47.2 million over 5 years to increase the number and quality of community educational infrastructure (through the provinces and territories) and community spaces for Official Language Minority Community organizations. The normalization of life in French and the vitality of our communities depend in particular on the addition of spaces to gather, exchange, work and offer essential services in rural and urban areas.
  • Increase (up to 25%) in core funding for community organizations: the injection of $62.5 million over 5 years is more than welcome for the AMBM, the CDEM and their partners since operating costs have literally exploded in recent years, creating unprecedented precariousness. However, the government continues to favour project envelopes over operations and working conditions in the community sector; this contributes to maintaining the systemic problems we have been experiencing for many years.

Ultimately, the AMBM is generally pleased with the new 2023-2028 APOL. We anticipate that it will lead to greater intergovernmental collaboration, including enhanced funding for provinces and territories that will identify and in turn support the municipal service sector. However, efforts will need to be made to coordinate investments to ensure alignment of priorities and to avoid duplication.

We look forward to the passage of Bill C-13 (modernization of the Official Languages Act) to get a clearer picture of where municipal governments stand on official languages.

The AMBM and its member municipal governments look forward to continuing to work with the governments of Canada and Manitoba to complete the continuum of bilingual government services for the benefit of our Francophone and bilingual communities.

Information: Office of the Chief Executive Officer (O-CEO), 204-289-4077, [email protected].

APOL 2023-2028: A reminder of the importance of adequately supporting bilingual government services