CAQ budget 2020
$18.8 million to Secretariat of English affairs, QCGN not satisfied
With the adoption of the 2020-21 provincial budget on March 10, the Quebec government has allocated $18.8 million to the Secretariat for English-speaking Quebecers, over the next five years. On the same day, the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) put out a press release and a lengthy letter in the Montreal Gazette in response to the funding – essentially stating that a lot more needs to be done to solve the English population’s biggest issues.
In the press release, the QCGN commended the Coalition Avenir du Quebec’s implementation of measures to support wellness centres for English-speaking seniors and to build an additional 25 centres. It added that the QCGN looks forward to a vow from the CAQ government to put in place and maintain an employing strategy for the province’s English-speaking population, to which no further information has been publicized.
QCGN President Geoffrey Chambers stated in the press release that the new budget shows the CAQ’s strong commitment to fund second-language French training to help integrate immigrants. He’s hoping that the government will do the same for English-speaking Quebecers, noting that such a message was repeatedly stated during a series of consultations led by the CAQ’s parliamentary assistant for relations with English-speaking Quebecers, Christopher Skeete, back in 2019.
While the CAQ’s spending in education, health and social services has been augmented, Chambers said he doesn’t believe these upgrades will provide much to satisfy the needs of the province’s English-speaking communities. Chambers added that the budget doesn’t indicate specific measures to help augment the presence in the provincial public service for English-speaking Quebecers.
Making up 13 per cent of the province’s population, Chambers estimated that the CAQ’s allocation of only three per cent of its budget to English-speaking community groups is “far from equitable”. “This government must provide appropriate support to ensure fair treatment of our linguistic minority community,” he told the Bulletin.
If all things were equal, Chambers believes the CAQ should’ve allocated $143 million instead of $18.8 million. “On the basic principle of equal distribution, yeah, that sounds about right,” he said. “[$18.8 million] is very small. But five years ago, I would’ve said it was nothing. So, $18.8 [million] is something.”
While some progress is better than none, Chambers outlined his main concern with the budget in a conversation with the Aylmer Bulletin. He said that he was not sure what to make of the CAQ’s newest financial allocation to the English-speaking community, noting that he’d been given no indication as to where the funds would go.
Chambers believes the funds will either go directly to the Secretariat for relations with English-speaking Quebecers – meaning that the funds will be closely held by the Premier’s office – or they will go to a list of community organizations that the CAQ approves. “Not necessarily doing stuff against the interest of the community or not on our list of priorities,” he said. “But typically, not hitting our top issues. Rather, giving attention to things that generate publicity for them.”
“These headline numbers are very misleading,” he added. “We’ll see whether or not the actual delivery of programs and cash are as exciting. But it’s not nothing. However cynical I may be, I shouldn’t be complaining.”
Chambers added that the CAQ still doesn’t do enough to listen to the English-speaking community’s concerns and support them. “They will come to the community and talk,” he said. “They have a message to deliver. As to whether or not in those sessions they’re doing any absorption is a fairly open question.”
With over a dozen health and social services organizations in English-speaking communities across the province run by groups of volunteers, Chambers believes that a good use of the funding would be to hire professionals to help volunteers with administrative work.
“They have huge jobs,” he said. “Not one of them has any professional support. You have 10 to 12 doctors, volunteers, community leaders who are struggling away at 200-page technical documents. With not one blurb of community support. Why don’t we use the $18 million to hire each one of them a researcher and a manager so that they can produce a good plan?”
The Aylmer Bulletin contacted CAQ’s Parliamentary assistant for relations with English-speaking Quebecers, Christopher Skeete, to comment on the matter, but did not receive a response in time for print.