Bill 177 Carried to First Reading

Yesterday, there were several announcements included in the 2017 Fall Economic Statement. During his presentation of the Statement, Minister of Finance Charles Sousa introduced Bill 177, Stronger, Fairer Ontario Act (Budget Measures), 2017. It is an omnibus bill (a bill that amends several existing laws or introduces several new laws).

With the legislative calendar being so busy, I fully understand the government’s desire to include three bills for which the province’s Francophones and Francophile have been waiting for a long time.

Here is a brief overview of each of the three bills/amendments.

First, we have Schedule 5 of Bill 177: City of Ottawa Act, 1999. After a few years of letters, demonstrations and complaints from Ottawans favouring official bilingualism for the City of Ottawa, the government has picked up the defunct Private Bill introduced by MPP Nathalie Des Rosiers. It confirms the status quo, of course, but with a few tweaks that will, we hope, enable the City of Ottawa to serve all of its residents better.

The second schedule of interest in Bill 177 is Schedule 12, which would amend the Education Act by establishing the Centre Jules-Léger Consortium. This amendment is more than just a name change: it is also a change in governance. The Association des conseils scolaires des écoles publiques de l’Ontario (ACÉPO) and the Association franco-ontarienne des conseils scolaires catholiques (AFOCSC) will each appoint three of the Consortium’s six members. The schedule also contains a number of other details, but I won’t bore you with administrivia. The good news in all of this is that the Centre Jules-Léger will finally be managed by and for Francophones!

Third, Schedule 43 introduces the Université de l’Ontario français Act, 2017. This bill details the constitution of the new university and gives it a name: Université de l’Ontario français. Its special mission will be “to offer a range of university degrees and education in French to promote the linguistic, cultural, economic and social well-being of its students and of Ontario’s French-speaking community.” While I haven’t done a comprehensive analysis, it appears that this mission will give the university a prominent place in the universe of postsecondary institutions. The bill covers the composition of the university’s board of governors and senate, the selection of a chancellor and a president, and the rules for the university’s administration.

Not surprisingly, these announcements made headlines a few minutes after they were made. They deal with issues that matter to the Francophone and Francophile community. The debate will now move to the parliamentary arena, and I can only hope the deliberations will be positive.

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