Most Quebec small businesses opposed to expansion of French language: poll

On the heels of the Quebec government’s plans to table its long-awaited reform to the French language charter, a new poll suggests most small businesses are opposed to the expansion of French in the workplace.

A survey released by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) shows that 56 per cent of small businesses in Quebec are opposed to the francization process for companies with less than 50 employees, as they fear it will create even more paperwork.

Regionally speaking, 61 per cent of businesses in Quebec City, and 60 per cent of businesses in Montreal, are opposed to the idea.

CFIB surveyed 781 of its members throughout the month of March and found the vast majority -- 65 per cent -- of respondents say that English is still necessary for business operations. They say English is important for maintaining relationships with suppliers or to secure contracts with other firms across Canada and around the world.

Francois Vincent, the CFIB’s vice-president for Quebec, said expanded measures around the French language will only hurt small businesses, adding that English is a serious asset for enterprises so that they can promote their products and services outside of Quebec.

"For small business owners, protecting French is essential, but it must not lead to more paperwork. It's a lot of time and energy that could be devoted to developing their business,” he said in a news release.

“And you can imagine that in crisis management, time is a very rare commodity. And in Quebec, with an estimated annual cost of $8.2 billion, do we really need to add more red tape on the backs of small businesses?”

In a tweet Tuesday evening, Quebec Premier Francois Legault teased the news of a bill that is expected to be tabled Thursday at the National Assembly. Changes to the French language charter is one of the government’s biggest portfolios, however, it’s not yet known which reforms will be unveiled.

Vincent said he fears small businesses will be burdened with filling out forms and following up with the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) if the new charter includes more regulatory obligations.

The survey also showed that 40 per cent of businesses believe the province needs to do a better job at communicating regulatory obligations for businesses.

About one third also say they want the government to provide French courses for employees and for the government to invest in improving French skills for residents.

This is a developing story that will be updated. 

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