A working group consisting of members from the New Brunswick Business Council and Conseil économique du Nouveau-Brunswick will study the economic benefits of bilingualism in New Brunswick.
The group, working with other community leaders and business representatives, will try to increase the benefits of bilingualism in the province, a press conference in Moncton was told on Monday.
“The end goal is to use every opportunity that bilingualism brings to us to develop our economy,” Michel Carrier, the interim commissioner of official languages for New Brunswick, told reporters after the announcement.
“It’s the start of a project that may change the narrative a little bit about official bilingualism,” he said. “I think it’s positive, especially when we’re celebrating 50 years of official bilingualism in this province.”
The press conference highlighted many benefits of bilingualism, such as creating a hub for customer contact centres and back-office operations, increasing the province’s trade value with Quebec and attracting international students.
“What’s really important to us, and when we look at our next steps, is to also have other stakeholders involved,” said Adrienne O’Pray, the president and CEO of the New Brunswick Business Council.
“It’s not just private sector, but we’re also very interested in hearing from the not-for-profit sector, which is also struggling to find labour and looking to grow in our province, but as well for education.”
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The establishment of the working group follows a 2015 study conducted by economist Pierre-Marcel Desjardins and David Campbell, an economic development specialist.
Campbell says that while New Brunswick may promote its bilingual workforce, there’s room to grow in investment opportunities with French countries across the world.
“If you think about Michelin, if you think about the Airbus facility in Lunenburg, Lafarge has a big operation in Nova Scotia — I would argue Nova Scotia has done a better job of attracting investment from French countries than New Brunswick has,” said Campbell.
He says there’s also a need to grow tourism from Francophonie communities outside of Canada, something he hopes will come with the work done by the new group.
The working group will set out its mandate after connecting with essential partners, said Thomas Raffy, the CEO of Conseil économique du Nouveau-Brunswick.
They will set out priorities and report back with an update in one year.