Trudeau aims to confront Ontario’s Ford on cuts to francophone services

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OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered a message to Ontario’s French-speaking minority today in light of budget cuts in the province that affect them: the federal government has your back.

Trudeau says standing up for francophone communities is an important federal responsibility, one that he intends to uphold.

The prime minister’s comments were his first public reaction to the Doug-Ford government’s recent budget cuts since returning from summits in Asia.

Ford’s conservatives last week announced cuts affecting Ontario’s 600,000 francophones, including the cancellation of plans for a francophone university and eliminating the office of the province’s French language services commissioner.

Quebec’s political class and media pundits have seized on the cuts as evidence of a lack of commitment to French outside Quebec.

On his way into a cabinet meeting in Ottawa this morning, Trudeau said he realizes the importance of French language services for minorities and is planning to speak with Premier Ford about the cuts.

“I know personally from having taught French in Vancouver, from having spoken with minority communities right across the country, how much they look to the federal government to try and stick up for them, regardless of what the provinces do,” Trudeau said.

“And we will certainly be engaged with the provincial government to try to ensure they do this.”

On Monday, Ford responded to the criticism, saying the cuts should not be interpreted as a vendetta against francophones.

“This has nothing to do with (anything) personal against any Franco-Ontarians. They’re great people. But we also cancelled three other universities, English speaking universities,” Ford said.

He said Ontario already offers many post-secondary services designed for francophones, He said reversing a commitment from the previous Liberal government is just sensible budgeting.

“A couple days before the election they promised this university knowing darn well they didn’t have the money. That’s wrong,” Ford said.

 

The Canadian Press