The man hired by the previous Liberal government to monitor whether P.E.I. fulfils its commitment to French-language services has resigned.
Complaints officer Jean-Paul Arsenault says the MacLauchlan government has failed to live up to a commitment to expand designated French-language services. His resignation is effective Dec. 31.
"I don't know if it's a problem in the bureaucracy," said Arsenault, who is stepping down with two years left in his appointment. "I don't know if it's a lack of political will. I don't know if it's very low on the list of priorities."
Arsenault was hired in late 2013 as a new French Language Services Act was proclaimed by then-premier Robert Ghiz, who was also the minister responsible for Acadian and Francophone Affairs.
Arsenault's job was to review complaints about the government's obligations toward French-language services.
'Nothing has happened'
He says the government "made some commitments to not only the services that were included in the act now, but it also committed itself to adding to the list of services, and we were very, very hopeful that was going to happen," he said. "Unfortunately over the last three years nothing has happened."
Designated services already in the act include the 511 traveller information service, highway traffic signs and the French public libraries located in Abram-Village, Summerside and Charlottetown.
Arsenault said the Francophone community has pointed out areas where there is an expectation of service, a capability for bilingual staff already in place and a low cost to the taxpayer.
"They're looking for improved services for seniors," he said. "They're looking for improved services for young children, from the areas of speech-language pathology, for example. And there are other areas where we … have become accustomed to receiving services, like the Acadian Museum, like the Access PEI locations in Wellington and other Francophone communities. Even the liquor store in Wellington for example."
Arsenault said he gave the government a list of what he considered low-hanging fruit, but nothing happened, leading to his resignation.
MacLauchlan said Tuesday that he has great appreciation for Arsenault and was surprised by his resignation.
"It's not that long since he would have had an involvement along with others in the preparation of the annual report of French-language services that I deposited or put on the table in the legislature in the last two weeks," he said. "That said, I recognize there is a message here."
MacLauchlan said the French-language services law is important work.
"This is something that the community values, and by the nature of the enterprise, you are always trying to do better," he said.
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