This report response to a request from the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages to provide an independent analysis of the financial cost of Bill C-13, An Act for the Substantive Equality of Canada's Official Languages.
Of the many provisions set out in this bill, financial implications arise solely from the proposed extensions of French language rights to federally regulated private businesses.
We expect private compliance costs to implement these rights to be $240 million in one-time costs plus $20 million each year in ongoing costs. These costs arise primarily from language training and bilingualism wage premiums for managers in designated bilingual regions outside Quebec.
We estimate the public administrative cost to implement these rights to be $2.9 million per year. However, the amount of funding provided is fundamentally discretionary – the activities that can be undertaken in support of the implementation of Bill C-13 will be limited by the funding available.
The 2021-22 Fall Economic Statement allocated $16 million in 2022-23 for initial implementation costs associated with this bill. The responsible departments wrongfully refused to disclose how this funding would be allocated on the basis that “this information is not publicly available.” They also refused to identify the additional ongoing tasks they plan to undertake as a result of the bill, or associated staffing and costs. The $16 million does not cover ongoing administrative costs and was not intended to cover those costs. However, it will allow additional initial implementation activities to be undertaken.
The cost estimates provided above are sensitive to the scope of regions outside of Quebec where the legislation will be applied, the businesses sizes which are exempted, any additional industry exemptions, and the operationalization of the rights to receive services, work, and be supervised in French.