|French in Multinationals -Fantasy Island?|
In that article, he suggested that the Habs General manager implement the so-called 'Savard doctrine'(if ever it really existed,) whereby given a choice between two equal players, the team always hired the francophone.
Ironically, in another article, Mr. Tremblay complains that English NHL teams are guilty of discriminating against francophones by hiring English players before francophones. Hmm.....
At any rate, it's a neat concept that sounds attractive if you're ready to suspend your belief in statistical probability. Unfortunately, among Mr. Tremblay's readers, there's plenty of those.
Only a dreamer or an idiot could conceive of a unique situation that repeats itself often enough, wherein two equally talented players are made available at the same time, both the same age, playing the same position and making the same salary, one being French, the other speaking English or Globish.
In the real world, that situation presents itself less often than a Henri Richard birthday.
But the idea is a narrative that sells rather neatly to those who dream of Christmas past and the reincarnation of the Flying Frenchman. Ah, perchance to dream!
Alas for Mr. Tremblay, it is a pipe dream, and I suspect he knows it. His missive was actually a call to choose French players first, regardless of talent, but in the modern era of globalization, the only way to francize a team, is to take a qualitative hit.
Considering that the Canadiens aren't a very good team and haven't been for a decade, perhaps it doesn't matter and for Mr. Tremblay, if your going to stink, you may as well stink in French!
While on the subject of French or the Canadiens, is there any coach in the NHL who more deserves to be fired this year then the hapless Jacques Martin, for his ceaseless ability to get the worst out of his players?
It is very likely that his job remains safe only as long as there isn't a viable francophone out there ready to replace him, as the case appears to be, right now.
If Pierre Gauthier, the general manager (another horrible underachiever,) dared hire an anglophone to replace Martin, he'd be ridden out of town on a rail.
And so Mr. Tremblay seems to have gotten his way....underachieving francophones kept on because more talented anglophones are not an option. Bon Chance!
What does any of this have to do with French in the Head offices of Montreal's leading multinational companies?
This week, in a televised debate on the subject of French in head offices, I heard another fanciful suggestion of the same sort, described by the insufferable Jean-François Lisée.Watch the debate in French
Mr. Lisee admitted that companies who operate on a world-wide basis must deal with their branch offices and customers in English, but demanded that once the telephone is hung up, the employees revert to French among themselves. Any employee or executive promoted to the head office from the field would be forced to go to the Sagenauy for six months to learn French. Bon voyage!
And so everything coming into the office would have to be translated into French and then everything leaving the office would have to be translated into English.
Sounds like a plan....for idiots.
I don't know if Mr. Lisée knows how ridiculous he sounds, but it's a good story for language militants, always willing and able to jump through hoops to make an argument for French.
Looking at the suggestion dispassionately, even Mr. Lisée would have to admit that in a situation like this, French is completely superfluous, an unnecessary layer of expense and bother.
If that's the price of locating in Quebec, what company president could justify staying?
Unfortunately for Mr. Lisée and French language supremacists, most CEOs don't give a tinker's cuss about French or English, the only language that counts, is money.
A few days ago I described how the exodus of English head-offices started soon after Sun Life made a very public exit from Montreal, much to the consternation of the then PQ government.
Hundreds of other companies followed suit, but they did so without a splash and as the old saying goes- 'Out of sight, out of mind.'
The problem of head offices leaving or choosing not to locate in Quebec was largely swept under the carpet, the companies involved relieved not to discuss the matter and the government conveniently forgetting to own up to the economic impact of French language restrictions.
To Mr. Lisée and other French language supremacists, the loss of head offices unwilling to put up with this nonsense is a reasonable price to pay for the preservation of French in the workplace.
But no politician or French language hardliner will admit as such in public and Quebecers have been largely shielded from the truth, but not the economic impact.
I came across this devastating article in the Montreal Gazette's business section, which lays bare the economic reality of these policies;
To be sure, language is not the only reason that these distribution centres are placed outside Quebec, perhaps the biggest concern, unmentioned in the article, is Quebec's anti-scab law that forbids replacement workers."The small city of Cornwall, Ont., 120 kilometres southwest of Montreal, has been on a growth spurt for more than a decade as retailers open new distribution centres there.The facilities are being built to serve the Quebec market yet they're located just beyond the border rather than in Quebec itself.........The unsaid thing in the industry is that people just don't want unions in their distribution centres," Wulfraat said. "When you talk to the leaders of these companies, that's their foremost concern."Added to that is the extra cost and effort required to operate in French, which can be avoided in a place like Cornwall."Quebec, in my opinion, has some fundamental disadvantages working against it," he said.
In Quebec, in the event of a strike, the company cannot hire workers to replace strikers, while in Ontario such is not the case.
It's a massive concern to management, because a striking distribution centre can bring down the entire retail operation, leaving the union with unprecedented power to cripple the company.
But language as an issue, remains a huge concern, though company officials don't like to talk about it. A Quebec based distribution centre would be obligated to operate in French, an anomaly in a company that operated dozens of similar facilities throughout North America.
Let's face it, Target or Wal-Mart isn't that interested in sending a transferee to Chicoutimi for six months to learn French and they aren't interested in the added expense and bother of operating in French, not if they don't have to.
Unfortunately for Mr. Lisée and his supporters, they don't have to.
I know these facts are unpleasant to those wishing to see Quebec thrive as a French society, but as they say, 'Them's the breaks.'
Recently it was revealed that the OQLF gave Bombardier dispensation from the requirement to operate in French at its head office, a tacit admission that the company could not or would not comply with the law.
Of course the agreement wasn't widely publicized and for good reason. It demonstrated an admission that in some cases, the rules of Bill 101 and French in the head office, leaves companies with no choice but to exit the province.
Secondly, the publication of the special dispensation might very well trigger an avalanche of requests by other companies for the same treatment, undermining the holy tenet of French in the workplace.
For the OQLF it's a lose/lose situation.
Where to go and what to do to preserve and promote French in the workplace is a sticky wicket. For language militants, the solution is cut and dried, French at all times and damn the jobs.
For a responsible government, preserving French in the workplace must be tempered with another obligation, the obligation to create a society where companies can flourish and prosper and where decent paying jobs are preserved.
By opening up the debate about language Mr. Lisée and friends do Quebecers a service, although they may come to rue their decision to open Pandora's box.
Preserving French in the office can no longer be characterized as zero-sum or free, that much is now clear.
What will happen when a company like Bombardier says no to the OQLF and threatens to leave?
Will we have a repeat Sun Life and will some Quebecers have to confront the reality of working in English or collecting unemployment in French?
French militants like Mr. Lisée have opened a debate that should have been held three decades ago -
French at what cost?
Mr. Lisée and friends, can weave their pipe dreams and fantasies which make good print and television, but in the real world, the cold hard reality of English is a fact of life that Quebecers must confront and unfortunately, not on their own terms.