The benefits of bilingualism: An economic opportunity for Ontario

Ottawa, May 16, 2018 – The next government in Ontario needs to put its francophone advantage to good use by diversifying the economy. This was the message issued by the Assemblée de la francophonie de l’Ontario (AFO) following the results of a study led by the Conference Board of Canada and sponsored by the AFO called Ontario, Trade and the Advantages of English-French Bilingualism.

The study examines the connection between bilingualism and Ontario’s international trade in goods. The study shows that 83% of all provincial international trade in goods is conducted with the United States. This demonstrates clearly that having a common language (in this case, English) facilitates trade between countries. Since Ontario has a high level of bilingualism (1.5 million Ontarians speak French), the province could benefit from conducting more trade with other francophone countries. This would also help remedy an overdependence on the American economy.

The Conference Board believes that Ontario’s high level of bilingualism has resulted in significant additional revenue from trade with other francophone countries: CAD 58 million in exports and CAD 1.4 billion in imports. Other, more monolingual regions such as the western provinces and Newfoundland and Labrador do not have access to this revenue due to their low bilingualism.

“We ask all candidates and party leaders to share their visions and plans regarding this opportunity to diversify international trade. A strong Franco-Ontarian community means a strong Ontario. Speaking French opens doors to new international markets. The province needs to continue taking advantage of this opportunity and become more involved in the International Organization of La Francophonie,” said Carol Jolin, president of the AFO.

The Société Économique de l’Ontario (SÉO), which co-chairs the economic workgroup in collaboration with the Conseil de la Coopération de l’Ontario (CCO), thanks the AFO and the Conference Board of Canada for helping make this study possible. It is vital to have reliable data. This study is the first of its kind, but others will be necessary to measure the impact of francophone economic sectors within Ontario’s economy and demonstrate the economic potential of francophone Ontario. It is imperative that we increase trade not only with other francophone countries, but also within the Canadian francophone economy,” said Denis Laframboise, president of the SÉO.

“There is still not enough reliable data to accurately quantify the contributions of Franco-Ontarian communities to Ontario’s economy. A more in-depth study must be conducted in order to measure more precisely the economic weight of francophone and bilingual communities in Ontario. Furthermore, we urge the next government to seize this opportunity to diversify the economy and build trade links between Ontario and international francophone organizations. Franco-ontarian communities have proven themselves to be pioneers in judicious, cooperative and social economic development. This is an opportune moment for us to position ourselves on the national and global stage,” added Luc Morin, the executive director of the CCO.This study was made possible by financial support from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and in collaboration with the economic workgroup, a group headed by the AFO and whose members include the Société Économique de l’Ontario, the Union des cultivateurs francophones de l’Ontario, the Alliance culturelle de l’Ontario, the Conseil de la Coopération de l’Ontario, the Fondation franco-ontarienne, the Coalition ontarienne de formation aux adultes, and the Association française des municipalités de l‘Ontario. The study will soon be available in English.