Study reveals that knowledge of both official languages is asset to Canadian economy

According to Conference Board of Canada

Ottawa, ON, June 19, 2013 According to the Conference Board of Canada study, Canada, Bilingualism and Trade, bilingualism leads definitively to important economic advantages. In effect, thanks to this research, produced for the Réseau de développement économique et d’employabilité Canada (RDÉE Canada) and the Community Economic Development and Employability Corporation (CEDEC) with funding from Industry Canada, the Conference Board of Canada has found that bilingualism not only benefits New Brunswick and Quebec, which display higher rates of bilingualism, it benefits all Canadians.

By using two distinct calculation techniques, more precisely, location quotient and the gravity model, this research has verified to what point the knowledge of French has increased opportunities for commercial exchanges between New Brunswick and Quebec and French-speaking countries. The researchers are confident with their conclusions given that the two techniques led to similar results. Thus, they believe that commercial exchanges of Bilingual Canada with French-speaking countries are proving to be higher than 65 per cent or even more than commercial exchanges with countries that are not French-speaking.

Bilingualism opens doors and has a good return on investment

« One of the benefits of bilingualism is the country’s increase in the volume of its bilateral trade », says Mario Lefebvre, Director of the Centre for Municipal Studies at the Conference Board of Canada. “Playing a central role in trade relations, the presence of a common language enables a country to multiply the number of its potential trading partners.”

“This report supports a fact that most Canadians already know: Canada benefits greatly from bilingualism,” said the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of Industry. “By connecting with international clients in their own language, bilingual Canadian businesses are more likely to build strong relationships, gain better access to Francophone markets and help create jobs and growth here at home. As our world becomes even more economically and socially integrated, it will be advantages like this that position Canada to succeed in highly competitive global markets.”

Although the United States is Canada’s principal trading partner, the volume of commercial trade with French-speaking countries has increased significantly in recent years. From 1992-2011, commercial exchanges with French-speaking countries increased by 7.1 per cent each year. This is slightly higher than Canada’s total global trade (6.8 per cent).  The knowledge of a second language therefore appears to allow for diversification of trade.

According to the study, in 2011, exports from Quebec and New Brunswick to French-speaking countries were two times more than would be expected considering their share of overall Canadian exports. The difference is even more marked with imports: Quebec and New Brunswick import from French-speaking countries two and a half times what they should, given their share of Canadian imports overall. This indicates that the eight other provinces are doing much less trade with francophone countries in proportion to their share of Canadian global trade.

Next Steps

Over the next year, RDÉE Canada and its members, and CEDEC will continue working with heads of businesses, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders to take advantage of the benefits of this linguistic duality in order to access new markets, support the growth of businesses and build new business networks.

« The knowledge of two official languages has proven to be an opportunity to increase trade not only with French-speaking countries of the world but also within the Canadian francophone economic community, » said Gilles Lanteigne, President of RDÉE Canada. « Considering that the provinces, with the exception of New Brunswick and Quebec, have a rate of bilingualism ranging from 4.6 to 12.3%, there are many opportunities for entrepreneurs throughout the country to increase their trade and do business between them as it has been done in New Brunswick and Quebec. »

John Gancz, President of CEDEC, sees opportunity for Quebec’s English-speaking community to play a pivotal role in facilitating and brokering trade that directly benefits all of Canada.

“We have a strategic opportunity before us,” says John Gancz, President of CEDEC. “Canada’s official language minority communities are an important driver for the job creation, productivity and innovation envisioned in Canada’s Economic Action Plan and The Roadmap for Official Languages 2013-2018.  With increased collaboration between our communities, we will have enormous potential for the development of new Canadian and international business opportunities.”

About RDÉE Canada and CEDEC

A leader in the economic development of the Francophone and Acadian communities in Canada, RDÉE Canada and its members as well as CEDEC, a leading partner and driving force for community economic development and employability in Quebec, support businesses in their efforts to solve the issues hindering economic growth and help them seize emerging economic development opportunities.

Thanks to the new Roadmap for Canada’s Official Languages 2013-2018, the Government of Canada has recognized, through its investments in education, immigration and the communities, the importance of strengthening the economic vitality of the official language minority communities, their participation in the labour market and the importance of English and French in the Canadian national identity, its growth and prosperity.

This study was funded by Industry Canada under the Economic Development Initiative (EDI) of the Roadmap for Canada’s Linguistic Duality 2008-2013 and commissioned to the Conference Board of Canada in collaboration with RDÉE Canada and CEDEC.

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Julie Gagné
Manager, communications
RDÉE Canada

Tel: 819 592-2613

Kirsten Hathaway
Communications Officer

Tel: 514 755-7043