Memo to Premier Couillard: We elected you to stop this!

By Beryl Wajsman on November 18, 2014

We yearn for investors from outside Quebec to invest here. We know that foreign investment is critical to job creation and to increased bank credits for small business. So forgive our astonishment at last week's news that the websites of international retailers 

Williams-Sonoma, Urban Outfitters, and Club Monaco had been blocked in Quebec guessed..they didn't comply with the language laws! After the Marois legacy of Pastagate and all the other little "gates" we expected this government to stop the madness and reign in the OQLF. Apparently it needs another memo.

The OQLF acted on complaints that the websites of these global corporations were mot bilingual so it contacted them and ordered them to comply by having a French version. The retailers response? They simply decided to block access to purchasing for Quebecers instead of spending the money. The OQLF seems to think that absolves them of responsibility. Spokesman Jean-Pierre LeBlanc made a point that it was the companies that blocked the sites not the Office. But that is not the issue.

The issue is that the bullying needs to stop! And if today major retailers block their sites, tomorrow they may pull up stakes and cost us thousands of jobs. Quebec lost over 100,000 this year alone while the rest of Canada created over 200,000. Perhaps the OQLF is trying to help out with a Guinness world record?

Williams-Sonoma made it quite clear. It operates in 87 countries and has never faced such a problem. It is not about to start creating a corporate precedent of submission here in Quebec. A market of eight million does not frighten a global company.

Perhaps with tongue firmly planted in cheek, the Club Monaco website - a company started by Torontonian Joe Mimran and now owned by Ralph Lauren - explains - in French - that it does not currently have an online store "designed to meet the needs for our shoppers in Quebec."

The insanity of this part of our language law is that according to our Charter of the French Language, companies that have a bricks-and-mortar store located in Quebec must provide all business communications in French, including websites. So as long as you don't actually come here and employ Quebecers and help expand our economy everything is fine. Sell on the web all you like - in English - and pull money out of Quebec.

Every time a majority Liberal government is elected we tend to become a bit lethargic. We tend to assume a “We’re alright Jack” attitude. Well, things don’t always work that way. We need to assure that this government institutes reasoned and sane implementation of language policies. We need an end to senseless inspectors run amuck. Senseless complaints being acted upon. We need a rollback in compliance rules that are crippling small business responsible for eighty per cent of our new jobs. Record numbers are closing, partly because they must spend 19 full working days a year on compliance with Quebec government demands.

M. Couillard,Quebec - and Montreal in particular - needs a break! End the nonsense!


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