Mayor says official bilingualism doesn't make sense for Ottawa

An Ottawa group is once again pushing for the capital to be officially bilingual and this time they're renewing the call ahead of Canada's 150th birthday celebrations in 2017.

But while there may be some support for the move among federal and provincial politicians the idea is not gaining any traction at city hall.

That's because Ottawa is already bilingual in practice.

"We provide services in both languages to our residents, we have our publications in both languages and it's worked well," said Mayor Jim Watson.

He said he's not sure what official bilingualism would actually gain for the city.

"Is official bilingualism every position has to be fluently bilingual, everyone from a snow plow operator to a planner? What’s the cost implication? Symbolically how is that going to improve services?" Watson said.

The City's language policy was adopted at amalgamation and services are available in both languages or arrangements can be made to find a francophone provider if someone needs French services in an area that isn't heavily francophone.

He said it would not make sense for Ottawa to require every employee to be bilingual because it would not improve services.

Watson said of the city's more than 900,000 residents, City Hall receives about 50 complaints each year about their French services.

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