Trudeau ‘deeply disappointed’ by cuts to Ontario French services

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s disconcerted by Ontario’s decision to slash French services in the province.

« I was deeply disappointed by the decision of the Ontario government to cut services and protections for the francophone minorities in Ontario, » he said at a press conference at the tail end of his trip to Papua New Guinea.

He said his reaction should come as no surprise, since protecting language is « extremely important » to him and his government.

During Thursday’s fiscal update, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced his government would cancel a project to build a French-language university in Toronto and would be eliminating the position of a French language services commissioner.

Trudeau said Mélanie Joly, the minister of official languages and La Francophonie, has asked for a meeting with the Ford government to discuss the implications of the decision and look at next steps.

Problems for the federal Conservatives

The blowback from Franco-Ontarians after the announcement was intense, with one newspaper calling it a « black day for francos, » and advocates sharing concerns over the long-term effects.

Carol Jolin, president of the Francophone Assembly of Ontario, said the decisions were a disappointing surprise for himself and others in the province.

« The French university was more than just a French university. It’s a symbol for the province, and it was a fantastic step forward, » he said. 

Quebec’s premier also shared his dismay. 

« I want French in Ontario to be protected as much as possible, » said François Legault.

Legault says it’s a topic he’ll broach when he and Ford meet on Monday.

There are more than 600,000 people in Ontario who identify as French speaking, according to the province.

These cuts could prove a challenge for Andrew Scheer and his federal Conservatives — who have been working to bolster their support among French speakers (particularly in Quebec) ahead of the next election.

A spokesperson in Scheer’s office confirmed an iPolitics report that he had spoken with the premier and Caroline Mulroney, the provincial minister of Francophone Affairs, on the sidelines of the Progressive Conservative policy convention this weekend to convey his concerns about the cuts.

Scheer did not ask Ford to reverse the decision, but his office said he was reassured that services would remain for Franco-Ontarians.  

When pressed further on his conversation with Ford at a news conference Sunday afternoon, Scheer would only say he « conveyed the concerns » he’d been hearing. 

The party leader took aim at the Liberal government for « politicizing » the issue instead of focusing on a solution. 

Scheer, who says he benefited from French immersion programs growing up, said his stance on French services is no mystery. 

« My record on official languages is very clear, » he stated. « I’m very proud to be bilingual. » 

Asked if Ford’s decision would hurt his own chances of snatching the country’s top job in 2019, Scheer responded that Canadians vote in federal elections on federal issues and on provincial elections on provincial issues.

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Capitol Condo developer disappointed by rejection – Kingston

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A 16-storey condo development in the heart of downtown Kingston was in the works, but after a growing number of concerned citizens rallied against its development, the project has been shut down by the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.


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Capitol Condo rejected by Local Planning Appeal Tribunal

“We are disappointed by the LPAT decision and deeply saddened by the far-reaching ramifications this will have on the long-term viability of downtown Kingston,” said Darryl Firsten the developer of Capitol Condo after the decision was made.

The group of concerned citizens appealed the plans for the development with the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) in April, arguing that the 16-storey height did not meet the guidelines with the city’s official plan and zoning bylaws, which calls for a four-storey maximum on Princess Street, and a six-storey limit on Queen Street.

The decision was released on Friday, Nov. 10, by the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, which replaced the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) in April, to whom the appeal was originally filed.


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Hearings continue for 16-storey condo proposal in downtown Kingston

As previously reported by Global News, those who appealed the project worried that the height of the new condo building would mar the historic charm of Kingston’s downtown core.

“We are especially sorry that the system has let down a lot of upstanding Kingston citizens who desired to live in this iconic building,” said Firsten.

He went on to say that this will have lasting impacts for merchants in the area, who he says, will continue to struggle because they need more people living downtown.


READ MORE:
Questions remain about Capital Condo project after OMB hearing

In the tribunal’s decision, adjudicators unanimously agreed that “the downtown and harbour area of Kingston is a remarkable urban artifact and one of Canada’s most well-preserved heritage areas.”

Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson told Global News that he thinks there is still a commitment to residential intensification in the downtown and that he wants to understand what the issues are so he can respond to them and get the necessary developments built.

Firsten told Global News via email that although the outcome of the LPAT decision is not what they were looking for, it did contain a lot of positives about the project.

“The tribunal was quite pleased with all other elements of this plan, with the exclusion of the compatibility of the height,” said Firsten.

“It’s unfortunate that the ideas of a small group of residents, many of whom don’t even live downtown, has had such a profound impact on the future of the city for everyone.  We commend their passion and love for the city, but loathe their comprehension of good urban planning and economics.”

 

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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