There was a surprising guest editorial in the Toronto Star the other day. It was an unusual reaction to a speech by Michael Rousseau, chief executive officer of Air Canada. I have no idea what the speech was about nor do I know Mr. Rousseau or the writer of the editorial, an Éric Blais of Toronto. The point is that this is the kind of ignorant action we witness all the time in this country.
Canada is blessed with two official languages. That is a good thing. It enriches us. It is the people who get their ass in a knot over language who are working against harmony and progress in our country. We are constantly being force-fed BS from Quebec’s provincial assembly about protecting French. The simple facts are that the more bilingual that province can become, the better the economic future of those who live there. And the same is true for Ontario. This province has to get to work and also encourage bilingualism.
When the “minister of everything” Clarence Decatur Howe launched Trans Canada Airlines, in 1936, it was providing service in both English and French. When he left politics in 1957, he admonished the MPs to look after his airline. TCA, and later Air Canada, has dominated Canadian skies and traversed the world ever since.
I would assume that Michael Rousseau was chosen for his job by a search committee with bilingualism as a nice to have. The truth is that the qualifications to manage a world class airline do not include being facile in French. This is unlike the requirement today for air traffic controllers in Quebec to be fluently bilingual. This is a matter of safety in the air and makes it a job requirement.
But nobody cares if the Air Canada CEO can speak French except those petty péquistes in Quebec City. The facts are that it would look better if the airline’s CEO could speak in French occasionally for the sake of good public relations.
But decisions based entirely on the perceived public relations value, are not good decisions. If it sells more for the company, that is good. If it creates a bond with a large block of employees, that is also good.
It is just, by itself, speaking a local language is not in the first ten requirements for an airline’s chief executive.
He or she does not fix the planes. The job is not fly the planes. This person is busy looking ahead. The job is looking at next year and the years after. The job is to face the world. We pay him or her the big bucks for the ability to make decisions in a very volatile industry.
By way of an apology: I have missed a few days of this blog. It was hardly the illness that kept me from writing, it was the damn pills.
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