Last Updated: Monday, June 23, 2008 | 12:57 PM AT
The elimination of early French immersion will take away a competitive edge that small New Brunswick towns present when trying to recruit people and businesses, says one town councillor.
Sackville, located in southeastern New Brunswick, has serious concerns about elimination of the early French immersion program, said town councillor John Higham.
"We as a smaller province can't compete with the bigger ones on financial incentives, and we as smaller towns can't compete with big towns when we're trying to recruit these folks and these businesses — except on lifestyle," Higham said.
"One of the key components of lifestyle has become … early French immersion," he said.
Education Minister Kelly Lamrock announced in March that the province would be eliminating its immersion program offered to students entering Grade 1.
Under the new program, French-language education in English schools would begin in Grade 5 with a mandatory intensive five-month program. In Grade 6, the students would have the option to enter an immersion program or take French as a mandatory subject until high school graduation.
However, the province is now collecting more public comment on the changes, after a court ruling indicated the government's decision to change the programming had been made unfairly and unreasonably without interested citizens having an opportunity to comment.
Decision expected Aug. 5
Lamrock said the government will consider all suggestions from the public — but students won't be returning to the same programming this fall as what is currently available in schools. The minister will be announcing on Aug. 5 his decision on what second-language education will look like.
If the province does move forward with eliminating the program, it will affect Sackville's development strategy, which is based around recruiting on the basis of the quality of life, Higham told CBC News.
Across the border, in Nova Scotia, Amherst is expanding its immersion program, Higham said.
A spokesman with Business New Brunswick told CBC News that if municipalities or businesses have concerns about the elimination of the program, they should participate in the Education Department's consultation process, which continues until July 25.