Austin threatens to topple government if Higgs accepts language report
FREDERICTON -- The New Brunswick official languages annual report was released Friday and the province's political leaders aren't all on-board with its recommendations.
"It's clear to me that we still have a lot of work to do in order to move our province forward in terms of bilingualism," New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said after the release of the Office Of The Commissioner Of Official Languages' Annual Report.
The report outlines proposals to improve the linguistic divide in the province.
"It is how we have determined in New Brunswick, how we were going to deal, how government was going to deal with the obligations to serve people in both official languages," said Michel Carrier, the acting commissioner for Official Languages NB.
The report recommends government create an official languages secretariat, which would act as a watchdog for linguistic equality.
That's something Green Party leader David Coon says would be a good idea.
"We're a unique province as the only officially bilingual province in Canada, and yet we don't have anybody inside government who's responsible for ensuring that we continue to move forward in implementing the Official Languages Act," Coon said.
People's Alliance of New Brunswick leader Kris Austin reacted quickly to the commissioner's report.
"I think it's another example of language extremism we see in this province as it related to bilingualism," Austin said.
In a party statement, Austin said if Higgs followed the report's recommendations, they "will bring down government."
Austin also says the quantity of complaints received by the office over the past year -- less than 100 -- doesn't justify the existence of the Official Languages Office.
"It costs the taxpayers half a million dollars a year, it's divisive, and it produces very little," said Austin.
He suggested it should be rolled under the provincial ombudsman's office.
Despite Austin's assurance he would do everything in his power to dissolve government should Higgs decide to follow all the report's recommendations, other parties say he wouldn't be able to do it alone. And don't believe it's a legitimate threat to government.
"He's getting fake news out there," said Liberal MLA Gilles Lepage."He's terrifying people in New Brunswick."
Said Coon: "People's Alliance do not have the power to dissolve government. They are three MLAs among 49."
Higgs said he didn't feel threatened by Austin's shot across the bow.
"Whether the People's Alliance decide to support me or not will be their own decision at the time of whatever comes forward in the legislature," Higgs said.
Above all else, Higgs stressed his disappointment in the state of province's bilingualism 50 years after it officially came into effect. And, while he won't be instating an official languages secretariat, he does hope to address the root of the issue of the province's linguistic divide, which he says is education.