Passing on Francophonie Games not about language, as much as some are trying to make it so
If there was ever any doubt the federal Liberal Party would try to score political points on the provincial PC Party’s decision to pull the plug on the Francophonie Games, that has certainly been dispelled with comments out of Ottawa this week.
I don’t know if you listen to Terry Seguin’s morning show on CBC Radio Fredericton, but what a painful experience it was yesterday when Terry interviewed Federal Science and Sport Minister Kristy Duncan. Despite the host’s best efforts to get a straight answer from the Minister, it was not to be. What he got was little more than her message that the government was deeply disappointed, that her government was acting in good faith but Higgs wasn’t, which she repeated as often as she could. It is destined to become a part of my media training workshops as an example of how not to do an interview.
I don’t know if she was just sticking to what she apparently was told to say, or was simply woefully ill informed of how this whole Francophonie Games fiasco unfolded. She said more than once that the New Brunswick government chose to bid on these games, and was then showing bad faith by pulling out without ever giving the federal government a proposal.
She completely ignored the fact that it was the Gallant Liberal government that bid on and won the games, and that the initial bid of $17 Million became $130 Million. She also left out the fact that the Gallant government, and her federal counterpart Dominic LeBlanc if not the whole federal cabinet, kept New Brunswick voters in the dark about that until after the election. So pretty rich of Minister Duncan to accuse the Higgs government of bad faith. And as for a proposal from Higgs, he was firm from the get-go, and never waivered, from saying he would honour the original $10 million Gallant had agreed to, but that we couldn’t afford any more than that.
But here we have the Minister, and over the last few days both Dominic LeBlanc and Prime Minister Trudeau himself, trying to lay blame on Higgs for somehow being irresponsible in not showing a willingness to spend more, using the fact the feds would match whatever the province paid. It’s as if LeBlanc doesn’t understand affordibility and the idea of not spending when we can’t afford it, regardless of how much it is matched. Which, he might be reminded isn’t federal money, it is also taxpayer money.
A big knock on the federal Liberals is that they have no concept of fiscal restraint and spend like the proverbial drunken sailor. Their response on this issue does nothing to dispel that perception. They seem, based on their comments, to be totally oblivious to the fact we simply can’t afford to spend the kind of money that would be required, regardless of whether it is matched.
It’s like if I, and perhaps you, were offered a Maserati. Say we could have this car, and some rich guy was willing to pay 50% of the cost. As generous as that offer may be, I still couldn’t afford to take advantage of it. I couldn’t handle my half. So would I be irresponsible for saying no, because the rich guy’s money would be left unused? Of course not, but this is exactly the logic that the federal Liberals fail to get, or perhaps simply refuse to acknowledge.
I can’t see where this will help them politically in New Brunswick because, unless I am reading it wrong, the vast majority of New Brunswick taxpayers, both anglophones and francophones, agree we can’t afford it.
This is why it was a cheap and unfair political shot when the Minister went the extra step to try to make it a French-English issue by saying Higgs decision is unfortunate because “we want to support francophone communities”. The Prime Minister said pretty much the same thing.
It also makes it hard on our Liberal MPs who, facing re-election now find themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to tow the party line and defend this illogical position, or go against their party. Terry Seguin said at the end of the interview with Duncan that neither Fredericton area MPs Matt DeCourcey or Karen Ludwig could be reached for comment. No wonder. For the record Higgs government representatives weren’t available either.
As bad as it was for Minister Duncan to make it a linguistic issue, she was mild compared to the previous interview on the same show, with Mt. Allison University Associate Political Science Professor Mario Levesque. His comment that Higgs decision shows the PCs are not a party for francophones, exposed him as either one of those academics that is out of touch with the real world, or so partisan he is incapable of the kind of objective analysis to which those in his profession should aspire.
What it actually would have shown, if Higgs had agreed to go tens of millions beyond the $10M he committed to, is that he was never really serious about that restraint stuff. This is about money and what we can afford. It’s a shame that some are trying to use it to widen the linguistic divide.
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Cover photo credit: Gabriel Antonio