The leader of the People’s Alliance of New Brunswick (PANB) will be asking the Speaker to require a Green Party MLA to issue an official apology for comparing his words to Nazi propaganda.
Kevin Arseneau, who represents Kent North for the Green Party, made the comments last Friday in the legislature.
Arseneau compared People’s Alliance Leader Kris Austin’s use of the term “common sense” to a quote from Joseph Goebbels, who was Nazi Germany’s propaganda minister.
“Joseph Goebbels, yeah I’m quoting Joseph Goebbels, Reich minister of propaganda of Nazi Germany said, ‘It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition in a psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is, in fact, a circle. They are mere words and words can be moulded until they clothe ideas and disguise,'” Arseneau said.
“What exactly does common sense mean? The people of New Brunswick, be you francophone, anglophone, First Nations or newcomer, deserve a straight and honest answer.”
Austin had most recently used the phrase during a government ambulance announcement last week. The People’s Alliance campaigned on making changes to the ambulance system and made it contingent for their support of the Conservative minority government.
While the People’s Alliance and Conservatives say they don’t have an official coalition, Austin had been invited to attend meetings between the government, Ambulance New Brunswick, and Medavie – the company that manages the ambulance service and be part of the announcement.
“While we must respect the right of both francophone and anglophone citizens to receive service in their language of choice, we must not allow unnecessary language requirements to supersede common sense and the health and safety of all New Brunswickers,” Austin said at the announcement.
Tuesday, Austin told reporters he was “shocked” to hear Arseneau draw the comparison.
“Look, I didn’t lose any sleep over it but at the same time, it’s just so far out there. It’s quite a radical viewpoint,” Austin said.
“When we debate in the house, of course, it gets heated, it gets emotional but that was in response to a throne speech. That wasn’t in response to a question or in the middle of a debate. That was a planned, orchestrated speech. So yeah it was pretty shocking.”
Austin says he plans to talk to the Speaker of the House Tuesday to see whether his party can receive an apology.
In response to Arseneau’s aversion to his use of the term “common sense,” Austin says there are no ulterior motives.
“It’s hard to even respond to that. Yes, we’ve used a campaign message of common sense in government. We stand by that. And that’s common sense whether it’s relating to taxes, health care, language issues, education, whatever. We want to see government take a more balanced approach to these issues,” Austin said.
Meanwhile, Arseneau says he wasn’t trying to compare Austin or his party to the Nazis. Rather, he says the backlash he’s received about using Goebbel’s quote has been “spin” from the People’s Alliance.
“I wasn’t comparing anyone to no one. It was used to make a point that propoganda is real,” Arseneau said.
“Perception is reality. They’re spinning it once again. Like I said in my speech on Friday, this is what I’ve been living since I’m here and this is what politics has been living for a long time. It’s spin, spin, spin.”
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Arseneau says he’s received two threats of violence — one in person while filling up at a gas station and another on his Facebook page — which he believes was a result of his comments.
He says he has spoken to the RCMP about the threats and has since posted messages on his Twitter and Facebook pages to say threats against him and his family will not be tolerated.
He stresses he doesn’t feel in danger, but felt it was important to speak to police so it was on the record.
“They are of concern but I don’t feel in danger right now as we speak. I think that it’s just bad ways that people aren’t in accord with what was said,” said Arseneau.
— With a file from the Canadian Press and Morganne Campbell