N.B. deputy premier in France to repair ties after Francophonie Games fallout
It was an opportunity to mend fences and reaffirm New Brunswick’s commitment to the international Francophile.
Robert Gauvin, the minister responsible for La Francophonie, tourism, heritage and culture, met with stakeholders in Paris on Wednesday to show support to the international group, after New Brunswick announced plans to pull out out of hosting the 2021 Francophonie Games.
“The New Brunswick government’s participation in this organization provides many opportunities for partnership and collaboration in various sectors,” said Gauvin.
“Our government is committed to continuing its full participation in the organization’s many bodies.”
But the optics of the trip are being questioned.
“I think there’s politicking at play here more than anything else. There’s nothing to apologize for,” explained Moshe Lander, a political scientist from Concordia University in Montreal.
“The games were two years out, the cost overruns were already astronomical, the benefits that they were promising were never going to materialize anyway, so it was a good, sound economic decision.”
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Gauvin will formally withdrawal from organizing the games on Thursday, and will offer support and during the transition period.
Sherbrooke, Que., is now interested in hosting the Games, but cost is a concern. New Brunswick’s bid to host the Games went from $17 million to $130 million.
“There’s a recognition that these games can quickly turn into very sort of gushy money traps and they want to try and protect themselves from that,” adds Lander.
Closer to home, questions are still being raised as to how the province got in this position. Both the Greens and the People’s Alliance of New Brunswick are calling for an inquiry into the spending debacle.
“I think a lot of that could probably be done through teleconference or video conferences,” said Kris Austin, People’s Alliance leader. “I mean, we’ve got the technology to reduce the costs quite significantly than putting everyone on a first class trip to Paris.”
New Brunswick’s decision to bow out of the games will cost the province some cash, as it’s likely the international committee will ask the province to pay for their expenses so far, such as travel and marketing. But we won’t know how much that bill will be until the minister returns.
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