The annual report from New Brunswick’s language commissioner issued on Tuesday called for changes to promote equality for both of the province’s official languages — French and English.
But the document was quickly met with threats to topple Premier Blaine Higgs’ minority PC government from the People’s Alliance of New Brunswick, who said that if the government enacted recommendations in Michel Carrier’s report they would pull their support in the legislature and bring the government down.
Carrier wanted to amend language requirements for nursing home workers and hire an official language secretariat that would oversee the Official Languages Act.
“I would think that most people in New Brunswick would support the idea that we have an office that looks after this project,” said Carrier on Thursday.
But it’s those proposals that caused the People’s Alliance to threaten to pull its support for the minority government.
The People’s Alliance holds the balance of power in the legislature — with its three votes allowing Higgs and the Tories to pass bills and survive confidence motions.
“If they choose to move forward with these recommendations and implementing them then we will show that we have no confidence in the government and it will be up to the lieutenant governor to decide from there,” said People’s Alliance Leader Kris Austin.
Austin said the Official Languages Act is being taken to an extreme.
The People’s Alliance has been accused of being anti-French, running the last election on a platform of reforming bilingualism.
“We’ve been trying for 50 years to get this province truly bilingual and it’s not even close to being that, as a matter of fact, it’s getting worse,” said Austin.
Higgs said he was not bowing to the People’s Alliance but said late on Friday that his government isn’t interested in establishing an official languages secretariat.
The other parties in the provincial legislature accused Higgs and Austin of not understanding the Official Languages Act.
“I’m disappointed that he has rejected the recommendations to establish an Official Languages secretariat. It makes me wonder sometimes whether the premier really understands the Official Languages Act,” said David Coon, Leader of the New Brunswick Green Party.
Higgs said he agreed with some parts of Carrier’s report, including bilingual signage — and said he isn’t worried over any potential confidence vote.
“I never said I was here for a long time, but I am here to do what I believe is right while I’m here,” he said.