Fredericton — As the closed-door review of official bilingualism in New Brunswick gets underway, Kris Austin’s unique contributions to the process are already leaking to the media.
On day one of the hearings, Austin revealed a key plank of his screed — no more government-sponsored “witch hunts” against English-speaking people. These accusations are also an actual thing he said aloud on a stage in front of people and cameras in the past.
These comments follow the firestorm of criticism for appointing Austin to the committee that reviews the status of official bilingualism in the province. Austin built his populist political career on anti-bilingualism rhetoric, and also called for “an end to duality” in the past. Duality is the constitutionally entrenched protection of the French language school system in New Brunswick.
The appointment of Austin by Higgs has some troubling echoes from the past. In 1985, Higgs sent an 11-page anti-French manifesto to a similar bilingualism review committee. In that submission, the 31 year-old Higgs called for an end to official bilingualism. Higgs has since disowned those comments.
Given this history, many do not understand why Higgs would appoint Austin — an obvious foe of duality and Francophone rights — to a committee whose intent it to promote and foster bilingualism. However, political scientist Malcolm Richardson says Higgs is playing the long game with his high-risk strategy.
“Higgs might seem uncaring, insensitive, petty or seeking retribution against Francophones who voted against him, but I believe he has a different goal in mind,” said Richardson. “If he completely blows the next election by becoming supremely unpopular, he may recreate the 1987 election blowout where his party lost every single seat in the Legislature!
“And remember what came after that? You got it — the Confederation of Regions Party! By first decimating the People’s Alliance and then the Tories, Higgs is on track to repeat the election devastation that created the CoR Party. And then, he can complete his ultimate goal of becoming the leader of CoR…only 35 years later! It’s genius in a twisted sort of way.”
When asked to explain the origins of Higgs’s anti-Francophone sentiments, Richardson shrugged. “I don’t know, but I think a Francophone girl laughed at his dick back in university or something. This guy has been holding a grudge with both hands for a long time!”