Maxime Bernier is editing himself.
The Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism has gone from expressing concern over the appointment of a unilingual accountant as Canada’s next Auditor-General to simply saying now he has “complete confidence” Michael Ferguson will honour his promise to learn French.
Mr. Bernier, who represents a Quebec riding, is known for speaking his mind – even if it means breaking ranks with the government. In fact, he’s one of the few Conservative MPs who can get away with it.
So it was really no surprise Wednesday when a report surfaced suggesting he wasn’t on side with the Auditor-General’s appointment. “While Mr. Bernier would have preferred that the candidate chosen for the position of Auditor-General was already bilingual, the minister has complete confidence that Mr. Ferguson will respect his engagement to learn French this year,” Scott French, the minister’s press secretary, told Postmedia News.
Later, when The Globe asked for an interview with the minister over his concerns with the appointment, Mr. French emailed this edited version of his previous statement: “Minister Bernier has complete confidence that Mr. Ferguson will respect his engagement to learn French this year. The Minister believes he is fully qualified and the best man for the job.”
The Ferguson appointment has been contentious ever since the opposition discovered the former New Brunswick auditor and deputy minister could not speak French.
Last week, Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae and his caucus boycotted a vote in the Commons to ratify the appointment. The NDP stayed in the Chamber but voted against the resolution, which passed easily since the Conservatives at last hold a majority.
Mr. Rae has vowed that his party will pursue the issue, perhaps even mounting a court challenge against the Harper government. The opposition has argued the position was advertised as bilingual and that the Conservatives changed the rules of the game halfway through.
According to Postmedia, meanwhile, Mr. Bernier was also not present at last week’s vote – but his office blamed a delayed flight from his Beauce riding for his absence.