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N.B. premier criticized for spilling news about upcoming visit by French president

FREDERICTON — New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs is facing heat from the Opposition after boasting that an upcoming visit to the province by the French president is due to the tourism minister’s trip to France.

Higgs’s announcement in the legislature came after Liberal member Jean-Claude D’Amours criticized the $42,000 one-week trip last September to France and the United Kingdom by the tourism minister and three of her colleagues.

The premier said the travel to Paris bore fruit because French President Emmanuel Macron is now scheduled to come to New Brunswick, an upcoming trip Higgs said is “truly impressive.”

Liberal member Benoît Bourque later told reporters that Higgs’s remarks were “inappropriate” and a “breach of protocol.”

Bourque says announcements about foreign heads of state are made through the federal government and not “blurted” out on the floor of the legislature to defend a minister for taking an expensive trip abroad.

The Opposition has said it was “extravagant” for Tourism Minister Tammy Scott-Wallace and three colleagues to travel to the United Kingdom and France Sept. 8-15, for visits to places such as Stonehenge and the Palace of Versailles.

Scott-Wallace has said her trip led to the government securing contracts and to a rise in tourism.

Bourque, however, said Macron’s upcoming visit is not tourism-related, adding that Higgs’s pronouncement in the legislature bordered on the “scandalous.”

“To insinuate that it had a lot to do with his minister of tourism, that the president would be going here is absolutely a stretch,” he said.

“A one-time visit by the New Brunswick minister of tourism, I don’t think it moved the needle at all. It was just a distraction by the premier to try to shift to something else, and to try to give her a bit of credit — to his embattled minister.”

Later on Thursday, the office of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a news release confirming that Macron would visit New Brunswick this year “to deepen the bilateral relationship” between Canada and France and “promote shared priorities.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 6, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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