New Brunswick

Confusion over unilingual commissionaire's work hours

There’s still some confusion about whether unilingual commissionaire Wayne Grant is getting all his work hours back.

Not clear whether Wayne Grant will get all his hours back

Commissionare Wayne Grant says his hours were cut back after the province received a language complaint. (CBC)

There's still some confusion about whether unilingual commissionaire Wayne Grant is getting all his work hours back.

The Gallant government was anxious to tell reporters on Tuesday that Grant would be working all the hours he did before a May incident with the official languages commissioner.

But on Wednesday, it became increasingly difficult to confirm that was the case.

Grant has been ordered to stop talking to the media, meanwhile, his employer, the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires, is not responding to calls from CBC News.
Premier Brian Gallant is now distancing his government from any role in setting Grant's hours. (CBC)

And Premier Brian Gallant is now distancing his government from any role in setting Grant's hours.

"It's a third party that's been contracted to do the human resources activities for that," Gallant told reporters Wednesday.

"It's not government, and I think it's important to point that out."

Grant's hours were reduced after he was unable to communicate in French with Katherine d'Entremont, the province's commissioner of official languages, on May 6. 

The hours he was working, he will continue to work those hours if he wishes.- Donald Arseneault, official languages minister

She had approached the front desk at Chancery Place, the main government office building where Grant was filling in.

D'Entremont wrote on May 26 to the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, which contracts with the Corps for security service, to ask what its policies were on bilingual service.

She made no requests or recommendations about Grant's job status.
Liberal cabinet Donald Arseneault said the controversy over the language commissioner's handling of a complaint that she initiated could have been avoided. (CBC)

After the letter, Grant's hours were cut back, which Liberal cabinet minister Donald Arseneault called "unfortunate" when he spoke to reporters Tuesday.

He wouldn't say exactly who made the decision, but said, "I'm here to correct it."

"Whatever he wants to work, he will work," Arseneault said.

"The hours he was working, he will continue to work those hours if he wishes." 

But not long after Arseneault said that, Grant told CBC News that wasn't the case. 

Not allowed to speak to media

He said that some weeks he was getting more hours than he used to, and other weeks he was getting less.

'She should also be promoting why official languages are good for the province … why not promote the positive?- Premier Brian Gallant

Before the May incident, Grant was working seven days on and seven days off at the Centennial Building, for a total of 56 hours every two weeks.

Grant said the government told him back in July he'd get the hours back.
Katherine D'Entremont, the province's Official Languages commissioner, has been under fire for investigating her own complaint against Grant. (CBC)

But the Corps offered him those hours at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital in Fredericton, he said, not at the government office building where he'd been working.

Grant said he turned that down because he wanted to work downtown and because the hospital posting was only for 30 days.

That's where he has been working since the summer, on alternating weekends and on Thursdays. He picks up extra hours when they're available, he said. 

After that Tuesday interview, Grant was told by the Corps he was no longer allowed to speak to the media. 

The Opposition Progressive Conservatives asked about the case Wednesday, when officials from the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure appeared at the Legislature's Public Accounts committee.

But the committee's Liberal majority insisted the officials could only answer questions about the 2012-13 and 2013-14 years being reviewed. 

Positive focus needed: Gallant

Gallant also said Wednesday he feels the language commissioner's office probably has "enough issues, enough things to work on" without initiating its own investigations.

The Official Languages Act, which Gallant's party voted for in its present form in 2013, allows d'Entremont to launch her own investigations.

But Gallant suggested she's busy enough without doing that.

"I think it's important for her to make sure she's looking at, and analyzing, any complaint that comes forward," he said.

"She should also be promoting why official languages are good for the province. Instead of looking for issues across the province, why not promote the positive?" he said.

"That doesn't seem to be too much of a priority for her at the moment."

The Opposition PCs say they will question d'Entremont about the case at a legislative committee hearing on Nov. 12.

But Opposition Leader Bruce Fitch says it's too early to say if the party would introduce a motion to remove her from the job.

By law, that requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature's 49 MLAs. Gallant wouldn't say Wednesday how the Liberals would vote on such a motion.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jacques Poitras

Provincial Affairs reporter

Jacques Poitras has been CBC's provincial affairs reporter in New Brunswick since 2000. He grew up in Moncton and covered Parliament in Ottawa for the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. He has reported on every New Brunswick election since 1995 and won awards from the Radio Television Digital News Association, the National Newspaper Awards and Amnesty International. He is also the author of five non-fiction books about New Brunswick politics and history.

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