Politicians are discussing whether to offer French translation of legislature debates after an incident where one MLA told another to speak English.
Acadian Affairs Minister Graham Steele was asked on Tuesday a question by Wayne Gaudet, Liberal MLA for the Acadian region of Clare, about a French issue.
Steele answered in French.
Afterwards, Tory interim leader Karen Casey rose to ask a question but first told Steele to speak “in English so we can both understand.”
French media picked up the story and in an interview with Radio Canada Tuesday afternoon, Casey said members should repeat anything they say in French in English as well so everyone can understand. Of the 52 MLAs, less than 10 are fluent in French.
Casey retracted her comments yesterday, saying she didn’t mean any harm to French Nova Scotians. The Conservatives also joined with the Liberals in calling for a look into French translation services in the legislature.
Steele, also finance minister, initially said that would be too expensive but then said it’s worth investigating to find out the full cost.
“The question has come up before even in my nine years in the house, and it has always been rejected on the basis of cost,” he said, noting the funding would need to come from elsewhere in the legislature budget.
“If members are willing to entertain the cost of cuts elsewhere in order to fund simultaneous translation, that’s certainly something that would be a good conversation to have.”
Liberal MLA Michel Samson, an Acadian himself, said the province could likely get funding through federal language programs. He noted simultaneous French translation was done a few years ago so people could follow debate on a French services law.
“It’s been done before, the province didn’t come to a halt because of it. So it can be done again,” said Samson.