A New Brunswick MP says Michael Ferguson — the government's unilingual choice for Canada's next auditor general — should never have been given the two top jobs he previously held in the New Brunswick government.
Ferguson, who worked for 11 years as comptroller general, auditor general and deputy minister of finance in New Brunswick, is Prime Minister Stephen Harper's recommendation to be Canada's next government watchdog.
Despite spending more than a decade working in the country's only bilingual province, Ferguson cannot converse in French.
It's a requirement for the job that the auditor general be fluently bilingual in French and English.
Yvon Godin, the MP for Acadie-Bathurst and the NDP's official languages critic, told CBC News it was a mistake that Ferguson had been allowed to serve as New Brunswick's auditor general and deputy minister of finance.
"It's wrong and they should have never done it," Godin said Tuesday.
"It's not fair, not only to the francophones but it's not fair to the anglophones that did not post on the job."
Ferguson told the Public Accounts Committee on Monday that he did not know the auditor general's job was a bilingual one. He said he never saw the job posting and was instead recruited by a hiring firm.
Ferguson said his reading and listening comprehension is fine, and that he's tested as having an aptitude for languages, but he wasn't able to answer questions at the committee without simultaneous translation.
Michel Carrier, New Brunswick's Commissioner of Official Languages, said officers of the legislature should be bilingual.
"When it comes to these unique positions, we have — in the past — told government they have to be very careful not to send a message with respect to the value of bilingualism by appointing people who are not able to communicate with the public in both official languages," Carrier said Tuesday.
The Public Accounts Committee is questioning Ferguson before his nomination is final, but the government doesn't need approval from MPs to name Ferguson to the position.
Ferguson has committed to improving his French language skills.