Paul D'Astous becomes acting chief of staff to Blaine Higgs
Paul D'Astous, Principal Secretary to the Premier of New Brunswick, on August 8, 2020 in Quispamsis. (File photo)
Radio-Canada has learned that the Premier of New Brunswick is appointing Paul D'Astous, one of his most loyal allies, to the position of interim chief of staff to replace Louis Léger. The Progressive Conservative leader made the announcement to his cabinet member on Thursday morning.
Paul D'Astous replaces Louis Léger who submitted his resignation to the Premier of New Brunswick on Sunday.
Paul D'Astous is a veteran of provincial politics, former director general of the Progressive Conservative Party. He is one of Blaine Higgs' early supporters.
Paul D'Astous, Principal Secretary to the Premier Blaine Higgs.
In 2018, he participated, with Louis Léger, in the transition team when Brian Gallant's Liberals lost the confidence of the Legislative Assembly. He was promoted to Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister on November 9, 2018, a position he retained until his appointment as Chief of Staff on Thursday.
On a personal level, my wife worked [for Blaine Higgs] as an assistant when he was finance minister in 2010. So we've been together since those years, we stayed in the same borough, we made friends. and they remained very strong, even today we are still close, said Paul D'Astous in an interview with Radio-Canada on Wednesday.
In a written statement, the first Minister Blaine Higgs says that in addition to this new role, Paul D'Astous will continue to be his principal secretary. As you know, he brings years of political and business experience to the table, which will serve our province well, he wrote.
Paul D'Astous is part of the short list of Francophones in the inner circle of the unilingual Anglophone Prime Minister. The new acting chief of staff says the position should be filled permanently within seven to eight weeks. He is not worried about a loss of influence of Francophones in the Prime Minister's Office.
I believe that at the end of the day, we will have in the Prime Minister's office a very good representation of francophones and Acadians from New Brunswick who will participate in the development of all bills that affect near or far and there is no question that the Prime Minister is aware of this, he said.
< p>“There is no indication that we will be less well represented in the Prime Minister's Office.
Paul D'Astous discusses several projects in the works for the third year of the Higgs government.
Several agri-food projects, we will release the new law on the preservation of forests with a much higher percentage. We also have construction sites that are being completed, you will see in the spring there is still a large part of Route 11 [to be completed], construction of nursing homes. And for us, the regions of New Brunswick must be able to move forward, whether in the South or in the North, says Paul D'Astous.
The new chief of staff thinks Blaine Higgs needs to send a clear message to his troops about his political future. He is not convinced, however, that he will make it during the address on the State of the province which is to be held on February 9 in Saint-Jean.
In February or around there, the Prime Minister must nevertheless let it be known – and here I am putting on my political hat – […] to the troops of the political formation that he represents his intentions. I believe that the Prime Minister will certainly use a more party-oriented forum to make this announcement, and […] that the Prime Minister is very aware of the issues that follow when you [make] a decision. I think it will be sooner rather than later, and he will decide what decision he will make, says Paul D'Astous.
Blaine Higgs has already hinted that he would take stock of his future at the start of the year before qualifying his remarks.
Blaine Higgs, Premier of New Brunswick, grants a year-end interview at Radio-Canada Acadie, December 21, 2022 in Fredericton.
Accustomed to election campaigns – he had been one of the organizers of Blaine Higgs' election campaign in 2020 – Paul D'Astous estimates that it will take at least a year for a new leader to become known to the population, in the the eventuality of the departure of the Prime Minister.
He remembers when Blaine Higgs was elected leader of the Progressive Conservatives in October 2016.
That gave him about twenty months as a leader before going to the polls. On the other hand, in Nova Scotia, Stephen McNeil had decided to bow out in the spring, they had an election in the fall and Mr. Houston who was trailing won the election. If you ask me as a political organizer if I have more time than less, it sure gives us more room [to] breathe.
A topic that the two men have never approached together.
I believe that the party is in good financial shape, the province too. I think that there are big issues that are addressed by the Prime Minister that will ensure, like other Prime Ministers before him, [d']attenuate a little political capital. At the end of the day, people will have to decide if the work Mr. Higgs has done is worth getting re-elected or not, and he will have to decide if he wants to move on to another campaign.
The general election will be held in September 2024 in New Brunswick.