New Bruns­wick Lib­er­als have work cut out for them

Three in­ter­est­ing take­aways from New Bruns­wick’s provin­cial elec­tion


Lib­er­als will con­tinue gov­ern­ing – for now

The Lib­er­als will get the first chance to gov­ern a di­vided leg­is­la­ture, but their suc­cess will de­pend on a lot of ne­go­ti­a­tion and com­pro­mise.

Even though Brian Gal­lant’s Lib­er­als ended the night with fewer seats than the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives, po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist Mario Levesque said par­lia­men­tary con­ven­tion states that if the cur­rent govern­ment is re­turned with a mi­nor­ity, it has the right to at­tempt to gov­ern and try and gain the con­fi­dence of the house.

“This is the right de­ci­sion and the right process here,” said Levesque of the Lieu­tenant Gover­nor’s de­ci­sion to grant Gal­lant per­mis­sion to con­tinue run­ning the prov­ince for now.

Levesque, who teaches at Mount Al­li­son Univer­sity, said the Lib­er­als have a chal­lenge ahead to make this ten­able sit­u­a­tion work and will need to be open to lis­ten to other po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

“He’s got some work ahead of him to try and cob­ble to­gether some sup­port.”

Af­ter the polls closed Mon­day, the Tories had won 22 seats, the in­cum­bent Lib­er­als had 21, the Peo­ple’s Al­liance earned three and the Greens tripled their pres­ence with three seats. A to­tal of 25 seats are needed for a ma­jor­ity in the 49-seat house.

Levesque said when the Leg­is­la­ture re­sumes later this fall, Gal­lant will need to some­how garner a few more votes his way. If he forms any type of coali­tion with the Greens or the Peo­ple’s Al­liance, that would still only give him 24 votes; and that’s not fac­tor­ing in that he will have to elect a Speaker.

Levesque said the Lib­er­als could pos­si­bly try en­tic­ing a cou­ple of Con­ser­va­tives to vote their way, par­tic­u­larly if they vote on an is­sue-by-is­sue ba­sis, but “that’s go­ing to be a tough sell for him.”

There is also the pos­si­bil­ity of sway­ing a cou­ple of PC can­di­dates to cross the floor with the prom­ise of prom­i­nent cabi­net po­si­tions. But again, Levesque isn’t sure that’s a likely sce­nario.

“So I see him hav­ing a re­ally hard time.”

Mi­nor­ity govern­ment

not likely to last

If Gal­lant can­not find the con­fi­dence of the house, then it will be Blaine Higgs’ turn.

Rather than call for an elec­tion, it is likely Higgs will be called upon by the Lieu­tenant Gover­nor to try his hand at gov­ern­ing without a ma­jor­ity.

Levesque said he be­lieves Higgs has a “bet­ter op­por­tu­nity” to make things work than the Lib­er­als, as the Con­ser­va­tives might be able to garner to­gether more sup­port from the third par­ties.

But whether that sup­port will be enough to al­low Higgs to gov­ern for any pe­riod of time is the big ques­tion.

“We will see how that plays out,” he said.

There is al­ways the pos­si­bil­ity, al­beit a very un­likely one, that the Con­ser­va­tives and Lib­er­als could form a coali­tion and de­velop an agenda, putting spe­cific is­sues on the ta­ble, which they would agree to fol­low for a set pe­riod of time.

“But do they have it in them?” Levesque said he’s un­cer­tain that could hap­pen, as he be­lieves there’s too much bad blood be­tween the two.

If nei­ther party can gain the con­fi­dence of the house, then it will be off to the races again – and that could hap­pen sooner rather than later.

“Mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ments, his­tor­i­cally, don’t last more than 18 months to two years,” said Levesque. “So I think an­other elec­tion is com­ing whether we like it or not.”

Me­gan Mit­ton will have great learn­ing op­por­tu­nity With Mem­ram­cook- Tantra­mar’s new Green MLA un­seat­ing the Lib­eral can­di­date by such a slim mar­gin on elec­tion night, by a mere 11 votes, a re­count will take place be­fore Me­gan Mit­ton is of­fi­cially de­clared the win­ner.

But Levesque said he would be sur­prised if, with the new elec­tronic tab­u­la­tors now be­ing used in New Bruns­wick, the num­bers change by much, if at all.

“She will get her term on govern­ment,” he said.

The ques­tion will be, how long that term will last?

Many op­tions are open for the Greens in a mi­nor­ity govern­ment sit­u­a­tion, said Levesque, but it will be a chal­lenge to be able to make it all work. He said it will def­i­nitely be a great learn­ing op­por­tu­nity for Mit­ton, who is ven­tur­ing into provin­cial pol­i­tics for the first time.

“I’m just not sure how much will get done.”

Levesque said the Greens may have a chance to work with one of the other ma­jor par­ties and push some of their pri­or­ity poli­cies to the fore­front – par­tic­u­larly as it re­lates to a car­bon re­duc­tion plan and a con­tin­u­a­tion of the frack­ing mora­to­rium.

If the Greens do make a deal with the Lib­er­als or the Con­ser­va­tives, Levesque said Mit­ton will likely have to vote along party lines, bound by any agree­ments made on cer­tain is­sues. He said she may not be able to have as strong an in­flu­ence as she would like be­cause “she’ll be lim­ited based on the sit­u­a­tion she finds her­self in.”

And just how did Mit­ton pull off the up­set in the rid­ing, oust­ing the Lib­eral in­cum­bent who has served two terms as MLA for Mem­ram­cook-lakeville-dieppe and one term for the new Mem­ram­cook- Tantra­mar rid­ing?

Levesque said it was a com­bi­na­tion of things – Mit­ton had a re­ally good cam­paign team be­hind her; she had some ex­po­sure from run­ning in the last provin­cial elec­tion and serv­ing on town coun­cil for the last three years; and there was gen­eral dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the Lib­er­als.

Levesque said this rid­ing, which en­com­passes a large area of both Fran­co­phone and An­glo­phone vot­ers and in­cludes Mount Al­li­son Univer­sity, is much more pro­gres­sive-ori­ented than peo­ple think, so mak­ing the switch to Green was seen as a solid vi­able op­tion by vot­ers.

“If any rid­ing was go­ing to change, it would have been us.”

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