Can a mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment sur­vive?

As MLAS head back to the Leg­is­la­ture, what will hap­pen as Lib­er­als, PCS wres­tle for power?

Sackville Tribune - - TANTRAMAR - SACKVILLE TRI­BUNE- POST

A lot of ques­tions, a lot of un­knowns and a lot of spec­u­la­tion.

The pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment headed back to the Leg­is­la­ture this week with a mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment that is tee­ter­ing on the edge – and no mat­ter which party tries to take the reins, there is no guar­an­tee of sur­vival for ei­ther one.

When the smoke cleared af­ter elec­tion night Sept. 24, the re­sults were like noth­ing this gen­er­a­tion of New Brunswick­ers had ever seen be­fore. With the province not hav­ing a mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment for nearly a cen­tury, vot­ers weren’t quite sure how it would now play out.

Af­ter the votes were counted, the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives had won 22 of 49 seats, three short of the to­tal needed for them to run a ma­jor­ity gov­ern­ment. Brian Gal­lant’s Lib­er­als had earned 21 seats, while the Greens and the Peo­ple’s Al­liance each swooped in and nabbed three seats.

Since that time, Gal­lant and PC Leader Blaine Higgs have been wran­gling over who will gov­ern the province – Higgs say­ing he won the most seats so he should lead, while Gal­lant, as the in­cum­bent party in a mi­nor­ity sit­u­a­tion, has the le­gal right to try and gain the con­fi­dence of the House be­fore hand­ing over the reins.

De­spite po­lit­i­cal wran­gling over the past few weeks, Gal­lant has not, so far, been able to form any type of for­mal agree­ment with the Greens or the Peo­ple’s Al­liance, so he will face an up­hill bat­tle.

The po­ten­tial for the Lib­er­als to form the next gov­ern­ment – or even that the ses­sion will re­sume as sched­uled – was cast fur­ther into doubt Oct. 18, just days be­fore the leg­is­la­ture was ex­pected to go back on Oct. 23. That’s when all el­i­gi­ble MLAS – those who are not min­is­ters or party lead­ers – from all four par­ties with­drew or said they in­tended to with­draw their names from the bal­lot for the Speaker po­si­tion, leav­ing Gal­lant in an even more pre­car­i­ous po­si­tion.

With­out a Speaker, no gov­ern­ment busi­ness can take place – but nei­ther leader wants to give up an MLA to the Speaker’s Chair be­cause it would fur­ther re­duce their abil­ity to pass leg­is­la­tion. This could re­sult in a dead­lock even be­fore Gal­lant has an op­por­tu­nity to in­tro­duce his Throne Speech or pre­vent the ses­sion from re­sum­ing as ex­pected.

Could this mean an elec­tion? Or will it be an op­por­tu­nity for the Lieu­tenant Gover­nor to put Higgs on the hot seat and see if he can get a Speaker elected and a Throne Speech passed?

Only time will tell – and the an­swers could come much sooner than later.

THE TIME­LINE

Here’s what has hap­pened since Elec­tion Day:

Sept. 24 - Elec­tion night. Af­ter earn­ing 22 seats, Blaine Higgs claimed vic­tory, say­ing his PC team had re­ceived a man­date to gov­ern. Brian Gal­lant did not re­sign, how­ever, in­stead stat­ing his in­tent to re­main in of­fice and try­ing to se­cure sup­port on a voteby-vote ba­sis.

Sept. 25 - Gal­lant re­ceived per­mis­sion from the Lieu­tenant Gover­nor to con­tinue in of­fice and at­tempt to seek the con­fi­dence of the leg­is­la­ture.

Sept. 27 - Higgs met with the Lieu­tenant Gover­nor and was told that if Gal­lant was un­able to se­cure the con­fi­dence of the House, he would be called on to form the next gov­ern­ment.

Oct. 1-5 - Talks be­tween all of the par­ties be­gan over pos­si­ble coali­tions, agree­ments or sup­port. Both Kris Austin of the Peo­ple’s Al­liance and David Coon of the Green Party were non­com­mit­tal in their sup­port for the two main par­ties. Austin stated he might sup­port a Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment for 18 months, though no for­mal agree­ment was made. Gal­lant ruled out any po­ten­tial ar­range­ment with the PCS or PA be­cause they don’t share Lib­eral “val­ues.”

Oct. 5 – Ju­di­cial re­counts con­firmed elec­tion wins in three rid­ings – Oro­mocto- Lin­col­nFred­er­ic­ton, Saint John Har­bour and Mem­ram­cook-tantra­mar.

Oct. 10 – Brian Gal­lant an­nounced he will re­con­vene the leg­is­la­ture on Oct. 23. Green Party leader David Coon an­nounced the Green Party would not for­mally side with ei­ther party and would base votes on its own ‘dec­la­ra­tion of in­tent.’ Coon said Green sup­port for the throne speech would de­pend on its con­tent, and that each of his MLAS would be free to vote their own way on the speech.

Oct. 17 – Higgs said PCS won’t vote for Throne Speech re­gard­less of what’s in it; rules out coali­tion/ agree­ment with Lib­er­als.

Oct. 18 – All el­i­gi­ble MLAS with­drew or said they were with­draw­ing their names from the bal­lot to be­come Speaker.

Oct. 19 – Mla-elects are sworn in. The Lib­er­als an­nounced there will be a can­di­date for Speaker when the leg­is­la­ture sits, but it re­mained un­clear as to who that would be. They also said they would put a Throne Speech for­ward Tues­day.

Oct. 22 – Premier Brian Gal­lant said Tues­day’s Throne Speech will lay out an agenda which is col­lab­o­ra­tive and pulls ideas from all po­lit­i­cal par­ties in or­der to build a com­mon agenda for New Brunswick­ers.

THE PLAY­ERS

Here’s what you should know about each of the par­ties who earned seats on Sept. 24:

Lib­eral Party

Leader: Brian Gal­lant

Be­came party leader in 2012 with­out a seat and was elected to the leg­is­la­ture in 2013 as op­po­si­tion leader, won a ma­jor­ity for the Lib­er­als in Oc­to­ber 2014.

Cam­paigned on: Fair­ness and op­por­tu­nity.

Lib­er­als promised to in­vest fur­ther in in­fra­struc­ture re­newal plan, dou­ble the Youth Em­ploy­ment Fund, raise the min­i­mum wage to $14 and freeze power rates for res­i­den­tial cus­tomers and small busi­nesses. Also pledged to put ma­jor in­vest­ments in N.B. schools, adding 100 more teach­ers to the school sys­tem and bring­ing the trades back; as well as ex­pand free and sub­si­dized child care, elim­i­nate in­ter­est on stu­dent loans, and en­hance the free tu­ition pro­gram. The Lib­eral plat­form also in­cluded the cre­ation of non-ur­gent care clin­ics to re­duce ER wait times and pro­vide more hours of nurs­ing home care. Made mar­i­juana part of the province’s eco­nomic strat­egy.

Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives Leader: Blaine Higgs

Elected to the leg­is­la­ture in 2010, served as fi­nance min­is­ter un­der former premier David Al­ward, be­came party leader in 2016.

Cam­paigned on: It’s Time for Re­sults.

The PCS promised to try and find com­mon-sense ideas that don’t cost much but make a dif­fer­ence – free­ing up teach­ers from over-reg­u­la­tion; build­ing a blue econ­omy from oceans and coast­lines; help­ing fam­i­lies over­come poverty; em­pow­er­ing nurses, phar­ma­cists and paramedics to take the load off crowded ERS and over­worked doc­tors. Higgs said his plat­form would bal­ance the books with­out rais­ing taxes or cost­ing New Brunswick­ers their jobs. Vowed he would take a more hon­est and re­spon­si­ble ap­proach to gov­er­nance, with less di­vi­sive pol­i­tics.

Green Party

Leader: David Coon

Elected as party leader in 2012 and won leg­is­la­ture seat in 2014 – a first for New Brunswick’s Green Party – and was re­elected in 2018.

Cam­paigned on: Our Path­way for Change

The Green Party’s plat­form fo­cused on a vi­sion of New Brunswick where com­mu­ni­ties make im­por­tant de­ci­sions about health ser­vices, ed­u­ca­tion and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment; en­trepreneurs move the province into the low­car­bon econ­omy; wa­ter­ways are pro­tected; bud­gets are sta­ble; poverty, men­tal ill­ness and ad­dic­tions are tack­led; more lo­cal foods and goods are en­cour­aged; en­ergy ef­fi­ciency is pro­moted; and in­dige­nous and lin­guis­tic com­mu­ni­ties are main­tained and re­spected.

Peo­ple’s Al­liance

Leader: Kris Austin

Co-founded the party in 2010 amid anger over the gov­ern­ment’s plan to sell NB Power to Hy­droQue­bec. Nearly won the rid­ing of Fred­er­ic­ton-grand Lake in 2014. One of three Peo­ple’s Al­liance MLAS to be elected on Sept. 24. Cam­paigned on: Be the Change Promised to do away with po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sions that ben­e­fit the few at the ex­pense of the many. In­vest­ing in needed ar­eas while elim­i­nat­ing re­dun­dant and waste­ful spend­ing. Elim­i­nate du­al­ity in gov­ern­ment ser­vices in­clud­ing school buses and health­care. Elim­i­nate the of­fice of the Of­fi­cial Lan­guage Com­mis­sioner. Elim­i­nate bilin­gual re­quire­ments for pub­lic ser­vice jobs in re­gions where there’s no de­mand. Re­duce clear cut­ting of New Brunswick forests. Stop glyphosate spray­ing on crown lands.

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