The New Brunswick election came to a nail-biting conclusion with the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives locked in a dead heat in what appears to the province’s first time with a minority parliament since the 1920s.
While a minority government is projected, it’s still unclear who will form the next government.
Twenty-five seats is the magic number needed to form a majority in the 49-seat house, a number no party is expected to reach.
Voters upended the province’s traditionally two-party system, with the People’s Alliance winning at least three seats and the Greens also winning three.
Here’s what happens next with a minority government
If no party wins a majority of seats in legislature, New Brunswickers will be left with a minority government.
Just before midnight Monday, the PCs were elected or leading in 22 ridings to the Liberals’ 21. The last time a third party held the balance of power in the province was October 1920, when two farmers’ parties combined to win 11 seats.
Premier Brian Gallant remains in his position and will get the first kick at the can to form a new government when he visits Lt.-Gov. Jocelyne Roy-Vienneau.
Donald Wright, a political scientist at the University of New Brunswick, said that even if Gallant finishes with fewer seats than Blaine Higgs’ PCs, the Liberal leader will get a chance to seek the “confidence of the house.”
“Ideologically, it’s going to be a difficult fit between the Liberals and the People’s Alliance,” Wright told Global News. “But, again, you don’t need the most seats; you need to be able to find the confidence of the house.”
WATCH: New Brunswick election results
Liberals could attempt to negotiate on an issue-by-issue basis with opposition parties, including the the People’s Alliance and the Greens, who would hold the balance of power or form a coalition with MLAs from opposing parties.
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“This forces parties to put water in their ideological wine and work with the other parties,” Wright said. “I think that is healthy for democracy.”
Speaking to supporters late Monday night, Gallant said he would meet with the lieutenant-governor on Tuesday in an effort to stay in power while acknowledging that all parties need to work together.
“I know some New Brunswickers may be wondering what is next. This is something that has not been seen in a generation,” Gallant said. “I will tomorrow, meet with the Lieutenant-Governor. I will discuss with her my plans to do everything I can to work collaboratively with the other political parties to ensure that we are able to pass legislation.”
Gallant had previously said during the campaign that he wouldn’t work with the PCs or the People’s Alliance.
If Gallant can’t get the confidence of the legislature, Roy-Vienneau could invite the Tories, led by Higgs, to form government with a coalition of opposition parties.
Higgs claimed victory late Monday night and said that he, too, would be lined up Tuesday to see the lieutenant-governor.
“Tonight, our team has a mandate based on the platform that we offered,” he said. “It’s a mandate to improve access to health care, a mandate to fix our classrooms … and a mandate to get this government working again for the people of this province.”
WATCH: A minority government?
Roy-Vienneau also has the option to dissolve the legislature and call for a new election.
The 2017 provincial election in B.C. ended without a party winning a majority. Christy Clark’s government lost a confidence vote, and the NDP was sworn in as government after reaching an agreement with three Green MLAs.
Party leaders Gallant and Higgs, along with Green Party leader David Coon and People’s Alliance leader Kris Austin, won their respective seats.
Austin, whose party won its first three seats ever, welcomed the prospect of a minority government.
“Minority governments are about compromise. It’s about every party having a seat at the table, giving and taking. That’s the way democracy works, and we are just happy to be a part of it,” he said.
“We knew the people of New Brunswick were fed up with the two parties,” Austin added. “I think this is good for New Brunswick.”
—With files from the Canadian Press