New Brunswick Progressive Conservative Leader Blaine Higgs isn’t saying whether he will give a cabinet position to a right-wing populist who is poised to play provincial kingmaker as the PCs fight for a chance at forming a government.
But he says the days are numbered for Premier Brian Gallant.
“He’s outnumbered. He doesn’t have the numbers,” Higgs told the West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson.
“All that’s happening here is through Brian Gallant’s actions, we’re delaying democracy. We are delaying a government to get focused on working on real issues in this province and it’s unfortunate for someone to be clinging that hard for power.”
WATCH BELOW: What should New Brunswick do following election confusion?
The provincial election held Sept. 24 resulted in the incumbent Liberals winning 21 of the 49 available seats.
The Progressive Conservatives won 22 seats.
With neither main party winning a majority of available seats in the legislature, they must look to form alliances in order to pass legislation with either or both of the other two parties that also won seats: the populist People’s Alliance, which won three seats, and the Greens, which won three seats.
Also at issue is the fact the party forming government would need to elect a speaker, who does not vote unless in the event of a tie.
Incumbent Premier Brian Gallant has the first shot at trying to form a government based on longstanding precedent.
To do that, he indicated on Friday he plans to meet with the provincial Green Party on Tuesday.
Higgs, on the other hand, has the support of Kris Austin, leader of the People’s Alliance.
WATCH BELOW: Kris Austin remains open to making a minority work
However, Austin opposes the dual service systems in place to protect the province’s francophone population, something that makes him an untenable political partner for the Liberals, who won many of the seats in French-speaking regions of the province.
The election has reopened the language divide between English and French-speaking residents of the province, which is the only one with official bilingual status.
The prospect of relying on support from the People’s Alliance to pass legislation also raises the question of what that party will demand in return.
Austin has said he is willing to support the PCs as a government for at least 18 months and vote case-by-case on the bills it puts forward.
When asked whether he would give Austin a seat in cabinet in exchange, Higgs said that hasn’t come up yet.
“We aren’t discussing cabinet position and I’m not going to speculate on any such things,” he said.
Gallant has committed to recalling the legislature by Oct. 23, at which point it will be clear whether he can form and hold a minority government.