The New Brunswick legislature opens Tuesday with the election of a Speaker and a throne speech, but the Tories say the Liberals’ days are numbered.
Premier Brian Gallant says his minority Liberal government has listened to the message sent by voters in last month’s election and will present a throne speech that incorporates many of the opposition parties’ campaign pledges.
The Liberals won just 21 seats – one fewer than the Progressive Conservatives, while the Green and People’s Alliance parties each won three. No one has a clear majority in the 49-seat house, and none of the parties were able to negotiate any kind of collaborative government.
Gallant said the speech will talk about raising the minimum wage, advancing pay equity in the private sector, and improving ambulance response.
“Every political party has recognized that we need to act swiftly and aggressively to strengthen ambulance services and address the paramedic shortage here in New Brunswick,” Gallant said Monday.
“By working together there is no doubt we will be able to improve ambulance services for all New Brunswickers, including in rural New Brunswick.”
He also said the government will set the target of returning to balanced budgets in 2020-2021 – a year earlier than it had planned.
Standing in front of the legislature with his 20 members behind him, Gallant said New Brunswickers don’t want another election, so his party will put forward a candidate for Speaker.
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He also said he hopes to get the 25 votes needed to pass the speech.
“We really do hope we are going to see a free vote and enough support that the progressive and collaborative agenda can move forward,” he said.
But Progressive Conservative Leader Blaine Higgs said Gallant is just trying to buy time.
“By any standard, Brian Gallant lost the election and lost the confidence of the people. Now he’s making us go through a long and unnecessary process to force him out, instead of doing the honourable thing and stepping down,” Higgs said Monday.
Higgs said he knows Gallant’s speech will make promises to everyone, but he and the entire Tory caucus will vote against it anyway.
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He said it’s a vote of confidence and he has no confidence in Gallant.
“Brian Gallant knows he does not have the numbers to pass his throne speech. He wasn’t able to bring forward a Speaker from outside his own party. The fact that he is putting up a Liberal MLA for the job speaks volumes. It is clear his government’s days are numbered and it is shameful that he is prolonging this,” Higgs said.
Gallant announced on Twitter that Liberal MLA Daniel Guitard will stand for the position of Speaker. The 59-year-old Guitard represents the Restigouche-Chaleur riding.
Because of debate and other formalities, it’s not expected there could be a vote on the throne speech before Nov. 2.
Higgs said he will try to introduce other confidence motions before that date, but expects the efforts will be ruled out of order.