New Brunswick’s premier says he’s willing to go to the polls over the labour dispute between the province’s 4,100 unionized nursing home workers and the social development department.
Standing his ground during Question Period, Higgs told the house he will not be backed into a corner and won’t hand over a 20 per cent wage hike as it could be precedent setting and bottom line is, the province can’t afford it.
“I won’t go out and just call an election, no, but I want people to understand I am not afraid to win or lose an election, but I will not allow decisions to be made that I know we cannot financially make work,” Higgs told reporters following the daily sitting.
A Liberal motion, voted on and passed Thursday, calls for binding arbitration without conditions between the province and CUPE.
The Higgs government calls it a PR stunt, and Friday took out $16,000 worth of ads in all Brunswick News papers highlighting the the financial implications of approving the percent pay increase.
According to Higgs, such an increase would have an impact of $28 million on the public purse.
The Opposition party says New Brunswickers don’t want to be forced to the polls, but emphasized that a new collective agreement must be reached.
“I’m not going to force and election. I’m not, but if he decides and if you are asking me if I am ready, I am,” explains Denis Landry, the Liberal party’s interim Leader.
The Green Party is encouraging the government to sit down with union workers and hammer out a deal that works for both sides.
“He has no idea what binding arbitration would be he’s just making that up it’s fear mongering really,” explained David Coon
The chance of an election being called is quite slim as the People’s Alliance has agreed that in the minority situation, they will support the government for at least 18 months.
“We have done everything possible to work with the government to work across party lines to make this work, if an election is called, it will not be our doing,” explains Leader Kris Austin.
Higgs has made it clear that he will not be backed into a corner even if it costs him his job.
“It signals that financial restraint is very important and that it begins with collective agreements that have realistic affordable provisions contained in them,” says STU political scientist Tom Bateman.
“So this looks like it’s the hill in which he’s willing to die, and whether he does die if there’s an election remains to be seen.”
According to latest polling, the PCs are in the lead gaining more than 10 points since November.