The leader of New Brunswick’s Green Party says he has concerns around Premier Blaine Higgs’ proposal to try avoiding an election for up to two years.
On Monday, Higgs wrote to the four party leaders seeking a formal agreement to “not trigger an election before the fixed election date in 2022 or no earlier than thirty days following the declared end of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, whichever comes first,” the letter read.
Any agreement would build on a supply and spending agreement to avoid instability and a formalization of the COVID-19 Cabinet Committee to ensure the parties work together to confront the coronavirus pandemic.
It would also include a mutually agreed-upon legislative agenda, including proposals from each participating party, Higgs said in the letter.
Green Party’s David Coon says the premier’s proposal is an “overreach” and says he has a much simpler solution.
“The goal here is to make the minority government work effectively and make sure it maintains the confidence of the house,” Coon told Global News.
“What would be the normal approach would be to meaningfully consult on the development throne speech for what priorities should be set out for the coming year, then meaningfully consult on the development of the provincial budget so that they’re written in a way that would ensure that they receive the confidence of the house,” he says.
Coon says he agrees that collaboration must be “amped up” but believes Higgs’ proposal would remove the opposition parties’ ability to hold the government accountable.
“In its present form, the way it was written in a letter to Mr. Vickers it really does ask the opposition parties to abdicate their role and MLAs to abandon their responsibility to represent their constituents in the Legislative Assembly,” he says.
“It’s wholly unnecessary to do that, and dangerous to do that, when there are certainly so many other ways of collaborating and cooperating,” Coon says.
Higgs told reporters on Tuesday he was disappointed to hear Coon rule out signing onto an agreement before talks had even begun.
“Well certainly the goal is we would have agreement in the house and we have four parties in the house,” Higgs said. “I’m going into this with idea that we can develop a path forward, that the province will be the winner, but I’m also going in with the idea that possibility exists that that may not happen.”
People’s Alliance leader Kris Austin said in a statement on Monday:
“I’m also optimistic a mutually agreed upon declaration can be made, but in the unfortunate event one cannot be reached, I still believe it is important to respect the decision of voters and allow the democratically elected legislature to continue to operate within its four year mandate.”
Liberal leader Kevin Vickers told reporters on Tuesday he is also going into talks hoping a compromise can be reached.
“I have indicated that we will keep an open mind and participate in these preliminary discussions in good faith,” Vickers said.