After an initial three-hour meeting, talks on an agreement to delay a potential fall election will continue on Thursday morning.
All four party leaders left the meeting with an air of positivity, but talks over what the agreement will look like or what concessions the government might be willing to make have yet to happen.
“Today we spent several hours just going over the parameters of the meetings, what it’s going to look like, kind of foreshadowing what some of the discussions will be, but we didn’t get too deep into any policy discussions at this point,” said People’s Alliance leader Kris Austin.
“It was good because it just laid the groundwork … at least we know what to expect in terms of the process over the next several days.”
The meeting between all four of the legislature’s party leaders comes after Premier Blaine Higgs pitched an unusual proposal that would ensure the government survives until the next fixed election date in October of 2022 or until the pandemic runs its course.
Higgs has suggested some sort of spending and supply agreement that would involve all parties in the creation of the legislative agenda.
“I feel like everyone is, at this point, very interested in trying to reach an agreement. Nobody wants an election and everyone wants to see better collaboration,” said Green Party leader David Coon.
Coon had raised concerns over the proposal, saying he wouldn’t write the premier a “blank cheque” or abdicate his responsibility as an opposition MLA to hold the government to account. As a counter-proposal he suggested a shorter term for an agreement.
Liberal leader Kevin Vickers also went into discussions saying he would need to see the government make policy concessions in order to sign onto a deal, but discussions during the first meeting didn’t make it that far.
“As I said, this was just a very preliminary discussion, just generally very high level presentations and the issues that I had really were not discussed during the meeting at this time,” said Vickers.
Vickers has raised concerns over the tight timeline for reaching a deal, accusing Higgs of “negotiating in bad faith.” The premier had floated a deadline of Friday, at which point if a deal isn’t reached, he’ll strongly consider sending the province to the polls.
After the meeting, Higgs hinted that there could be some flexibility where deadlines are concerned, but only to a point.
“I have to feel that there’s progress here, that there’s a willingness to not just delay process,” he said. “If I have that comfort, then we can look at that. But if we don’t, I’m looking at a window here that we’d say, well if we;re going to have an election we’re not going to keep talking about this for the next month or two weeks or three weeks.
“So Friday I’ll be in a better position to think about where we were, what we accomplished this week and what the mood and the interest is in really striking a groundbreaking accord.”