New Brunswick Liberal caucus to meet Friday to determine if talks to avert election will continue

The New Brunswick cabinet room on Aug. 12, 2020. Silas Brown / Global News

Negotiations on a deal that would postpone an election to the next fixed election date in October 2020 will continue on Friday morning.

Delegations representing the four parties of the legislature spent 12 hours behind closed doors on Thursday hammering out the structure of what a potential agreement could look like, but whether one can be reached could hinge on a meeting of the Liberal caucus at noon.

Liberal leader Kevin Vickers says he will update his party on where negotiations stand, but admits there are varying comfort levels with the prospect of such an unprecedented accord.

“The caucus agreed that would partake in these discussions. Obviously what is being discussed and proposed — giving a minority government majority powers — obviously there’s concerns and reservations,” Vickers said after the meeting wrapped up.

“We’ve tried to get as many questions answered on behalf of caucus as we could and we’ll inform caucus tomorrow on the responses to those questions and we’ll be deciding on our next steps.”

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Vickers says the main concern is to “ensure that a viable opposition continues” under any potential agreement.

The talks centre around a proposal raised by Premier Blaine Higgs earlier this week that would see opposition parties agree not to topple the minority government until the next fixed election date in two years or until the end of the COVID-19 pandemic in exchange for some policy concessions.

Should no deal be reached, Higgs has said a snap fall election could be imminent.

Higgs says much of the discussions have centred on what such a supply agreement — referring to legislative votes on budgets — would actually look like.

Speaking to reporters after the marathon meeting, Higgs said there are “a lot more discussions to be had” but is remaining mum on whether he plans to stick to his proposed Friday deadline.

“Tomorrow is a big day. The purpose of this three-day window is to be able to make a decision. Could we agree on a path forward to move important items in our province,” Higgs said.

All sides agreed that progress is being made.

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Green Party leader David Coon called the day “fascinating” and remarked that it felt similar to the aftermath of the 2018 provincial election, when both Higgs and then-premier Brian Gallant attempted to gain enough support to hold the confidence of the legislature.

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But with progress on broader structures comes the need to talk about the substance that will make up a deal. People’s Alliance leader Kris Austin says he expects that to come Friday.

“As we get deeper into some of the discussions I’m sure some of the meat and the real crux of it will come forward tomorrow,” he said.

“We didn’t delve into the details of it, but there have been somethings that have been discussed in terms of policies.”

Meetings are scheduled to resume Friday morning at 9 a.m.

Click to play video: 'N.B. premier proposes stability agreement in order to avoid triggering election during coronavirus'
N.B. premier proposes stability agreement in order to avoid triggering election during coronavirus

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