'I have a duty': Brian Gallant won't try for People's Alliance deal
Premier says he's 'not going to work with just anybody' to stay in power
It's been one week since the New Brunswick election, and the province still doesn't know what the next government will look like.
But one matter remains pretty clear.
Liberal Premier Brian Gallant, who got fewer seats than the Progressive Conservatives, will not enter into a formal agreement with the People's Alliance, a decision that could throw a wrench into his party winning a confidence vote in the house.
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"I think it is more honourable to say, 'Look I'm not going to work with just anybody to form a government and to stay in power,'" he said.
"I have a duty and a responsibility, in my opinion, to see if I can gain the confidence of the house by also ensuring we're respecting our fundamental values."
Premier Brian Gallant and PC Leader Blaine Higgs have been wrangling over who will govern New Brunswick since the PCs won 22 seats to the Liberals' 21 last Monday in a legislature that requires 25 for a majority.
The People's Alliance and Green Party each won three seats.
Gallant is going after the Green Party for support, and the People's Alliance has said it would support the PCs on a bill-by-bill basis if PC Leader Blaine Higgs is given the chance to govern. Higgs has said he doesn't want to make deals with any party if he eventually becomes premier.
Gallant described Monday's election as a "rude awakening" for the PCs and Liberals, and voters sent a message to government that it has to consider different perspectives and do a better job at listening to the challenges families are facing across the province.
"If winning an election means that you have somebody who is going to form government, no one did," Gallant said during an interview with Information Morning Fredericton.
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"No one was given a mandate to govern the province."
People's Alliance partnership a no go
Despite the message that he thinks voters sent about considering other views, Gallant said he doesn't share "fundamental values" with the People's Alliance so won't enter an agreement to get its support.
During the election, People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin called for a merger of francophone and anglophone health authorities, an end to language duality in school busing, and the elimination of the official languages commissioner.
His party also wants to eliminate bilingual requirements for public service jobs in regions where there's no demand —something Austin said last Wednesday he would not compromise on, citing ambulance wait times in rural areas.
Gallant suggested the Liberals could respond to some of the concerns of Alliance supporters without sacrificing Liberal principles.
"People voted for them because they and their families face challenges," Gallant said. "We should not be distracted by our disagreement on what has caused those challenges.
"We should focus on helping the families that are struggling to get ahead to overcome the very real challenges before them."
By process of elimination, Gallant said, the Liberals are willing to work with the Green Party in a more formal way because the two parties have more in common. Gallant said he feels the Greens feel the same way about Liberals, who can probably come up with a program that is "progressive."
"There are items within our two platforms that match perfectly," he said. "There are items within our two platforms that the principles are the same, but the mechanisms might be different. There are some that are different."
Green Party Leader David Coon has spoken with both Higgs and Gallant to discuss the election results and plans to meet with both party leaders this week.
Meanwhile, the legislature is expected to open on Oct. 23 at the latest, and the Liberals will find out of they have received the confidence of the house.
"If we do, then we will do the best that we can to govern, listening to the people's message on election night that we need to work with other parties and consider different perspectives," he said.
New Brunswick hasn't had a minority government since the 1920s, but Gallant suggested New Brunswickers could take solace in the fact challenging configurations in the legislature have occurred in other parts of the country, and the party with the most seats hasn't always been the one to govern.
After the most recent B.C. election, the Greens took their three seats and sided with the NDP in order to have a one-seat advantage over the Liberals.
"I think I have a responsibility to try and keep a progressive government here in the province, and if that's not the case I will certainly accept that," Gallant said.
With files from Information Morning Fredericton