New Brunswick·PODCAST

Tory ties to People's Alliance remain a concern for opposition parties

Believe it or not, after six months of governing the Progressive Conservatives think they’re doing just swell and the opposition parties see room for improvement.

New Brunswick Political Panel podcast discusses PC government’s first 6 months

The CBC New Brunswick Political Panel podcast discussed the first six months of the Blaine Higgs government. (CBC)

Listen to the full CBC New Brunswick Political Panel podcast by downloading from the CBC Podcast page or subscribing to the podcast in iTunes.

Believe it or not, after six months of governing, the Progressive Conservatives think they're doing just swell and the opposition parties see room for improvement.

However, a key point of contention among opposition MLAs has to do with one opposition party and how it cozy it is with  the Tories.

The People's Alliance holds three crucial seats in the minority government elected last September. Those votes swing the balance of power, and party leader Kris Austin has said he would support a Blaine Higgs PC government for 18 months.

This scenario concerns some MLAs, who see it effectively giving the Tories a majority.

"As the People's Alliance have become more embedded into the government, the premier has felt confident to run things as if he had a majority," said Green Party Leader David Coon.

Green Party Leader David Coon says People's Alliance support allows Premier Blaine Higgs to act as if he has a majority. (CBC)

He said the de facto coalition means New Brunswickers aren't seeing the collaboration and co-operation expected from a minority government.

Representatives of each party elected to the legislature, except for the People's Alliance, participated in this week's Political Panel Podcast. The panel discussed the good, the bad and the ugly of the government's first six months in office.

Liberal MLA Roger Melanson also raised concerns for the relationship between the Tories and the Alliance.

"It is a Blaine Higgs-Kris Austin government," Melanson said. "They're trying to keep their support in the legislature. They're certainly very closed in terms of how they make decisions and who's consulted."

Liberal MLA Roger Melanson says New Brunswick has a Blaine Higgs-Kris Austin government. (CBC)

The Liberals have criticized the Alliance for bailing out government on some issues. A recent instance occurred in late March, when the three opposition parties failed to pass a motion calling for binding arbitration between the province and the union representing thousands of nursing home workers.

The motion failed to get off the ground because the parties couldn't agree on wording, but the Liberals accused the Alliance of flip-flopping at the last minute to side with the PCs.

Austin balked at the criticism, saying at the time: "The Liberals are going to school me on reversal? Give me a break."

'Taking action'

Education Minister Dominic Cardy, who represented the Tories on the panel, said cabinet ministers had to take time getting up to speed on their portfolios and begin work on specific files.

He said more outreach with other MLAs will come.

Asked about the first six months, Cardy said it's clear the new government is "taking action and getting things done," even while handling "surprises" leftover from the previous Liberal government, such as skyrocketing WorkSafeNB premiums, the Francophonie Games debacle and ambulance service delivery.

He said reforms in education and health care will be rolling out, and the PCs achieved an important campaign platform promise of balancing the budget and improving the province's credit rating situation.

Listen to the full CBC New Brunswick Political Panel hosted by Terry Seguin