New Brunswick

With survival on line, Liberals add 13 more promises to week-old throne speech

Brian Gallant's minority Liberal government is offering even more promises to opposition parties in the hopes of winning an all-important series of votes Friday that would allow it to stay in power.

Opposition says proposed changes are futile and reek of desperation

The Liberals moved a sub-amendment to their own throne speech on Tuesday. The proposed changes include even more promises to please opposition parties ahead of Friday's vote. (James West/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Brian Gallant's minority Liberal government is offering even more promises to opposition parties in the hopes of winning an all-important series of votes Friday that would allow it to stay in power.

The Liberals surprised the legislature Tuesday afternoon by moving a sub-amendment to their own throne speech motion.

It contains a baker's dozen of proposals, ranging from pay raises for home-support workers, an elimination of the small business tax and an immediate move to fill paramedic vacancies to deal with ambulance delays.

"We're doing it because we know that we have a vote on Friday and it's up to us to ensure that we've done everything we can," House leader Lisa Harris told reporters.

'We know that there's a vote on Friday'

4 years ago
Duration 1:04
Liberal house leader Lisa Harris says sub-amendment to throne speech motion was an opportunity for the Liberals to show third parties they want to work with them.

There's even a commitment to implement a labour arbitrator's recommendations on relaxing bilingual hiring requirements for paramedics — if a scheduled court review early in 2019 determines that wouldn't violate constitutional language rights.

The motion also would commit Premier Brian Gallant "to meet regularly" with other party leaders to consult them on the government's agenda.

"This was an avenue that we had, and we used it," Harris said.

Government House Leader Lisa Harris said it would be a shame if the Liberals didn't do what they could to win over the other parties. (Jacqueline Cormier)

"We are very strongly believing that we have the best path forward, and shame on us if we didn't come out and use every opportunity that we can" to win the support of the other parties.

"It's an opportunity for them to say, 'You know what? The Liberals did listen.'"

Gallant's government has been scrambling to survive since the Sept. 24 election produced a legislature in which no party has a majority. The Liberals won 21 seats, one fewer than the 22 won by the Progressive Conservatives.

The Liberal government has actually lost confidence in their own throne speech.- Blaine Higgs, PC leader

The Greens and the People's Alliance, with three MLAs each, hold the balance of power.

The Liberals have since lost one vote with the election of one of their MLAs, Daniel Guitard, as Speaker.

Gallant's government thought it had done enough to win over the Greens and the Alliance in last week's throne speech, which borrowed extensively from their platforms.

Tuesday's amendment adds more heft to those promises, adding timelines and details.

Critics call it a desperate move

PC Leader Blaine Higgs said if the Liberals had truly consulted other parties ahead of last week's speech, the additional 13 promises wouldn't have been necessary.

PC Leader Blaine Higgs says it appears the Liberals have lost confidence in their own throne speech. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

"The Liberal government has actually lost confidence in their own throne speech," Higgs said. He called the move a desperate attempt to hold on to power.

Bourque's motion is actually a sub-amendment to an amendment moved by Higgs last week that would add a declaration of no confidence in the government to the main motion on the throne speech.

The Bourque motion replaces the Higgs non-confidence line with the two-page list of promises.

Alliance Leader Kris Austin suggested the tactic won't affect how his party votes. He said he and his two colleagues are looking not just at the throne speech but also at the Liberals' record over the past four years.

People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin reads the Liberal sub-amendment to the throne speech. Austin says the Alliance will be voting on the Liberals' four-year record, not just the throne speech. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

"We still think New Brunswickers want a change and at this point we're still leaning that way," he said.

Austin has made ambulance delays his top issue and has called for the immediate cancellation of the province's legal challenge of the arbitrator's decision on bilingual requirements.

He said Tuesday that's still his position and the Bourque amendment doesn't go far enough.

'Do-over'

Green Leader David Coon called the amendment a Liberal "do-over" on the throne speech and joked that the government should have simply appended the entire Green platform to the amendment.

Green Party Leader David Coon says the Liberals throne speech sub-amendment is essentially a 'do-over.' (CBC)

He also called the move desperate but said the wholesale adoption of some Green platform promises into the Liberal agenda "makes it much more interesting than it was before."

Gallant is expected to close the throne speech debate on Friday morning, after which there will be a series of votes on the Bourque sub-amendment, the Higgs amendment and the main Liberal motion.

If the Liberals fail to win those votes, it's expected they'll resign and Lt.-Gov. Jocelyne Roy Vienneau will call on Higgs to form a PC government.

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