New Brunswick

Tories and Liberals introduce duelling motions on gas prices, then block both

The Progressive Conservative government and the Liberal Opposition were both trying again to one-up each other Thursday on gas prices, by introducing competing motions that the other party promptly blocked from being debated.

Neither motion in N.B. Legislature received unanimous consent to allow debate

N.B. Tories and Liberals tried to introduce competing motions on potential gas price solutions. But neither received unanimous consent to allow a debate. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

The Progressive Conservative government and the Liberal Opposition were both trying again to one-up each other Thursday on gas prices, by introducing competing motions in the New Brunswick Legislature that the other party promptly blocked from being debated.

Both motions were not binding and would not do anything about the price of gas, which hit $2.12 for a litre of regular on Thursday morning.

Even so, the Liberals prevented the PC motion, focusing on the federal carbon tax, from reaching the floor of the legislature.

The PCs in turn prevented the Liberal motion aimed at the provincial gas tax from being put on the agenda.

Green Party MLA Kevin Arseneau said the government can provide relief for consumers without debate in the legislature. (Jacques Poitras/CBC News)

Green Party MLA Kevin Arseneau said he was "very discouraged by the mediocrity we're seeing in the house right now."

Arseneau pointed out that relief for consumers doesn't require a vote.

"Debate is always good," he said. "Debate should happen. But we've been wasting time for a week, listening to one side against  the other." 

The political gamesmanship comes just a month ahead of two scheduled by-elections in the Miramichi area, where the PCs and Liberals are each defending one seat and hoping to gain a second.

The PC motion introduced by MLA Jeff Carr would call on the house to "urge the federal government for permission to eliminate the federal carbon tax of 11 cents per litre … to provide immediate relief at the pump."

The Liberal motion would have MLAs "urge the [Higgs] government to eliminate the 10.87 cents per litre of provincial tax on gasoline for a period of four months."

The Liberal motion was to 'urge' the province to reduce provincial gas taxes. (CBC News)

Under house procedural rules, motions require 48 hours notice before they can be debated. 

With the house not sitting next week, that means neither motion could be debated until June unless MLAs agreed unanimously to scrap the notice period. In both cases, some MLAs refused the request for unanimous consent.

Melanson says the Liberal motion was the better one to debate because Higgs has already asked the federal government to suspend the carbon-tax requirement it imposes on provinces and it has refused. 

"We want to see actions, decisions by government, immediately have a positive impact on the price at the pump," he said.

"It's not about delay tactics and asking other levels of government to decide on something we know is not going to happen."

Premier Blaine Higgs government's motion was to 'urge' Ottawa to eliminate the carbon tax. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

Higgs pointed out that he first suggested on Tuesday that the legislature adopt a unanimous resolution on gas prices and said the Liberal motion "was only a counter, to neutralize ours."

The premier said the PC motion was "to raise the bar on the conversation and take it to a national level" by forcing an examination of federal environmental policies that he partly blames for rising gas prices. 

"The only thing that's going to fix this is a national policy that recognizes that there is a world energy shortage that was coming our way because of federal policy but is now here quicker" because of the war in Ukraine, he said. "So let's have that discussion." 

However the PC motion does not mention the global energy situation or the war and simply calls for a suspension of the carbon tax.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jacques Poitras

Provincial Affairs reporter

Jacques Poitras has been CBC's provincial affairs reporter in New Brunswick since 2000. He grew up in Moncton and covered Parliament in Ottawa for the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. He has reported on every New Brunswick election since 1995 and won awards from the Radio Television Digital News Association, the National Newspaper Awards and Amnesty International. He is also the author of five non-fiction books about New Brunswick politics and history.

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