Green Party granted official party status, Brian Gallant says
David Coon will be the first leader of a third party in the legislature since 2005
Green Party Leader David Coon will receive official party status when the legislature returns, according to premier-designate Brian Gallant.
“Having a third party recognized in the legislature is a great example of New Brunswick’s healthy and vibrant democracy,” Gallant said in a statement.
“David will be a strong voice for his constituents and will contribute greatly to the debate in the people’s house.”
The designation of an official party means Coon will have a role in question period and the legislature's various committees.
The two leaders met on Friday in Fredericton.
The standing rules of the legislature define a recognized party as any "registered party that elects five members or receives 20 per cent of the vote at a general election."
The distinction of official party status must be voted on by the legislature.
Gallant said Coon has the support of the Liberal MLAs when the legislature resumes on this motion.
"All Liberal MLAs will vote ... for this. We think It is important in our democracy to have all voices heard," Gallant said on Friday.
"Mr. Coon ran a good campaign both locally and provincially. He has earned the right to be in the legislature and I think New Brunswickers will want to hear from him and certainly want him to contribute in keeping the government to account."
Coon told reporters the Liberal offer does not come with any strings attached. But he said the two parties have found common ground on some issues surrounding legislative reform.
"My approach will be one that is substantive. We discussed this actually as we met beforehand, the need not only to bring decorum back to the Legislative Assembly, which I think the premier-designate is very focused on as we saw when he was leader of opposition," Coon said.
"But to bring some functionality back to the Legislative Assembly as the legislative arm of government. My expectation is that when serious questions asked that answers are actually given."
When Elizabeth Weir was the sole NDP MLA in the legislature, she would often be given one question and two follow-ups in question period.
Coon said he would like to have two questions, including two follow-ups for each of those questions. However, that time would be subtracted from the overall time allotted to the opposition.
Office budget precedent
The incoming Liberal premier said his party would also support funding for the Green Party consistent with what the New Democratic Party received when Weir was elected.
Weir had two staff members as well as an office budget.
The last two years that Weir sat in the legislature, she received a salary of $11,944 as the leader of the NDP on top of her MLA's salary. By comparison, the leader of the opposition received $36,264.
Weir also received a budget to hire office staff and an allowance of roughly $6,000 for other office needs.
The act governing the legislature also sets out the requirement to provide funding for an office. Weir's office budget grew from $110,000 in 2000-01 to $145,000 in 2005-06.
Under the Legislative Assembly Act, the leader of a registered party is paid a salary of 25 per cent of the salary paid to the premier. That would put Coon's salary at $19,750 above the $85,000 paid to an MLA.
The Legislative Administration Committee will have to ratify funding for the party.
The committee operates on consensus, so Gallant said the amount of money set aside for Coon depends on the Tories.
The NDP leader also had a floor of office space in what is known as the opposition building.
These funds are to help Coon in his function as a MLA and a leader of an official party.
The Green Party will also have access to public financing as a registered political party. Those funds are divided based on the popular vote that a party receives in the provincial election.