New Brunswick

Opposition parties open to giving a Blaine Higgs government a try

MLAs from three parties have signalled they are willing to consider supporting a Progressive Conservative government and won't dismiss a new throne speech without at least listening to it.

MLAs from 3 parties say they believe in co-operation, although they could draw line

MLAs from three parties say they won't dismiss Progressive Conservative Leader Blaine Higgs's plans out of hand when a new throne speech is read. (CBC)

MLAs from three parties have signalled they are willing to consider supporting a Progressive Conservative government and won't dismiss a new throne speech without at least listening to it.

"I am concerned about certain things I'm hearing, but I hope that we can work together to make sure that we do prioritize those things," Megan Mitton, the Green MLA for Tantramar-Memramcook, said Tuesday on Information Morning Moncton.

Members of all four political parties in the legislature appeared on a panel to discuss recent political events in New Brunswick after no party won a majority in the September election.

Premier Brian Gallant and his Liberals have already lost a confidence vote in the House, and Blaine Higgs will now give governing a try. 

But if a PC government is to survive a confidence motion on its upcoming throne speech, it will need the support of at least one other party.

Mitton pointed to the declaration of intent she and the other two Green MLAs signed, promising to work "collaboratively" with all MLAs who were "committed to finding common ground that reflects the foundational principles upon which our society is built."

Michelle Conroy, the People’s Alliance MLA for Miramichi, says she thinks the parties shouldn't have problems working together on common issues. (Radio-Canada)

Michelle Conroy of Miramichi riding, one of three People's Alliance MLAs, also stressed the importance of co-operation.

"I believe that we can have no problem working together on the common issues that we have," she said.

'Not going to close the door'  

Liberal MLA Rob McKee says the party won't preemptively dismiss a PC throne speech, something he says Higgs did to the Liberal speech last month. (Kate Letterick/CBC News )

As for whether the PCs can count on the Liberals, Rob McKee, the Liberal MLA for Moncton Centre, said his party would look at the throne speech and not dismiss it out of hand.

This is a courtesy, he said, that Higgs didn't extend to the Liberals when they presented their vision for the province two weeks ago. 

"We're not going to close the door like we got from Mr. Higgs," McKee said.

"He didn't want to even see our speech from the throne before deciding whether to support it or not."

Higgs told reporters on Oct. 17, six days before Gallant's throne speech was presented, that his party would not support the speech, regardless of what it contained.

"It's not about the throne speech," HIggs said at the time. "This is about the last four years of a government that has failed our province. … It doesn't matter what the throne speech says."

The PCs and the Alliance brought down the government when the throne speech came to a vote last Friday. 

Progressive Conservative MLA Sherry Wilson says Higgs's position on the Liberal throne speech had to do the Liberal record of the past four years, not with the merits of the throne speech. (Natalie Sturgeon/CBC )

On the panel, PC Sherry Wilson, the MLA for Moncton Southwest, echoed her leader's views.

"Mr. Higgs was not against the throne speech as such," she said. "We did not have confidence that Mr. Gallant could manage the government."

Still, Wilson stressed the need for collaboration.

"We're going to have to work together, which we should have been doing all along," Wilson said.

"That way you do come up with the best solutions."

Shale gas development

Higgs is set to reopen the controversial debate over shale gas development in the province. (Stephen Puddicombe/CBC)

While Higgs has signalled his willingness to reopen the debate over shale gas development, the opposition parties had reservations about it.

McKee said he was in favour of retaining the moratorium on shale gas development and expected the party would remain opposed to fracking.

"The Liberal platform was to continue the ban, or moratorium, on fracking," said McKee.

"I would submit that our caucus would continue with that position."

Wilson said new regulations would be put in place and only areas that actively wanted development would have it.

"We want to develop natural gas in the areas people want it," said Wilson.

"Sussex wants it. They need the jobs. We need natural gas."

That assurance didn't assuage Mitton's concerns because, she said, the impact of shale gas development isn't restricted by riding boundaries.

"Watersheds go across borders and so does the air," she said.

Megan Mitton says she has concerns over what impact shale gas development could have on the environment. (Pierre Fournier/CBC News)

"The economic development that has been shown to be associated with fracking is not all what it's cracked up to be."

Conroy didn't dismiss outright the idea of shale gas development but did have concerns about the process.

"We believe economically it will help," said Conroy.

"But it has to be with absolute assurance that there's nothing to harm the environment."

Higgs said he hopes he and his cabinet will be sworn into office on Friday and said a throne speech should be coming later in November.

With files from Information Morning Moncton and Jacques Poitras

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