New Brunswick

Negotiations to postpone New Brunswick early election continue

The leaders of New Brunswick's four main political parties were continuing to negotiate into the night Thursday on a proposal to avoid an early provincial election until October 2022.

Outcome will be historic says People’s Alliance leader Kris Austin

Negotiations to postpone the fall election until 2022 are taking place on the sixth floor of Chancery Place in Fredericton. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

New Brunswick Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers says there are "reservations and concerns" within his caucus about the idea of signing a deal with Premier Blaine Higgs to avoid an early provincial election until October 2022.

Vickers said at the end of a second day of negotiations among party leaders that he plans to meet with his caucus at noon on Friday to update them on the talks.

"Until such time as I get direction from my caucus, my intention is to continue to attend these meetings," he said Thursday night. .

The four party leaders and their teams spent about 10 hours meetings on the top floor of the government's Chancery Place building haggling for the second day over how such a deal might work. 

Premier Blaine Higgs speaks to reporters on Day 2 of negotiations to have all four parties agree to postpone an early election call to October 2022. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Higgs said Friday's discussion will determine whether a deal will come together or whether he'll call a snap election.

"Tomorrow's a big day," he said after Thursday's meeting ended past 9 p.m. 

Higgs sent a letter to the three opposition parties Monday asking them to to agree to avoid forcing an early election until the scheduled date in October 2022 or until the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

Higgs has been hinting for weeks that he would trigger a campaign, justifying the threat by saying the province needs stability to manage the pandemic and continue restarting the economy.

The agreement would include a promise by the other parties to not defeat the Progressive Conservative minority government on confidence and supply votes such as the budget and trigger a campaign.

In return, Higgs, whose approval ratings in polls have been at record highs, would also not call an election until 2022.

Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers said there are reservations and concerns among Liberal caucus members, but he will continue to attend the meetings until he updates them Friday. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

The premier said he wants a deal by the scheduled end of the talks on Friday because the coming weeks are the best "window" for an election if one has to happen, with the province in a relative lull with COVID-19 ahead of a possible second wave.

Higgs said the parties talked Thursday about the shape of a confidence and supply agreement that would commit all four caucuses to not vote down a government throne speech or budget, triggering an election. 

"The mood in the room was encouraging because there was a sense of urgency for our province," he said.

People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin hinted at the Liberal caucus concerns when he spoke to reporters late Thursday night, saying he and Green Leader David Coon benefited from having small caucuses they could take with them into the meetings.

Cardy accused the People's Alliance of "twisting in the populist wind," prompting party leader Kris Austin to ask: "What is the point of this political tirade?" (Shane Fowler/CBC News file photo)

The Liberals and PC leaders have to consult MLAs who aren't in the room, he pointed out.

"That's another element of this that maybe we're not seeing right now," he said.

Coon called the marathon negotiations "fascinating" and said he's still optimistic there can be a deal.

"We're still meeting so the possibility is still there," he said. 

Asked whether an election is more or less likely than it had been 24 hours before, Coon said, "that ebbs and flows every hour."

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