New Brunswick

Liberal MLA Daniel Guitard acclaimed as Speaker as legislature opens

The first session of the 59th New Brunswick Legislature opened Tuesday with the election of Liberal MLA Daniel Guitard as Speaker.

Throne speech to be delivered at 2 p.m.

The Liberals selected Restigouche-Chaleur MLA Daniel Guitard to stand for Speaker on Monday afternoon, and with no other candidates by the 5 p.m. deadline, he was acclaimed Tuesday morning when the legislature opened. (Government of New Brunswick)

The first session of the 59th New Brunswick Legislature opened Tuesday with the election of Liberal MLA Daniel Guitard as Speaker.

Guitard, a second-term MLA for Restigouche-Chaleur and a former mayor of Pointe-Verte, was acclaimed after Premier Brian Gallant's minority Liberal government reluctantly decided Monday to offer up one of its members for the position.

"It would have been a lot more fun [in] a majority government, but I mean, it is what it is," Guitard told reporters after the morning session.

"The population of New Brunswick has asked us to work together," he said, referring to last month's provincial election when the Liberals won 21 seats, compared to 22 for Blaine Higgs's Progressive Conservatives.

"I'll try to do my best to make it work in the house."

The legislature is the first without a majority since 1920.

None of the parties wanted to give up a voting MLA in a house where no party has a majority.

Official Opposition Leader Blaine Higgs and Premier Brian Gallant dragged Guitard to the Speaker's chair in jest to applause. (Government of New Brunswick)

Guitard said he faces a "very steep learning curve" and is a bit nervous. 

"But I suppose I'll survive."

Sticking with a tradition that originates with the United Kingdom Parliament, the premier and leader of the Official Opposition dragged Guitard to the Speaker's chair as he feigned reluctance.

During a short speech, Guitard said the legislature has to function, "no matter our differences, interests or opinions."

"As your Speaker, I will require your respect for all the rules of this house. Again, I will insist on proper decorum, dignity and respect in this chamber. The office of the Speaker demands fairness and firmness."

Speaker Daniel Guitard told reporters he'll still serve his constituents in Restigouche-Chaleur with the assistance of his competent staff. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

The Liberals are expected to deliver a "collaborative" throne speech at 2 p.m., but the MLAs won't vote on whether to support it until Nov. 2.

Guitard told reporters he knows whether he'll resign if the Liberals lose a confidence vote, and a PC government eventually takes office, but he declined to divulge that information.

"I have the answer but I won't give it now," he said. "It wouldn't be fair."

If he did resign when a PC government was sworn in, it would reduce the PC vote advantage in the house.

The Greens and the People's Alliance have three seats each in the 49-member legislature.

With files from Jacques Poitras