N.B. Liberals say Speaker deadlock will be broken so legislature can open
New Brunswick Progressive Conservative Leader and premier-elect Blaine Higgs and Liberal Leader Brian Gallant are shown in this composite photo. (The Canadian Press)
By Kevin Bissett, THE CANADIAN PRESS
Published Friday, October 19, 2018 4:02PM ADT
Last Updated Friday, October 19, 2018 4:34PM ADT
FREDERICTON -- The New Brunswick Liberals say there will be a candidate for Speaker when the legislature sits on Tuesday, an apparent break in the deadlock that makes it no clearer whether Premier Brian Gallant can cling to power.
Acting Liberal house leader Lisa Harris made the announcement at a hastily called news conference Friday afternoon.
"I am here to advise you that our caucus met today and agreed that out of respect for New Brunswickers we must avoid an unnecessary election and not face the house without a candidate for Speaker," Harris said.
"We also unanimously agreed to recommend to our leader that we meet the house on Tuesday, elect a Speaker, and present a progressive throne speech."
Harris did not say if the candidate for Speaker would come from Liberal ranks or if an opposition member would agree to do it. She refused to answer any questions.
A name for Speaker must be given to the clerk of the legislature by 5 p.m. Monday.
On Thursday, every opposition member and Liberal backbencher took their names off the list of Speaker candidates.
Until now, no one has been willing to take the job because of the tight numbers in the legislature.
The governing Liberals won 21 seats in last month's election -- one less than the Progressive Conservatives -- while the Greens and People's Alliance each won three.
The Tories have already said they'll vote against the throne speech, but Harris said it could still be passed.
"Our caucus believes that we can earn 25 or more votes for this agenda. Our caucus will meet again on Monday to consider our next steps," she said.
If the Liberals were defeated on a confidence vote, the Tories would be given a chance to form government.
Donald Wright, a political scientist at the University of New Brunswick, said Friday it's hard to know what the Liberal strategy might be.
"I think the Liberals are desperately trying to hold onto power, but they are running out of options at this point," Wright said.
"It would appear they are delaying the inevitable on the surface, unless they have some magic wand up their sleeve and some rabbit to pull out of a hat," he said.
Despite negotiations, the Liberals were unable to get any coalition deal with the Green party, and Gallant said he wouldn't make a deal with the right-of-centre People's Alliance.
The People's Alliance have already said they would provide stability to a Tory government for up to 18 months.