N.B. premier quips there could be 'first election call on Christmas Day'
FREDERICTON -- Premier Blaine Higgs revealed Friday that the vote on a nursing home workers bill will be a confidence test.
There's a lot riding on the actions of 47 MLAs next week, but the Premier was still able to crack a joke about it.
"Could be the first election called on Christmas Day, couldn't it?" Higgs said.
Higgs says he doesn't want an election, and if he has the support of the three People's Alliance of New Brunswick (PANB) MLAs members, he won't need to call one.
Thursday, People's Alliance leader Kris Austin said if the government wants his support, he wants changes in the way paramedics are classified.
"We need to get this done," Austin said Thursday.
But on Friday, Austin says he's working with at least one other party to amend the bill.
"I've said from the start, minority governments are about give and take, it's about finding that common ground as much as we possibly can to move New Brunswick forward and I think at the end of next week, things will work out," Austin said.
In the middle of it all is the bill itself.
The Higgs government has been told by New Brunswick's top court to make changes to its Essential Services Act by Jan. 3.
Those changes would allow for a process to determine how many nursing home workers could legally strike.
If the bill doesn't pass -- all workers could strike.
But the government has also added a condition that the province's ability to pay would have to be taken into account during binding arbitration.
"It is a direct attack on CUPE and union affiliation," said Sharon Teare, the New Brunswick Council of Nursing Home Unions.
The union representing both nursing home workers and paramedics spoke out against the bill and the quid pro quo involving paramedics.
"This government needs to realize that all public servants in the province of New Brunswick are equal to the core," said Norma Robinson of the New Brunswick Council of Hospital Unions.
The Liberals and Green Party say they won't support the bill as long as there are conditions on binding arbitration.
But if the Conservatives and People's Alliance vote yes, it's just enough to get the bill passed and avoid both a nursing home strike and an election.
There are a lot of unknowns at this point. Early next week, the Conservatives, the Liberals and maybe even the Green Party are expected to propose some amendments to this bill.
By late next week, possibly, there could be a vote on the bill.
If it doesn't pass, it means the Conservatives will have lost the confidence of the house and New Brunswickers will be heading to the polls in the winter.