N.B. premier short-circuits election speculation, lists priorities for session
THE CANADIAN PRESS
Published Monday, October 23, 2017 7:56AM ADT
Last Updated Monday, October 23, 2017 8:31PM ADT
FREDERICTON -- New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant has ended speculation about an early election, and is modifying his government's language about whether his mandate has been completed.
After a weekend of uncertainty about the government's plans, Gallant said he intends to bring in legislation this session that includes plans to reduce the small business income tax and establish a model for carbon pricing.
The government had sent out a news release late Friday that said, "in 2014, we were given a mandate to focus on priorities that matter to New Brunswick residents. We have accomplished that mandate ..."
That, along with his announced visit Monday with the lieutenant-governor, caused the political opposition to start mobilizing for a potential election call.
But when the premier spoke to reporters after visiting the lieutenant-governor on Monday he said: "No election."
"Our mandate isn't done. In fact, that's very much why we focused on this session coming up to continue to grow the economy like we've done over the last three years," said Gallant.
He also said the original news release had said a speech from the throne would proceed, adding that should have ended the speculation.
The session begins Tuesday with the speech.
Gallant set that in addition to the tax measures and carbon pricing plan, his government will set appropriate spending and donation limits for municipal elections, and formalize a salary freeze for members of the legislature.
Gallant says the Liberal government will also implement initiatives aimed at preventing intimate partner violence and reform the property tax system.
Opposition parties had held emergency meetings and conference calls to make sure they were ready for an early election in case it comes.
Tory Leader Blaine Higgs says he delivered a letter to Lt.-Gov. Jocelyne Roy-Vienneau in advance of her meeting with Gallant. He says if Gallant had called an election, it would have been in violation of the Legislative Assembly Act.
New Brunswick has legislation prescribing fixed dates for provincial elections, every four years. The next provincial election is scheduled for Sept. 24, 2018.
Although the lieutenant-governor has the discretion to dissolve the House, Higgs says the premier is not to advise her to do so before the fixed date next fall.
"We are doing our duty as Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition to raise concerns every time we see the Gallant government ignore and disrespect the laws of our democracy," he says in a statement. "We shared our concerns and research with Her Honour in advance of the meeting."
Higgs added that the Premier's office has intentionally stoked speculation that an election call was imminent.