New Brunswick opposition meets with premier to discuss election proposal
FREDERICTON -- The leaders of New Brunswick’s opposition parties met with Premier Blaine Higgs on Wednesday to discuss his proposal to avert a provincial election.
Higgs wants a guarantee that they won’t defeat his government, in exchange for his promise not to call an election for two years.
Shortly after 3 p.m.Wednesday, the premier and all three opposition leaders filed into the cabinet room on the sixth floor of Fredericton’s Chancery Place, where they were physically distanced and separated by plexiglass dividers.
The meeting adjourned shortly after 6 p.m., with all four party leaders declining to give too many details on their way out, but indicating discussions were progressing well.
"I have options obviously that probably someone in my position would have taken weeks ago," said Higgs on his way out of the meeting, adding that New Brunswickers deserve a government that would look at all options.
Higgs said he was pleased everyone showed up to the meeting, and that he is prepared to negotiate all day Thursday.
"I have to make a decision. What happens this week is going to be a major component of that decision-making process. There is a way to really change the game of politics in our province," added Higgs.
Higgs also said he has confirmation from public health that an election can be done safely, but if the parties are able to work together to avoid one "it will far outweigh what could be achieved in an election."
People’s Alliance Party Leader Kris Austin said he expected negotiations could continue all day Thursday, as there is still a lot of work left to do.
“I think this is unprecedented,” Austin said after the meeting adjourned after 6 p.m. “I think it should give all New Brunswickers some hope.”
“We’re in negotiations essentially,” said Green Party Leader David Coon following the meeting. “I thought the conversation was very positive. No one wants an election, and everyone wants to see better collaboration.”
Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers said the discussions were at a very high level, and confirmed that they received a presentation of the province’s finances.
However, Vickers said that he had issues that weren’t discussed Wednesday.
Prior to the meeting, Vickers said that he felt the timeline of negotiating over the next three days was far too short to come up with a plan that would avoid an election and help the province recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vickers suggested the talks should continue until Sept. 15, and proposed not triggering an election until March 31, 2021, over a year before Higgs’ proposed date of 2022.
Prior to the meeting, Coon also indicated that he wanted a more modest agreement that would see ongoing collaborating rather than signing a blank cheque.
Talks are expected to continue Thursday, beginning at 9 a.m.