For New Brunswickers, 2018 will go down in history as the year they voted for change, electing a minority government while seeing a surge in third-party seats.
“There’s just more legislators to hold the government to account because they’re emboldened by the fact that they’re in smaller parties and they’re not really operating in the traditional sense of a big caucus,” said J.P. Lewis, a political scientist with the University of New Brunswick in Saint John.
The northern and southern parts of the province remained divided as the governing Liberals lost the confidence of the house and the Progressive Conservatives secured it with the help of the People’s Alliance.
“I really believe we’re going to have the best government this province has seen in decades with this minority situation and I think 2019 is going to be a great year,” said Kris Austin, leader of the province’s People’s Alliance party.
Through a handful of cabinet meetings and four days of sitting in the legislature, the Tories have passed a law aimed at addressing WorksafeNB costs and the paramedic crisis. They’ve also reopened debate on the fracking moratorium.
“Not everything in this job is favourable. Maybe that’s not a surprise — I knew that would be the case — but it is a case that on the bigger picture, getting things right on a go-forward basis, because there’s so many things we can do better,” adds Premier Blaine Higgs.
The province’s finance minister submitted a capital plan last week that saw many projects shelved and also stirred up controversy with the former government as well as federal MPs.
“I think what will demonstrate whether they really are going to use the legislature for what it can be — a great place to debate, discuss and decide how we move forward as a province — will be seen when we come back here in the spring,” says Brian Gallant, former premier and current leader of the opposition Liberal party.
The Greens say they’re looking forward to working on hot-button issues such as health care, economy and the environment in the new year.
“After this break, I think people will come back fresh and ready to do that kind of work,” added David Coon, leader of the province’s Green Party.
Next on the agenda is bringing the province out of the red and into the black while ensuring its credit rating doesn’t drop.
Higgs is set to table his first budget in March.
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