On September 24th 2018, New Brunswickers returned a minority government to the Legislative Assembly for the first time in almost 100 years. This historic election resulted in three Green MLAs, three from the People’s Alliance, 21 Liberals, and 22 Progressive Conservatives. Two months later, on November 30th, Blaine Higgs and his caucus won the confidence of the House and formed our new government.
To adopt a new law, pass a motion, or approve the budget, the support of at least 25 MLAs is needed. Bills proposed by the government may be more easily amended or defeated if they are not widely supported by MLAs. At the same time, private member bills, proposed by any of the opposition party members or by a government back-bencher, stand a better chance of passing.
It is particularly important that Premier Higgs secures the full support of his caucus and at least three other MLAs to pass budgets and Speeches from the Throne to avoid throwing the province into another election.
The collaboration required by a minority government provides a real opportunity to make progress on significant issues by finding common ground to address issues that matter to all New Brunswickers.
Minority governments in Canadian history have been responsible for groundbreaking policy decisions. For example, it was Lester B. Pearson’s minority government in the 1960s that established universal health care, government loans for university students, and the Canadian Pension Plan. These initiatives addressed urgent concerns held by Canadians at the time and Pearson’s Liberals found the common ground with the opposition parties needed to put these historic programs in place.
New Brunswickers are facing major issues, including access to health care and home support; lack of treatment for mental illness; homelessness; climate change; loss of wildlife; and waste reduction. These are the sorts of challenges all MLAs can identify as priorities and come together to build solutions.
Now that a government is in place, it’s time to get to work and start addressing these challenges.