New Brunswick opposition leaders lay out priorities for fall legislature sitting

The New Brunswick Legislature will return Tuesday after a five-month hiatus and opposition leaders are lining up try and force their priorities on the agenda.

It’s been almost exactly a year since Blaine Higgs formed a slim minority government after signing an 18-month confidence agreement with the People’s Alliance of New Brunswick (PANB).

But according to the party’s leader, Kris Austin, support from the party is not a given moving forward.

“Over the last year they have been relatively good to work with,” Austin said of his legislative allies.

“But … going forward, we move out of the discussion and consulting stage and let’s make these things happen.”

The PANB went from zero to three seats in the 2018 election.

It was a result that allowed them to hold the balance of power in a tightly contested legislature. They eventually decided to offer support in confidence matters to the Progressive Conservatives.

Austin stressed that he will continue to honour the agreement, but said he’ll take a “wait and see” approach when evaluating the prospect of another similar confidence agreement.

“What I’m looking for really is some bold moves, some practical things on the ground to help New Brunswickers in everyday life. You know, things like tax reform, health care,” he said.

“We can get frustrated with the lack of movement. It seems to be a very timid approach on a lot of these issues and New Brunswick is at a place where we can’t be timid. We need bold moves … and to say, look, these are big issues that have to be resolved and aren’t going to be resolved if we just tinker around the edges.”

Preparing to return to the legislature as the official Opposition, the Liberal Party is taking aim at the government’s economic record.

The party points to lay-offs at a wallboard plant in St. Stephen earlier this year and the news that the Brunswick Smelter in Belledune will be shut down by the end of the year.

“The reality is, we have a premier that says he is a champion and a good manager and is good with the economy but after only one year we are living in a disaster,” said Liberal caucus chair Jean-Claude D’Amours.

“Businesses are closing, people are losing their jobs, families are questioning what will be their future. So the priority should be specifically on the economy and ensure also that we have a plan for northern and rural New Brunswick.”

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