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N.B. Liberals lure Green votes, but government still likely to fall Friday

Last Updated Nov 1, 2018 at 1:20 pm PST

New Brunswick Liberal Leader Brian Gallant addresses the media after meeting with Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick Jocelyne Roy-Vienneau, in Fredericton on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. Three Green members of the New Brunswick legislature say they'll vote in favour of the Liberal government's throne speech Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/James West

FREDERICTON – Premier Brian Gallant’s Liberals appear headed for defeat Friday, setting the stage for a Progressive Conservative government to take over in New Brunswick.

Tory Leader Blaine Higgs said Thursday the Liberals had tried to lure some of his members to support the throne speech in Friday’s vote, but they are standing firm and will all vote against it.

“We stand firm, all 22 of us. We are voting against this throne speech tomorrow morning, and there’s no necessity for any further debate,” said Higgs, who is now positioned to become premier.

People’s Alliance Leader Kris Austin — who earlier Thursday would not confirm how his party would vote — said they would vote to defeat the Liberal government.

“We are here to say collectively as a caucus, we will not be supporting this government or its throne speech. We’ve made up our mind,” Austin said.

The Liberals don’t have the numbers to survive the confidence vote.

They won just 21 seats in the September election — one fewer than the Tories — while the Greens and People’s Alliance each won three seats.

All three Green members of the New Brunswick legislature said Thursday they’ll vote in favour of the throne speech, which had offered Gallant a brief but dim glimmer of hope that his minority government could survive at least a bit longer.

Higgs said he is confident the Liberals will be defeated.

“I still remain optimistic, but I’m not here for the goodness of my health … we’ve got to make some decisions that matter,” he said.

If the Liberals lose the confidence vote, it’s expected the lieutenant-governor would ask the Tories to try to form government.

Gallant said Thursday that if he loses the vote, the Liberals will step aside.

“I’ll resign the government. I’ve made it clear that I don’t think New Brunswickers want an election. And frankly if we were to go into an election we would be rebuking the very strong message sent to us on election night. People have sent a minority government to Fredericton for a reason,” he said.

If he loses, Gallant said he would speak to his wife about whether to stay on as opposition leader, or quit.

Gallant will have one last chance to make his case when he closes debate on the throne speech Friday morning, before the vote is held.

Despite the indication of their vote, Green members weren’t giving the Liberal government any glowing endorsements in the legislature Thursday.

Leader David Coon said over the last four years he has lost confidence in the government and its leadership.

“The political meddling in the work of the legislature, the neglect of our health, child protection and senior care systems, and of the poor, the firing of our chief medical officer of health and the dismantling of her office, the handing over of extramural to Medavie, the inaction on renewable energy and climate change, and the degradation of our forests have all left our province worse off,” Coon said.

But he didn’t have a glowing review of the Tories either.

“I have little confidence that they have changed, and recent comments on fracking, language rights, Indigenous people and climate change have only confirmed this to me,” Coon said.

However he said the amended Liberal throne speech, which contains some items from the Green platform, could be advanced for the benefit of their constituents, and all New Brunswickers.

Gallant said he’s hoping opposition members will decide to put politics aside and base their decision on the actual throne speech.

“If they do that, and they base their vote on the contents of the speech from the throne, I feel like we can gain the confidence of the house,” he said.

Gallant said if he continues to govern, then he knows he will have to do better by working more collaboratively with the other parties.