By James Bowden and Lyle Skinner
Table of Contents
“Our caucus met today and agreed that out of respect for New Brunswickers, we must avoid an unnecessary election and not face the house without a candidate for Speaker” – Liberal acting Government House Leader, Lisa Harris
Like a game of chess, have the results of the 2018 New Brunswick elections created a Legislative Assembly that is in a true stalemate that can produce no winner and must be dissolved prompting a new election? Or is the minority Gallant Government in fact in political checkmate, where any maneuver ultimately results in its defeat?
Our analysis shows that Gallant is likely in check rather than a stalemate but that he faces the strong possibility of being put into checkmate. From this, he only has two rational choices with a limited chance of success:
1) Not allowing any Liberal MLAs to become candidates for Speaker. As no other party will put forward a candidate, this will cause the Assembly to go without a Speaker and be unable to conduct any other business. The Assembly would become deadlocked. Historical precedents shows that Gallant will remain Premier, and that the Lieutenant-Governor should allow a reasonable amount of time for the Assembly to attempt to elect a Speaker. This process could allow for a political resolution. In the meantime, within the Assembly, Gallant could continue to negotiate for support from the Alliance and Greens to survive a Throne Speech vote. Outside, Gallant could use the procedural confusion to try and shift public opinion towards supporting his Government.
2) Putting a Liberal MLA forward as Speaker and then presenting a Throne Speech for the purposes of political posturing, daring the other parties to vote against it. As the precedents from Ontario in 1985 and British Columbia in 2017 demonstrate, this option is political suicide for a government wishing to remain in power.
Our article provides an overview of the political circumstances resulting from the recent election. We use constitutional principles, historical precedents, notably deadlocked Assemblies that were unable to put forward a Speaker (Prince Edward Island in 1859 and Newfoundland in 1908-09) to show that only Premier Gallant, and not the Legislative Assembly, can cause an early election by advising Lieutenant-Governor Roy-Vienneau to dissolve the Legislature. However, we will show that under these exceptional circumstances in New Brunswick, the Lieutenant-Governor is not bound to accept the advice from the Premier. Instead, depending on the path that Premier Gallant chooses, he will be forced to resign as Premier, enabling Lieutenant-Governor Roy-Vienneau to appoint Blaine Higgs as the New Brunswick’s 34th Premier since Confederation.