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Editorial: A hunger for change

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil sits with the other Atlantic premiers at a news conference on Dec. 11, 2017. Seated at the table are New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant, left, McNeil, P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLaughlan and Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball.  - Eric Wynne / Herald File
(From left) New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil, P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLaughlan and Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball, Dec. 11, 2017. — SaltWater Network file photo

As New Brunswick politicians scramble to make sense of Monday’s election results and try to break a looming legislative deadlock, other Atlantic provinces are watching with heightened interest — trying to assess what it might mean for them.

The rising power of third parties can no longer be viewed as a temporary phenomenon. It’s the new reality.

Political manoeuvring was in high gear Thursday in Fredericton as Progressive Conservative Leader Blaine Higgs visited the lieutenant-governor to discuss his options. He feels he won the election with 22 seats, one more than Premier Brian Gallant’s Liberals.

Higgs is demanding that Gallant either recall the legislature immediately or resign. Gallant visited Lt.-Gov. Jocelyne Roy-Vienneau Tuesday and received her support to remain as premier until he meets the legislature and wins the confidence of the House. It’s how the Westminster system of parliamentary government works, with the balance of power in N.B. resting with the surging Green and People’s Alliance parties — each with three seats.

The rising power of third parties can no longer be viewed as a temporary phenomenon. It’s the new reality.

Higgs believes any delay is simply prolonging the inevitable. He’s likely correct. Gallant’s Liberals need Green coalition help to stay in power in the 49-seat legislature. The math is obvious. Higgs would be wise to seek support from the People’s Alliance and bring down the government at the earliest opportunity.

Third parties are flexing their balance-of-power muscles in N.B. Maybe that’s why all four Atlantic Liberal premiers met in Moncton last Sunday as a sign of solidarity. They pushed the message that joint co-operation has resulted in significant benefits for the region. And that it would make sense for N.B. voters to support Gallant.

The meeting — a day before Monday’s vote — suggested the premiers knew Gallant was in trouble, and they were trying to prevent any cracks in the united Atlantic Liberal front. It might be Gallant today, but it could be P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan or Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball tomorrow. And then Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil in the near future.

An election is expected in P.E.I. next spring, and recent polls show the surging Greens with a slight lead over the Liberals. It might come down to the bizarre scenario of Liberals and Tories forming a coalition to keep the Greens from power. Newfoundland and Labrador goes to the polls in just over a year. A comfortable Liberal majority could easily change. Nova Scotia already has a deep connection with a third party since the NDP had recently formed government. While the Greens have yet to gain much traction in N.S. and N.L., their emergence elsewhere in the region suggests they could see gains in those provinces as well.

There is a hunger for change and many voters feel their concerns cannot be met within the Liberal and PC parties. Voters want to see politics done differently.

That’s certainly the case today in New Brunswick.

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