The New Brunswick Green Party plans to ask voters to elect enough of its candidates in the next provincial election to give the party the balance of power in the provincial legislature.
“My assessment is that it will be a close election and that it’s reasonable to expect to elect an additional three or four (Green) MLAs,” leader David Coon said during an interview Saturday at his party’s annual meeting in Sackville.
He added he believes New Brunswickers would be willing to elect more Green members who could force a minority Liberal or Conservative government to implement Green policies in order to remain in power.
“We’re obviously not going to go from one MLA to forming government and unlikely, though miracles happen, to go from one MLA to forming the official opposition,” Coon said adding, however, that the Green Party is very likely to elect enough members to hold the balance of power in a closely divided legislature.
A minority government could result if neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives were to win 25 seats in the 49 seat assembly.
Cuts and growth
Earlier, during his speech to the Green Party gathering, Coon criticized the Gallant government for cutting government spending in an attempt to promote economic growth.
“Does growth solve or even change the level of poverty we have?” he asked. “No.
“Does it change the level of mental health problems we have? No.
“Does it change the environmental challenges we face? No.”
He added that economic growth is an abstraction while how we treat each other and the planet is central to our reason for being.
“We want a vibrant, a sustainable, a satisfying future based on improving the quality of life of New Brunswick,” Coon said.
Education and jobs
The Green Party leader reviewed two private members’ bills he introduced in December, a First Nations Education Bill that would require the teaching of indigenous history and culture in New Brunswick schools and the Green Jobs Act which seeks to create jobs by promoting and investing in renewable energy, public transportation and energy efficiency.
Coon drew laughter and applause when he described how the legislature debated his bills.
“Something remarkable happened last week in the legislative assembly, the debate was thoughtful, it was respectful,” he said.
“This is what happens when there’s a Green in the legislative assembly,” he added. “Serious debate, not political games…Bills advancing solutions that otherwise would not be brought to the floor.”
Coon predicted that the legislature will pass the First Nations Education Bill when it reconvenes in May. He said the Green Jobs Bill will be debated by a legislative committee, but the government will likely let it die, then introduce its own version in the fall containing the parts of his bill that the Liberals actually like.
Coon also reported on his strong opposition to legislation contained in an omnibus bill that would have made it much harder for unions to win higher wages and benefits.
“I think it’s important to point out,” he said, “no other party stood up and defended collective bargaining.”
Coon noted that the government ultimately backed down and withdrew the legislation in the face of strong opposition from New Brunswick unions.
He said having a Green voice in the legislature is crucial on a wide range of issues.
“Whether it’s payday loans or social assistance rates, access to abortion or access to mental health care, discrimination against the transgendered community, indigenous rights, stacking the decks against woodlot owners or stacking the decks against unionized workers, climate action or inaction, preventative health care, water classification or habitat destruction, I can tell you that the official opposition does not raise any of these issues.
“It’s only because there’s a Green seat held in the legislative assembly today that these issues are raised up at all,” he concluded.
The New Brunswick Green Party also passed a series of policy resolutions at its weekend meeting aimed at eliminating undue corporate influence on the provincial government.
Bruce Wark has worked in broadcasting and journalism education for more than 35 years. Bruce now lives in Sackville, New Brunswick, where he publishes the New Wark Times, contributes interviews to the American-based website New Books Network and volunteers as a journalist with CHMA-FM, the campus radio station at Mount Allison University.