Popular Alliance MPs cross the floor to join the Conservative government

The People’s Alliance of New Brunswick is no more.

The party’s two members of the Legislative Assembly have joined the ruling Progressive Conservative caucus, sounding the death knell for the upstart populist movement created 12 years ago.

Alliance Leader Kris Austin and Miramichi MLA Michelle Conroy made the announcement with Premier Blaine Higgs at the Legislature on Wednesday afternoon.

Austin said he had spoken to Alliance supporters and board members in recent days about his decision and that the party organization would be “deregistered” and cease to exist.

The second-term MP said he engaged in “self-reflection” after the party lost an elected member in the 2020 election and decided he could more effectively represent his riding of Fredericton- Grand Lake in government.

Conroy said she was jumping for the same reason.

“We do this for the people in our constituencies,” she said.

“The best way to continue to serve the people of our constituencies…is to join government and have a seat at the table.”

Miramichi MP and People’s Alliance member Michelle Conroy also walked across the floor to join the Progressive Conservatives on Wednesday. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

Higgs said New Brunswick francophones concerned about the Alliance’s position on language issues can rest assured that the PC will not change its position on bilingualism and duality.

“No one should worry about us as a party and our leadership,” he said.

Focused on working for my riding: Austin

Austin insisted that he had always supported bilingualism, but had “challenged its implementation from time to time.”

When asked if he would continue to call for the elimination of two regional health authorities and the position of Commissioner of Official Languages ​​as he has done in the past, Austin replied: “I am no longer chief party,” noting that he will focus on working for his constituency.

“Bilingualism is an important part of New Brunswick, as I have always said. It must be done in a way that represents all New Brunswickers.

Higgs said Austin and Conroy recognize that all PC party members must support the party’s constitution, which includes support for official bilingualism, and asserts that “the diversity of our two language communities is a unique strength of our province.” .

Reaction in the Legislative Assembly after the entry of the deputies of the Popular Alliance into the PC government

The People’s Alliance Party is no more after leader Kris Austin and MP Michelle Conroy quit the floor to join the Progressive Conservatives. 3:58

The prime minister said he spoke to caucus about the two newcomers.

“They are all thrilled with our new members,” he said.

Local Government Minister Daniel Allain, the only French-speaking member of the PC caucus, said Austin and Conroy had taken positions “contrary to the Charter of Rights and some of our laws” with the Alliance, but he was happy that they now adhere to the politics of their new party. principles.

“Today I’m actually happy to see the Alliance of New Brunswick dissolved,” Allain said in a phone interview.

“I’ve always maintained that they didn’t have a good message for New Brunswick and that they were on the wrong side of the equation.

But Austin told reporters he urges former Alliance supporters to see “that I haven’t changed, that Michelle hasn’t changed, and that we want to keep working for the people.”

“It’s not about watering down anybody’s voice. I think the opposite. I think it’s about strengthening that voice and being at the table, instead of being at the outside to try to make changes.”

Premier Blaine Higgs said the caucus was “excited” about its two new members. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

No direct answers on language policy, cabinet plans

However, Austin did not respond directly when asked if he would push for language policy changes within the PC caucus.

The president of the Société acadienne du Nouveau-Brunswick, Alexandre Cédric Doucet, said that while he was happy to see the Alliance disband, it was “a sad day” for the PC Party.

” The holiday of [former premier] Richard Hatfield and [Hatfield lieutenant] Jean-Maurice Simard accepts two anti-bilingualism and anti-duality MPs in their caucus,” he declared.

Austin also dodged a question about his intention to join the cabinet as minister, saying it was up to Higgs.

The prime minister said winning two new members would not be “the deciding factor” in whether he reshuffles his cabinet.

Austin founded the Alliance in 2010 after failing to win a PC nomination to run in the provincial election that year.

The party scored a major breakthrough in 2018 when it won three seats, including Austin’s, and maintained the balance of power in the Legislature while supporting Higgs’ minority government.

But the party was reduced to two seats in 2020 when Higgs won a majority.

Chief Electoral Officer Kimberly Poffenroth released a statement confirming the Alliance would be officially debarred Thursday following a written request from Austin.

The first electoral impact of this dramatic decision will take place in June, when two by-elections are scheduled in the ridings of Southwest Miramich-Bay du Vin and Miramichi Bay-Neguac.

The Alliance came within 35 votes of losing incumbent PC in Southwest Miramich-Bay du Vin in 2018.

And in the 2020 election, the combined PC-Alliance vote in Miramichi Bay-Neguac would have been enough to defeat Liberal winner Lisa Harris.

The new party standings in the legislature are 27 PCs, 16 Liberals, three Greens and the two vacancies, plus Speaker Bill Oliver.