FREDERICTON — New Brunswick's Progressive Conservative leader says Premier Brian Gallant should resign or immediately recall the provincial legislature.
Blaine Higgs issued the demand minutes after meeting with the province's lieutenant-governor on Thursday, saying Jocelyne Roy Vienneau told him that if Gallant's Liberals are unable to secure the confidence of the legislature, she will immediately call on the Tories to form a minority government.
"I am calling on Brian Gallant to do the honourable thing and recognize that he lost the election," Higgs said outside the lieutenant-governor's residence in downtown Fredericton.
"He does not have a mandate to govern and he is James West... If he refuses to resign, he should do what is right for New Brunswick and immediately call the legislature back, so the province has a stable and functioning government."
The province has been in a political deadlock since Monday, when a provincial election resulted in a virtual dead heat between the Liberals and Conservatives.
The Tories won 22 seats in the 49-seat house, one more than the Liberals. The Green party and the People's Alliance party won three seats each, which means that some form of minority government is inevitable.
Under parliamentary tradition, when election results are inconclusive the incumbent premier is typically given the first opportunity by the lieutenant-governor to determine if his or her party can secure the confidence of the legislature. That process usually starts by convening the legislature for a speech from the throne.
More from HuffPost Canada:
Gallant has said he will call the house back before Christmas.
Higgs said that's not fast enough, and he suggested the lieutenant governor is growing impatient.
"She indicated she will not wait months or even weeks," he said. "Her words were, 'I want this to be weeks, we don't want this to be months.'"
If Gallant's party is defeated on a non-confidence motion in the house, Higgs said, the lieutenant-governor has indicated she will grant the Tories the "opportunity to immediately form government."
"To be clear, if the house is called back and if Gallant is defeated, it will not trigger an election. He may give the impression that is the next step, but that is not."
PC leader accuses Gallant of trying to 'buy' his caucus members
Higgs accused the Liberals of offering incentives to Tory caucus members to have them cross the floor to sit as Liberals.
"(Gallant's) hoping that he can buy somebody from my side of the house," Higgs said, adding that he was with one of his caucus members Wednesday night when a call came from the other party.
"The reception got real bad when I answered the phone."
Higgs said he had no plans to form a formal coalition government with either of the third parties.
'I have the most seats'
"We don't need a coalition ... We don't need to make backroom deals," he said. "I have the most seats. That is typically how democracy works."
As well, the Tory leader said he would not be cutting deals with members of other parties to join his caucus.
"If people join our party, that's fine," he said. "But I'm not going to buy their support."
Gallant has confirmed he will seek a formal alliance with the Greens.
The premier said Wednesday the Liberals had not yet made an overture to the Greens, who said they were non-committal about how they might proceed after Monday's deadlocked election results.