It took more than four hours after polls officially closed in New Brunswick for the final results of the province’s 39th general election to become official.
Many would have gone to sleep before the final call was made, while others will have stayed up hoping to to be the first to know who won the most seats.
It doesn’t matter whether you were in either group or somewhere in between — here are five things you need to know about the New Brunswick election.
We don’t know who will form the next government
Lets get this out of the way: we do not know who will form the next government of New Brunswick.
Blaine Higgs and the PCs earned 22 seats on Monday — 1 more than Brian Gallant and the Liberals — which would appear to give them the first shot at forming government.
But that’s not that case.
Neither party was able to win the 25 seats needed to form a majority in the 49-seat house. New Brunswickers will be left with a minority government as a result.
Gallant, as the current premier, will have a chance to test the legislature’s confidence first and attempt to form government.
Both Gallant and Higgs said they plan on visiting Lt.-Gov. Jocelyne Roy-Vienneau on Tuesday, with the Liberal leader adding he will ask the legislature to convene as quickly as possible.
Third parties make huge impact
Third parties will be the story of this election with the David Coon-led New Brunswick Green Party winning two more seats than they had at dissolution and Kris Austin and the People’s Alliance earning their first three seats since the party formed in 2010.
Both the Greens and the People’s Alliance now hold tremendous power.
The Liberals, who will have the first kick at forming government, must attempt to negotiate with either one or both of the third parties in an attempt to form a coalition.
Gallant has previously said that he would not work with the PCs or People’s Alliance. That will limit his options to the Greens.
If Gallant can’t secure the confidence of the legislature, Roy-Vienneau could invite the Tories, led by Higgs, to form government with a coalition of opposition parties.
Roy-Vienneau also has the option to dissolve the legislature and call for a new election.
The last time a third party held the balance of power in the province was October 1920, when two farmers’ parties combined to win 11 seats.
Delayed results lead to nail-biting finish
It wasn’t until midnight that the final votes for the election came in.
The slow trickle of results capped off a nail-biting and frustrating finish to a night for the Liberals and PCs.
Paul Harpelle, a spokesperson for Elections New Brunswick, said the organization was focused on the results’ accuracy and not their speed.
He admitted that some polls experienced delays in reporting as elections workers completed their duties.
“Given the tight race that unfolded we would not view the final results reporting as unreasonable,” Harpelle said in an email on Tuesday morning.
Bilingualism may no longer be a fringe issue
The rise of the People’s Alliance and the nature of a minority government may push the much-avoided topic of official bilingualism to the political forefront in the coming days.
It’s a policy that both Higgs and Gallant had tried to avoid on the campaign trail but the People’s Alliance didn’t shy away from it.
Austin’s People’s Alliance Party billed its platform as “common sense” and took aim at official bilingualism, saying the dual systems in health care and school busing are costing the province too much money.
The topic could prove to be a sticking point in any coalition government — though pundits have said the People’s Alliance Party is more closely aligned with the Tories than any other party,
Austin said he’s willing to work with any party “that has some of the ideas that we have been pushing.”
Higgs, who is not fluent in french, has said he supports bilingualism — though that wasn’t always the case.
Roughly 30 years ago, the now-PC leader was involved with the Confederation of Regions (CoR) party, a movement that campaigned on repealing official bilingualism.
Higgs has since said that he had a change of heart, but with the opportunity to form a government on the horizon, New Brunswickers may find out how much his beliefs on bilingualism have actually changed.
Voter turnout still low
Voter turnout was not great this election, according to unofficial results from Elections New Brunswick.
Sixty-seven per cent of eligible voters cast ballots in the election on Monday.
Its a small improvement of 2.3 percentage points over the 2014 provincial election, when 64.7 per cent cast their ballots.
Voter turnout has been declining since the 1970s with its lowest point coming in the 2014 election.
If the unofficial results hold true, the 2018 election will have the second lowest voter turnout in the last 10 provincial general elections.