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N.B. Liberal leadership candidate drops out, Kevin Vickers the only confirmed candidate remaining

Kevin Vickers, former House of Commons sergeant-at-arms, announces his intention to run for the leadership of the New Brunswick Liberals, in Miramichi, N.B. on Friday, March 15, 2019.
Kevin Vickers, former House of Commons sergeant-at-arms, announces his intention to run for the leadership of the New Brunswick Liberals, in Miramichi, N.B. on Friday, March 15, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

There’s only one man confirmed to be remaining in the New Brunswick Liberal leadership race, and despite a national profile, he was a virtual outsider to the province’s politics until a few months ago.

Kevin Vickers, former House of Commons sergeant-at-arms, is now the only official candidate remaining in the race.

Last month, the New Brunswick Liberal party confirmed that as of the deadline only two people had applied to be candidates for the party’s leadership.

The did not identify who the applicants were but on Monday Vickers’ potential competitor, René Ephestion, announced in a Facebook post that he is “no longer a candidate in the leadership for the New Brunswick Liberal party.”

READ MORE: At least two applications submitted for New Brunswick Liberal leadership race

Ephestion, the leader of the New Brunswick Liberal Multicultural Inclusion Commission, wished Vickers good luck while saying he was committed to sharing “[his] ideas and vision with the [L]iberal party.”
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Jean-Claude D’Amours, the party’s caucus chair, refused to confirm that Vickers is the only candidate left in the race and provided few details on what will happen next in an interview on Tuesday.

“We continue our process. The steering committee will have a meeting tomorrow night to discuss the next step and make sure we provide the New Brunswick Liberal Association Board of Directors with the appropriate recommendation [of who is an appropriate candidate],” he said.
An undated handout photo of Jean-Claude D’Amours
An undated handout photo of Jean-Claude D’Amours. Jean-Claude D'Amours, provided

D’Amours would not comment on what an acclimation process would look like or how it may affect the leadership convention set for June.

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“We’re not there yet,” he said.

WATCH: Why Kevin Vickers wants to be New Brunswick’s premier

Why Kevin Vickers wants to be New Brunswick’s premier
Why Kevin Vickers wants to be New Brunswick’s premier

Hailed as a hero for helping to end the 2014 attack on Parliament Hill, Vickers announced his intentions to seek the New Brunswick Liberal party leadership on March 15, 2019.

Now in his early 60s, he is making his debut into politics.

The former sergeant-at-arms officially retired as ambassador to Ireland earlier in March, having served at the post since being appointed there in January 2015 by then-prime minister Stephen Harper.

Donald Wright, a political scientist with the University of New Brunswick, told the Canadian Press when Vickers announced his candidacy that it would limit the candidates for the leadership.

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“I think him getting into the race might dissuade other people from getting into the race because he’s generated, by his name, a lot of buzz and a sense of inevitability, coronation. I think it’s troubling,” Wright said.

“It’s an unknown quantity, Kevin Vickers. Should we embrace it? I’m sure I have no idea. I think the Liberal party should be wary of throwing its lot in with an untested political neophyte.”

READ MORE: Kevin Vickers, NB Liberal leadership candidate, reflects on New Zealand attack

Vickers has had a long career of public service, including 29 years in the RCMP. He also served as aide-de-camp for the lieutenant-governor of New Brunswick.

Vickers was sergeant-at-arms of the House of Commons between 2006 and 2015. On Oct. 22, 2014, Vickers was working in the Commons when he shot and helped take down a man armed with a .30-30 rifle. Michael Zehaf-Bibeau had barged into Centre Block on Parliament Hill after killing honour guard reservist Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial.

The Liberals are looking to for a new leader to replace former premier Brian Gallant, who lost power last fall after the Liberals failed to form a minority government in the weeks following the Sept. 24 provincial election.

A leadership convention has been scheduled for June 21-22 in Saint John.

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More to come.

—With files from the Canadian Press