New Brunswick NDP call off leadership convention after lone candidate fails vetting

NDP leader Jennifer McKenzie participaties in the CBC televised debate of the provincial election which was held in Riverview, New Brunswick on Wednesday September 12, 2018. The Canadian Press/Marc Grandmaison

New Brunswick’s New Democrats are going back to the drawing board in their search for a new leader, postponing a leadership convention planned for this month after the sole candidate did not pass the party’s vetting process.

Party president Cyprien Okana announced Wednesday that the convention would not happen, saying the party is now working to recruit “talented, visionary and competent individuals” for the leadership role.

A news release from the party said Okana informed members that the party is preparing for the next election by rebuilding its infrastructure.

“We are focusing our efforts in re-engaging our members and external stakeholders for their ideas on how we can work together for all New Brunswickers,” Okana’s statement read.

READ MORE: New Brunswick NDP have a new interim leader, a 21-year-old man from Fredericton

The provincial NDP has struggled to gain ground in New Brunswick politics, going more than a decade without a seat in the legislature.

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Former New Brunswick NDP leader Jennifer McKenzie, who came third in her own Saint John, N.B., riding in last fall’s election, resigned in February after the party voted to replace her.

For now, the party remains in the hands of interim leader Mackenzie Thomason, who also ran unsuccessfully in the 2018 election and was just 21 when he was named to the position in March.

Party spokesman Nathan Davis did not disclose the identity of the unsuccessful candidate or the reason they were rejected. He said the candidate unsuccessfully appealed the decision.

Davis said the vetting process includes the candidate providing a number of documents, and an independent report from a search of the candidate’s background through media, social media and the general public domain.

He said the party’s constitution calls for a leadership convention to be held within 180 days of a leadership review, but the clock has now been reset because the candidate failed the vetting.

WATCH: Jennifer McKenzie stepping down as NB NDP leader after failing leadership review

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Jennifer McKenzie stepping down as NB NDP leader after failing leadership review

A new date for the convention has not been determined, but Davis said four people have inquired about the leadership process over the last few days.

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The party’s executive board will decide the next step, Davis said. He suggested board members will consider lessons learned from the tight timeline between the February vote to replace McKenzie and an August convention and possibly extend deadlines for applications.

He said party morale has not been affected and members have supported the decision not to hold a convention under the circumstances. “I think the party is in a position now to really start rebuilding,” he said.

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