With the death of former federal cabinet minister and Saint Croix MLA Greg Thompson, and the upcoming resignation of former premier Brian Gallant, the New Brunswick legislature will have two empty seats when MLAs return from the summer break.
But Premier Blaine Higgs says he’s in no hurry to call the necessary byelections.
“I’m not going to really put anything out there at this stage. There’s a federal election this fall so there’s no immediate urgency to call any byelection, so I have no date in mind at this stage,” he said.
According to the Elections Act, the lieutenant governor must issue the writ for an empty district within six months of a vacancy being certified. Higgs says he’s aware of the regulations and will call an election within the necessary time period.
Yet even in the slim minority situation of the legislature, the byelections are unlikely to tip the balance of power.
WATCH (Sept. 11, 2019): N.B. provincial leaders speak to issues of federal campaign
The Liberals have won Shediac Bay-Dieppe by at least 60 per cent since the riding was created in 2014, with Gallant winning 67 per cent of the vote in 2018. Saint Croix is more competitive, but the Progressive Conservatives have taken the riding and its previous iterations, five out of the last eight elections.
But the byelection in Shediac Bay-Dieppe could be one to watch depending on who decides to run.
Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers initially said that he would not seek the seat and has maintained his desire to run in Miramichi City, but has since said he will “not close the door on it.”
“As I’ve always said, Miramichi is my preference should a general election be held,” he said.
“I’ve also said that I’ll always consider openings and weight that with my present responsibilities and will be making a decision in due course.”
According to J.P. Lewis, an associate professor of politics at the University of New Brunswick, waiting to run in Miramichi City, which is currently represented by People’s Alliance MLA Michelle Conroy, carries with it a fair amount of risk.
“There’s a big risk. This is probably one of the safest Liberal seats in the province. So if you’re going to install a new leader in the legislature this seems like the most obvious route,” he said.
“That’s a tougher route in the legislature. There’s support for People’s Alliance there, Tories, so it’s not as easy of a path.”