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New Brunswick Progressive Conservatives say potential St. Croix candidate failed vetting process

Byelection to be called in St. Croix before March
A byelection will be called in St. Croix, but the PC riding association has run into trouble choosing a candidate. Silas Brown reports.

The New Brunswick Progressive Conservative party says a potential candidate, who hoped to represent the party in the riding of St. Croix, will not be included in the nomination convention because she failed to pass the vetting process.

Lorraine Gilmore Peters took to Facebook this week to say she never heard from the party why she was being excluded from the nomination convention, set to take place on Jan 18.

“I would welcome a valid reason why the PCNB would not let me run. I’ve not received one because they don’t have one,” Peters wrote in a Dec. 31 post on Facebook.

“They have a candidate that they want and when I started making traction in the area they had to stop me. Until I’ve been satisfied with a valid reason from PCNB, that’s what I’m going with.”

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But party brass say it’s not what it seems.

“Each potential candidate is subject to the same vetting process,” said Rick Lafrance, executive director of the New Brunswick PCs.

“The process includes filling out a lengthy application form, face-to-face meetings, and at the end of the day, the committee looks into a candidate’s background using social media and a variety of other methods that we have.

“So [with] this candidate, there was obviously something there and she didn’t make it through the vetting process.”

Peters’ comments come around the same time that the president of the riding association resigned. Vernon Card declined an interview request and said he would not elaborate on why he resigned.

When asked about Card’s resignation, both Lafrance and Cleveland Allaby, the vice-president for the Saint John Charlotte region, said Card’s resignation has not created any trouble as the party gets ready for the Jan 18 nomination convention.

Allaby also disputed Peters’ claim that the party already has a candidate picked out and said a high number of nominees is actually beneficial for the party.

“We want a contest. The more people that are running, the more people they sign up, that come to the convention and the more people that are actively involved at that level, it represents a much larger pool of volunteers, potential volunteers for the actual campaign,” Allaby said.

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“So in fact we would love to have a contest.”

So far, only one person has been named as nominee — former St. Croix Courier reporter Kathy Bockus. The application deadline is on Saturday.

Year-end interview with Premier Blaine Higgs
Year-end interview with Premier Blaine Higgs

Parties focusing on St. Crox

In the coming months, the eyes of the province will be on the provincial riding of St. Croix.

The seat has been vacant since PC MLA Greg Thompson passed away over the summer, and the results of a yet-to-be-called byelection could have wide-ranging implications for the province.

It’s one of two vacant seats in the legislature, but the other is Shediac Bay-Dieppe, which previously belonged to former premier Brian Gallant and is widely considered one of the safest Liberal ridings in the province.

Should the Liberals find a way to turn the traditionally PC riding of St. Croix, they would be in a position to try forming a minority government with the Greens.

It’s an important race to which the PCs are giving lots of attention.

“We’ll have the extra resources there, absolutely,” said Lafrance.

“Right now we’re getting calls pretty much on a regular basis from volunteers right across the province saying, ‘Hey, you know what, we’d like to spend some time in St. Croix.'”

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Lafrance says the party is keeping its focus primarily on St. Croix and hasn’t set a date for a nomination convention in Shediac Bay-Dieppe.

READ MORE: ‘I don’t feel the need to rush’ to call byelections: Premier Higgs

He also acknowledged that the riding is a traditionally Liberal seat and that party leader Kevin Vickers has thrown his hat into the ring. Lafrance did not rule out the possibility that the PCs extend leaders courtesy to Vickers and decide not to contest the riding.

“Traditionally parties kind of let the leader run unopposed, but that’s yet to be confirmed,” he said. “However, that is a Liberal-held riding, so we are concentrating on St. Croix.

“We’re going to look at that and concentrate on that one right now. After this nomination, we’ll look at Shediac Bay.”

The Liberals, meanwhile, insist they are giving equal attention to both ridings.

Interim executive party director Greg Byrne says the Liberals are working on setting a nomination convention for St. Croix, and won’t be taking any chances as Vickers runs in Shediac Bay-Dieppe.

“We’re certainly interested in both those byelections and certainly not taking anything for granted and will be working hard in both those ridings and working to win, obviously,” Byrne said.

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Rod Cumberland, a former teacher at the Maritime College of Forest Technology, who claims he was forced out his job for his views on glyphosate spraying, has said he will seek the St. Croix nomination for the People’s Alliance.

But according to party executive director Frank Mullin, the party will not be making a decision on who’s running where for a couple weeks. The application deadline was on Dec. 16.

Marco Morency, the executive director of the New Brunswick Green Party, was not available for an interview but said preparations for the byelections are underway.