Kathy Bockus was acclaimed on Saturday as the Progressive Conservative candidate for the upcoming byelection in St. Croix.
The riding is one of a pair of vacant seats in the legislature awaiting yet-to-be-scheduled byelections.
At the PC nomination convention in St. Stephen on Saturday, Premier Blaine Higgs stressed just how important these two races are to the future of his government.
“This is a critical by-election,” Higgs said. “This is whether we continue or whether we don’t. So if anybody has any confusion about the sincerity, severity, the reality of what’s needed here — we need to win here.”
The other free seat is in the Liberal stronghold of Shediac Bay-Dieppe, making St. Croix all the more important.
Should the PCs fail to secure at least one of the two seats, they would no longer hold the most seats in the Legislature, which would make it extremely difficult to pass confidence motions like budgets.
On Friday, Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers told Global News that he would not look to immediately bring down the government should the Liberals sweep both byelections, comments that Higgs is taking with a grain of salt.
“Well, that would only be because the legislature isn’t sitting,” he said.
“We have seen opportunities this past year where we could work together on files, even files where they had the same position before as we do now. … I appreciate the words but I’ve never seen it in action.”
Higgs is hoping Bockus will give the party a good shot to hang on to the riding, previously held by former federal cabinet minister Greg Thompson up until his death last summer. Bockus is a former journalist who served as Thompson’s assistant after he won St. Croix in 2018.
She says her experience makes her uniquely qualified to represent the area.
“I’ve been here for so many years, I know the issues, I know the people, I know the area, and Greg trusted me to work for him. Before that, I was an advocate for this area,” she said.
Bockus now joins Rod Cumberland as the second candidate to be confirmed for St. Croix. Cumberland is running for the People’s Alliance, a decision he says is based on the party’s opposition to glyphosate spraying and their commitment to free votes. Cumberland alleges that his position on glyphosate spraying got him fired from the Maritime College of Forest Technology.
Former New Brunswick Southwest MP Karen Ludwig says she will be looking to win the Liberal nomination for the riding. She said concerns over recent reports that the medical testing lab in the St. Stephen hospital could be shuttered as the province looks at centralizing laboratory services pushed her to run.
Higgs said Ludwig’s comments are an attempt to use fear-mongering to gain support and said the St. Stephen lab will not be closed.