Ahead of Premier Blaine Higgs’ second budget, uncertainty surrounds his minority government. Abandoned health-care reforms have pushed Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers to vow to topple the government at the earliest opportunity.
Higgs’ deputy premier Robert Gauvin has left the party to sit as an independent, leaving the government without northern or Acadian representation.
But with a possible election looming, those responsible for the machinery that makes one possible have been preparing since the last one ended.
“Well immediately after the election we set about ordering new materials for a potential provincial election that could happen at any time,” said Kim Poffenroth, chief electoral officer for Elections NB.
“We started triaging material that was coming back from the provincial election, repackaging it, figuring out what else needed to be ordered.”
Inside a warehouse in Fredericton stand rows of boxes, ready to be sent out to returning offices across the province at a moment’s notice. Ballot paper, which take six weeks to be printed, was ordered the day after the last election, and returning officers were quickly appointed by cabinet and are currently being trained.
But arguably the biggest challenge of a spring snap election would be the proximity to local government elections which will be held on May 11.
“It’s never happened before, so we really don’t know,” Poffenroth said. “But there’s also the possibility of even getting workings to work at the polls.
“It’s a lot of work for people and so trying to get enough workers for the polls may be a challenge. But the election is going to happen one way or the other, so we’ll be ready.”
New Brusnwick has fixed election dates which allow returning officers to sign leases for office space and line up staff. But all that goes out the window in a minority situation.
Returning officers are unable to sign a lease for office space outside the writ period, meaning they have to keep an eye on potential spots in their areas and ensure key staff are prepared to jump into action should the writ drop.
“Finding office space, finding workers, then when it comes time to open an office you’ve lost your office and you have to find another office. So you have to be prepared all the time,” said returning officer Joanne Nice.
“You have to get your key staff in place. I have my clerk and my technical support person and my receptionist and revision people all ready and ready to work, but the biggest challenge is to maintain an office.”
Elections NB says it will have an extensive recruitment campaign to find workers, but no matter what it will be ready for the election — or elections — this spring.