With three by-elections on the table for this fall, Premier Blaine Higgs has raised the possibility of a fall general election, but all three opposition parties say now is not the time to send New Brunswickers to the polls.
“No one’s eyes should be on an election right now. This is the last thing our province needs this fall,” said Liberal leader Kevin Vickers.
The ridings of St. Croix and Shediac Bay-Dieppe have been vacant since last August and October respectively.
Dates for both were pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Longtime Sussex MLA Bruce Northrup has also decided to give up his seat.
All three by-elections will have to happen at least 30 days prior to the November session of the Legislature and could have big implications for Higg’s minority government.
Right now the governing Progressive Conservatives have 20 voting members, including Northrup. The Liberals have 19, not including speaker Daniel Guitard who only votes in the case of a tie.
The Greens and People’s Alliance have three apiece while Robert Gauvin is the sole independent.
Should the PCs fail to win at least two of the vacant seats, governing could become difficult. But Vickers is making it clear that his party has no intention of toppling the government to force an election, no matter the outcome of the three by-elections.
“The Liberal party will not intentionally cause an election in 2020,” Vickers said.
“The focus now, for all parties, is on the economy and the pandemic.”
Vickers says the government should turn its eyes towards the economy, putting together an aid package and larger plan for how to help businesses recover from the damage inflicted by the pandemic.
“It is critical for this government to come out and show New Brunswickers the path forward, what is the recovery plan,” Vickers said.
“They need to come out with a comprehensive economic development plan that clearly sets out our way forward for this province.”
“When the Legislature returns the government will be hearing that on a daily basis in question period.”
Green leader David Coon also agrees that there is too much work to be done by legislators to be considering a general election. Attention should be on managing the ongoing pandemic response and preparing for a second wave of the virus.
“I don’t think New Brunswickers are looking for an election — they’re looking for us to continue to work together as we have been to help keep people safe and secure and healthy in the face of this pandemic,” Coon said.
Alliance leader Kris Austin says he’s unsure that a general election would decide much, potentially sending another minority Legislature back to Fredericton.
“I’m not sure what an election would accomplish, I’m not sure that would change the dynamic of the Legislature much,” Austin said.
“Because I’m quite convinced we’ll still be in a minority situation either way.”