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New Brunswick NDP will not have new leader in place for possible snap election

Interim leader of the NB NDP MacKenzie Thomason.
Interim leader of the NB NDP MacKenzie Thomason. Silas Brown/Global News

With Premier Blaine Higgs refusing to rule out a fall snap election, parties are preparing for the possibility of a fall campaign.

But if Higgs opts to send the province to the polls, the interim New Brunswick New Democratic Party leader, Mackenzie Thomason, would lead the party through the campaign.

Thomason has been heading up the party since former leader Jennifer Mackenzie failed to secure a seat in the 2018 provincial election. A leadership convention was scheduled for August of 2019, but was cancelled after the lone candidate failed to pass the vetting process.

Another was scheduled in Saint John for June of 2020, but was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more: N.B. NDP calls for Higgs to resign, says they are ready for general election

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The party will now wait until the spring to select a new leader, with an in-person convention being scheduled for April 16-18 at the Fredericton Inn, according to party spokesperson Nathan Davis.

The cut-off for interested candidates to pass the vetting process has been extended to Sept. 30.

“I think most parties, ours included, have had to postpone any, virtually all of the conventions, policy conventions, what have you, due to the pandemic and due to the health concerns posed by large numbers of people gathering,” Davis said.

“So what the executive has decided to do is to move everything to next year.”

Davis said that a number of people had expressed interest and there are a several people currently going through the process.

The party will also allow-mail in ballots in order to help cut down on the number of people in the building.

Normally, packing conventions with supporters is an important part of the event for would-be leaders, but that’s not exactly possible under current public health guidelines.

Read more: New Brunswick NDP have a new interim leader, a 21-year-old man from Fredericton

But Davis says the intent is to run it like any other convention, while also respecting public health rules.

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“We will have to ensure that the convention spot is big enough to hold all our candidates and their supporters while still respecting social distancing,” Davis said.

“We would of course abide by governmental and public health regulations in regard to any gatherings, and if we have to create an operational plan, we have people already setting it up. I’m confident that whether people choose to attend in person to be physically there or they want to mail in, we will be able to provide comfortable and safe access for everybody.”