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N.B. premier Higgs confirmed as Progressive Conservative party nominee

N.B. Progressive Conservatives hold nomination convention
WATCH: N.B. Progressive Conservatives hold nomination convention

New Brunswick’s Progressive Conservative Party has confirmed Premier Blaine Higgs as its candidate in the Quispamsis riding, as speculation continues that a provincial election may be called shortly.

The party’s executive director, Andrea Johnson, said Higgs was confirmed during a nomination event Saturday morning in Quispamsis, N.B., about 20 kilometres from Saint John.

Provincial Health Minister Ted Flemming and MLA Gary Crossman were also confirmed as the Progressive Conservative nominees in their respective ridings of Rothesay and Hampton.

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“We are in a minority government situation … so our job is to be ready at any point in time,” Johnson said in an interview Saturday afternoon.

The nominations come amid rumours that a provincial election could soon be called in New Brunswick.

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Higgs, who was elected with a minority in 2018, said earlier this week that he still hadn’t decided if he’ll hold three possible byelections by mid-October or send New Brunswickers to the polls in a general election.

He said he doesn’t want an election but needs to ensure stability in New Brunswick as the province recovers from the impacts of COVID-19 and a possible second wave of the pandemic.

“The premier has publicly stated that calling an election wouldn’t be his first option obviously,” said Johnson.

“So it’s just a matter of making sure that we’re ready and having our candidates nominated so that he’s got the flexibility that he needs should we be forced into it.”

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She said two other party nominees – Mary Wilson, the minister of economic development and small business, and Education Minister Dominic Cardy – would be confirmed Saturday afternoon, and more nominations would be finalized through the end of the month.

There are currently 20 Progressive Conservatives in the New Brunswick legislature, 20 Liberals, three People’s Alliance, three Greens, one Independent, and two vacancies.

Two of the potential byelections for October are to fill vacancies in the ridings of St. Croix and Shediac Bay-Dieppe following the death of Progressive Conservative Greg Thompson and the resignation of Liberal Brian Gallant, the premier before Higgs.

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The third would be to fill the seat of Bruce Northrup in Sussex-Fundy-St. Martins. He remains in office but has said he wants to retire this fall.

Kim Poffenroth, the province’s chief electoral officer, has said New Brunswick has already spent more than $1 million to prepare for a potential provincial election during the COVID-19 pandemic.

New Brunswick reported no new cases of the virus Saturday, but six cases remain active in the province.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 8, 2020.