Less than 24 hours after Blaine Higgs called an election, party leaders had a chance to set the tone for the next 27 days on the campaign trail.
The Progressive Conservatives and Liberals began the day Tuesday at events that started within minutes of each other.
Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers was in Scoudouc, N.B., in the vacant riding of Shediac Bay-Dieppe, where he introduced a star candidate: former PC deputy premier and minister of tourism Robert Gauvin.
When introducing Gauvin, Vickers touched on themes that are likely to be stump speech staples for the rookie campaigner.
“Robert took a courageous stand against Blaine Higgs’ government’s drastic and divisive decision to close rural emergency hospitals,” Vickers said.
“It’s this kind of commitment and the concern for the rights of francophones and rural New Brunswickers that exemplifies the Liberal Party of New Brunswick.”
Read more: All our New Brunswick election 2020 coverage
Gauvin quit the PC party in February over proposed health-care reforms that would have seen the emergency rooms in six rural hospitals close overnight.
Speaking to a small crowd in Scoudouc, Gauvin laid out his belief that the Liberal Party is best suited to confront the urban-rural and francophone-anglophone divides in the province.
“We will make it easier if a region wants to work with another region, and a culture wants to work with another culture. We need to set aside those political wars that benefit no one and work together,” he said.
Meanwhile in Oromocto, N.B., Higgs got his campaign underway with an announcement relating to mental health supports in the province.
During his appearance, Higgs laid out his rationale for calling an election in the first place.
“I decided to call this election to give New Brunswickers a choice: a choice of stability, a choice for substance, a choice of progress,” he said.
“I do not want to lose the momentum that has been created.”
Higgs has maintained that the government needs stability moving forward to accomplish the difficult task of recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
But while campaigning, Higgs has promised that the PC Party will steer clear of splashy spending announcements.
“As I’ve said before, I won’t try to buy this election with your money. That pattern of ribbon cutting and photo-ops needs to change,” he said.
“For me, this election is about substance. It’s about continuous and improved service to the public in areas that are most critical.”
Higgs did not attach a dollar amount to Tuesday’s announcement, saying that the focus will instead be on achieving key deliverables no matter what the cost.
But Higgs says he will be staying away from the topic of health-care reforms and reiterated that no emergency rooms will be closed or hours cut under a PC government.
“We don’t have a plan invented but what I can ensure is that any changes will involve the communities that have hospitals. We’ve said that there won’t be any hospitals closed, there won’t be any ERs closed,” Higgs said.
The two third parties were quiet on Tuesday.
Green Party Leader David Coon announced MLAs Megan Mitton and Kevin Arseneau as campaign co-chairs. Arseneau will also serve as the party’s francophone lieutenant and will appear with Coon in predominately francophone ridings.
The People’s Alliance did not hold an event Tuesday, but a party spokesperson says they spent the day vetting potential candidates.