New Brunswick’s political landscape changed on Monday as the province’s PC party earned a majority in the legislature and the recently-selected Liberal Leader announced his decision to step down.
The election leaves PC Leader Blaine Higgs firmly in control of the province’s political landscape and assured that the decision to call a snap election during a global pandemic was the correct one.
For Liberal leader Kevin Vickers, Monday’s result is a stunning rebuke to his vocal opposition to the election, which he said was something the province “neither wants or needs.”
The PCs are projected to form a majority government with 27 seats, improving on the minority government Higgs was leading when he called a snap election 28 days ago.
“I am excited about tonight’s results,” Higgs said on Monday.
“Tonight we have a newfound commitment to each other and to this government’s plan.”
The PC Leader will have that and more after retaining his seat in the riding of Quispamsis on Monday, earning more than 60 per cent of the vote.
It also makes Higgs the first premier of New Brunswick to retain government since Bernard Lord in 2003.
Vickers steps down
Liberal Leader Vickers is projected to lose the riding of Miramichi to incumbent People’s Alliance candidate Michelle Conroy.
The former ambassador to Ireland was acclaimed as the party’s leader in April 2019, despite not having previously served in elected office.
Monday’s defeat will also leave the Liberals without a leader after Vickers announced his intention to step down.
“I know that many of you are disappointed with the result and I take full responsibility for it. As a result. I will be resigning as leader of the Liberal Party of New Brunswick” he said.
“Under the leadership of a new leader I know the Liberal party will continue to be a strong voice for all New Brunswickers.”
At dissolution, the Tories held 20 seats in the provincial legislature, while there were 20 Liberals, three People’s Alliance members, three Greens, one Independent and two vacancies.
At least 25 seats are needed for a majority in the 49-seat house.
The PCs are set to meet that mark but it will take time to figure out how large the party’s seat count will be.
The Liberals are the biggest losers of the evening. Along with being left leaderless, the party is on track to lose five ridings to the PCs, who also picked up the two vacant seats.
The Liberal party is projected to win only 17 seats.
The Green Party will return to the legislature with all three of their incumbent MLAs retaining their seats.
But with a PC majority, the party will have far less say in the province’s political decisions.
The People’s Alliance will return to the legislature with two MLAs.
Just like the Greens, the People’s Alliance will return with a limited ability to shape the political landscape.
Read more: All our New Brunswick election 2020 coverage
Federal politicians offer congratulations
In a statement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau congratulated Higgs on his win Monday.
“I look forward to working closely with the provincial government as we recover from the global COVID-19 pandemic. Together, we will continue to safely restart the economy and lay the groundwork to keep New Brunswick communities strong and healthy,” he said.
“Through investments under the Safe Restart Agreement, continued partnership in the Atlantic Growth Strategy, and ongoing work on clean energy and electrification, we will build a more resilient economy in the province, and a Canada that is healthier and safer, cleaner and more competitive, and fairer and more inclusive.”
Conservative Party of Canada Leader Erin O’Toole also offered his congratulations.
“Looking forward to continuing to work together,” O’Toole said in a Tweet.
“New Brunswickers are in good hands!”
This is the first election to be held in Canada during the coronavirus pandemic and has has drawn eyes from across the country as some provincial governments and municipalities prepare to hold their own votes.
As a result, the campaign has been an unprecedented one, with some parties choosing to modify how they campaigned.
The PCs committed to not going door to door, while other parties simply chose to follow the province’s social distancing protocols.
It was a campaign without handshakes, kissing, rallies or community barbecues. Instead, much of the campaign was conducted through social media and online.
Vickers has said the province needs a growth agenda, promising to put the province’s economic development agency — Opportunity New Brunswick — “on steroids.”
Green party Leader David Coon has committed to eliminate the use of industrial herbicide on public land, to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and to lower the legal voting age to 16 years.
The People’s Alliance, led by Kris Austin, focused on language issues — a hot-button topic in the officially bilingual province. Austin has said the money spent on providing bilingual services, particularly in health care, could be better spent.
The NDP, which had no seats in the legislature when the election was called, is being led by interim leader Mackenzie Thomason.
The majority of polls closed at 8 p.m. AT, with anyone in line at that time being allowed to cast a vote.
A few polling locations in Moncton were delayed in opening and stayed open about half an hour in order to accommodate the delay.
— With files from The Canadian Press