Rothesay residents will have an early chance to pass judgment on Premier David Alward’s Progressive Conservative government later in 2012 when a byelection is held to replace Margaret-Ann Blaney.
Blaney, a long-time Progressive Conservative MLA and cabinet minister, announced on Wednesday that she would be quitting politics and would become the president and chief executive officer of Efficiency New Brunswick.
That unexpected resignation will trigger a byelection within the next six months.
Premier David Alward suggested on Wednesday he won't wait the maximum six months before calling a byelection in Rothesay.
"I think it would be safe to say sooner than later," he said.
And all the political parties are already thinking ahead to the upcoming byelection.
Interim Liberal Leader Victor Boudreau is challenging NDP Leader Dominic Cardy to run in Rothesay.
"He is the leader of the provincial New Democratic Party, he doesn't have a seat in the house, and this is an opportunity to show what he's made of," he said.
The NDP recently released one of its own internal polls suggesting the party is in first place in the Saint John area.
So Cardy said he is contemplating a run in the southern New Brunswick riding.
Cardy's party has been without a seat in the legislature since Elizabeth Weir resigned to become president and chief executive officer of Efficiency NB in 2005.
Cardy joked with reporters on Wednesday that the riding, which is known to be an affluent riding, would be a good fit for his left-leaning party.
"Rothesay is well-known as a bastion for socialism in New Brunswick, so certainly we'll consider that strongly," he said.
"But around Saint John, we've seen huge support including the people with the demographic profile you see in Rothesay. So we'll certainly be looking at that with interest."
Blaney won a clear victory in 2010, earning 56 per cent of the vote compared to 28.4 per cent for the Liberals and 8.9 per cent for the NDP.
But Blaney did not always have an easy path to victory. Her largest margin of victory came in 1999 during her first campaign. Blaney earned 65.6 per cent of the vote.
After that year, Blaney saw a steady drop in popular support in the next two elections.
In 2003, Blaney won the riding with a 679-vote margin.
Her closest election came in 2006. During that election, Blaney came within 100 votes of losing to the Liberals.
In that campaign, she garnered 2,853 votes to Liberal Paul Barry’s 2,765.
Tricky situation for the Liberals
The timing of the byelection may be tricky for the Liberals, who are in the middle of a leadership race.
There are three declared candidates in the race — former health minister Michael Murphy, lawyer Brian Gallant and former Belledune mayor Nick Duivenvoorden — but none of them have a seat in the legislature.
Boudreau said he's already contacting party staff to discuss how the party should approach the race.
The Green Party of New Brunswick is also looking for a new leader. The Green Party will pick a new leader on Sept. 22.
People's Alliance of New Brunswick Leader Kris Austin also does not have a seat in the legislature.
As for Alward's Progressive Conservatives, the other parties will almost certainly try to turn the byelection into a referendum on the government's spending cuts and its embrace of shale gas.